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§58c Austrian Citizenship Act: Facilitated naturalisation for Persecuted Persons, Nazi victims & descendants 

Austria, with its enriched culture and historical significance, holds a complex history intertwined with the events of the Second World War. During the National Socialist regime, countless innocent lives suffered immense atrocities, leading to displacement and irrevocable loss. Recognizing the enduring implications of these historical occurrences, the Austrian government took a conscientious step in addressing the descendants of the victims of the National Socialist regime.

Section 58c of the Austrian Citizenship Act epitomizes Austria's commitment to reconciling with its past by offering a ray of hope and a means of redress to the descendants of those who endured immense sufferings. This provision illustrates Austria's acknowledgment of the past and its resolve to forge a path of justice and remembrance for the descendants of the victims.

Difficult Situation in the Past for Persecuted Persons and their Direct Descendants

In the past it was quite difficult to acquire Austrian citizenship by descent for persecuted persons. Regarding Jewish people who were forced to flee by the Nazis there were several requirements to meet. So e.g. it was necessary that the relevant ancestor has not taken on a foreign citizenship voluntary. If this ancestor has never lost her/his Austrian citizenship it was possible that he/she transferred the citizenship by descent to the children. 

In such cases also the Anschluss regulations of the Nazis were relevant as they were turned over after WW II. Therefore, in 1945 many people recovered their Austrian citizenship status due to that reason. Essential in these cases was to answer the question, as mentioned, whether the relevant ancestor lost Austrian citizenship because she/he acquired foreign citizenship voluntary. So the reason how and why your ancestor acquired foreign citizenship was crucial and difficult to argue.

Reclaiming Roots: Understanding §58c of the Austrian Citizenship Act for Descendants of Victims of the National Socialist Regime

In the quest for justice and reconciliation, the Austrian government has made significant strides in addressing the dark periods of its past. One such measure is §58c of the Austrian Citizenship Act, which offers a glimmer of hope and a means of symbolic reparation for descendants of victims of the National Socialist regime. This article aims to break down the details of §58c, illustrating how it's a landmark provision for re-establishing a connection to Austria for those whose families were forcibly estranged.

Why is §58c of the Austrian Citizenship Act so Important?

Symbolic Reparation

The law serves as a form of symbolic reparation for the injustice and atrocities committed during the Nazi era. While nothing can bring back the lives lost or undo the suffering, this act is a step towards acknowledging the wrongdoings and offering a form of restitution.

Reconnecting with Roots

Many descendants of victims have grown up with stories of their ancestral homeland but were stripped of any legal connection to it. §58c offers a unique opportunity for these individuals to reclaim their Austrian heritage.

Practical Benefits, Dual Citizenship

In Austria, an Austrian who voluntarily acquires foreign citizenship automatically loses his/her Austrian citizenship, foreigners you apply for Austrian citizenship have to give up their current citizenship (e.g. US or Israeli citizenship). If you receive Austrian citizenship according to §58c of the Austrian Citizenship Act, there is an uniqe exception to keep your current citizenship.

Moreover, Austrian citizenship also comes with its set of practical benefits, including the right to live, work, and study in Austria and other EU countries. This adds a tangible layer to the symbolic aspect of the law.

Who can apply according to §58c of the Austrian Citizenship Act?

Enacted in September 2020, §58c of the Austrian Citizenship Act aims to right historical wrongs by providing a legal basis for descendants of victims of the National Socialist regime (commonly referred to as the Nazi regime) to acquire Austrian citizenship. The legislation into came into force on 1st of September 2020, the extended provision of § 58c StbG came into force on May 1, 2022. 

This provision allows individuals who are direct descendants of those who were persecuted by the Nazis, including those who were forced to flee Austria, to apply for and obtain Austrian citizenship without relinquishing their current nationality.

Who is Eligible according to §58c Austrian Citizenship Act?

The eligibility criteria are broadly inclusive, persecuted persons within the scope of the Austrian Citizenship Act are:

  • Austrian citizens who went abroad and citizens of one of the successor states of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy or as stateless persons before May 15, 1955 because they feared or suffered persecution. 
  • Austrian citizens who did not have their main residence in Austria between January 30, 1933 and May 9, 1945 because they would have feared persecution if they returned to or entered Austria for the first time.
  • Austrian citizens who died due to persecution or were deported abroad before May 9, 1945.
  • Persons who, as nationals of one of the successor states of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy or as stateless persons with their main place of residence in the federal territory of Austria, died due to persecution or were deported abroad before May 9, 1945. 

All descendants who are related in a straight line to these refugees benefit from the new legislation. 

Application Process of §58c of the Austrian Citizenship Act, Legal Advice Recommended

Section §58c of the Austrian Citizenship Act is not just a legal provision; it is a powerful message of reconciliation and a testament to Austria's commitment to acknowledging its past while making amends for the future. For descendants of victims of the National Socialist regime, this law offers a chance to reclaim something invaluable— their identity and their connection to a homeland that was unjustly taken away from them.

The application process was designed to be as streamlined as possible to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy, but based on our practical experience the proceedings have relevant pitfalls in the details. Therefore it is advisable to submit well-prepared applications to the authorities.

Still applicants have to prove that they are descended from an ancestor who was persecuted by the NS regime or had to fear being persecuted by the NS regime. Experience shows that even such points in the application procedure can - particularly for persons living abroad - still be a relevant challenge. 

Are you eligible under §58c?

If you are, this could be more than just an opportunity; it could be the reclamation of an identity and a history that belong to you. If you think you may qualify for Austrian citizenship under §58c, consult our firm as legal experts for personalized guidance.