This is just one of those amazing stories that would hit the bestseller lists if someone with Kafka’s talent wrote it.
Nevertheless, I’ll do my very best, and hope you’ll follow me, part of the way at least?
Let me introduce a dear cousin of mine, Ms Z.
I know, I wrote about French director Costa-Gavras last week, and he hit fame thanks to a movie called just that (Z): see how bigheaded I am getting?
Anyway, Ms Z. happens to be the daughter of Ms. R. a German-born lady, who had to leave Germany in a hurry back in the late thirties, with her parents, much against their will, but wisely so.
Guess what? They were deprived of their German citizenship and declared stateless some time later. Sounds familiar?
I shall spare you the details of the family’s fate during WW2, and focus on the fact that they were eventually able to immigrate to the USA and eventually (meaning a good while later….) all of them were granted US citizenship.
Ms R. then married an American citizen, which means that Ms Z, the person I am interested in, was born in the USA with the obvious result that she was an American citizen by birth.
All is well that ends well?
Even though Ms Z. is perfectly happy to enjoy this status and even though she has lived all her life in California and even though she is determined to keep her citizenship her whole life, something surprising caught her eye one day.
She thus learned that she might be able to get back the German citizenship that her mother and grandparents had been deprived of due to the National-Socialist laws and regime - a status Ms Z. might otherwise have inherited. (OK, by a long stretch, but you get the idea).
Ms Z. is a keen traveler and lover of Europe, so, notwithstanding a painful history with Germany’s own history, she jumped on the piece of information.
It seems indeed very desirable to be able to combine both passports nowadays. Who knows which haven will prove safer in the decades to come: America or Europe?
Well, not so simple as it seems, where red tape is concerned, wherever...
Due to the date of her birth and due to the fact that German citizenship would have been passed on to Ms Z. through her MOTHER and not through her FATHER, it seemed she would not be eligible for the great honor of becoming German again. Indeed, citizenship only came to be passed on from a mother (instead of a father) to her children in 1953, when Germany acknowledged that a woman’s rights equaled a man’s in that matter. Hence, any child born before that date could not have benefited from his or her mother’s status, nor can they now, the law not being retroactive….
This is without knowing Ms Z. and her determination….
What? Her mother’s heritage was considered less German, less legitimate, for coming from a WOMAN?
Not only had Ms R. been rejected in those awful years of the Nazi regime, for being Jewish, but now, her daughter could not reclaim her due?
Ms Z’s younger sibling would be entitled to getting the desired passport, just because she happened to have been born a couple of years later? This today makes no sense whatsoever, and certainly not to someone attached – as I am – to equal rights between men and women, not to mention between siblings!
She fought on and on, produced all the musty documents that were asked by all sorts of officials, hopefully shouted loud enough over the internet for her cry to be heard right - to be now told that her file is considered worthy of being considered kosher enough to be sent ‘Nach Berlin!’ for further examination.
Now we are all keeping our fingers crossed so that the right people in the right place will grant her what she wants: a small compensation for what her family went through, and for losing the benefits of rightfully belonging to our United Nations of Europe since the day she was born.
All I can wish for is to be among those who will witness the event in a few months – the handing of a E.U passport to a long lost citizen of our beloved Europe! For it will also indicate that bureaucrats (so often ill-spoken of) have another answer than “this must be done by the book”, and that someone, somewhere has a mind of his or her own – and a memory.
And all this when, after years of listening to our parents’ motto (“I’ll never buy a German car!”), I am finally driving one. Probably manufactured and assembled by all sorts of immigrants across twelve European countries, proudly sold by French dealers, and aptly paid in euros!
Here is the world for you, so why the hassle over nationality anymore?
(You made it to the end? GOOD! In that case, have a great weekend, wherever you happen to be living!)