Out-of-wedlock exception led to reversal of Article 116 definition of "descendants"

Out-of-wedlock exception led to reversal of Article 116 definition of "descendants"

The more inclusive definition of the word "descendant" in Article 116 of the German Basic Law, by which we expect Walter and Dan will now qualify for German renaturalization, was derived from a legal challenge by an out-of-wedlock child of a German Jewish man who had been deprived of his citizenship.

That is a different exception to the law than the one that had disqualified me when I applied in 2012. At that time, I did not qualify because my claim to citizenship came through my mother, and until April 1, 1953 the German Nationality Act did not recognize maternal descent. (Joanne was born after that, so she qualified; I was born before that and did not.)

In this case, the issue was whether the legitimacy of a childbirth, or lack of it, should void eligibility for renaturalization under Article 116. The plaintiff lost two lower-court decisions before it was finally appealed to the Federal Constitutional Court, which decided on May 20, 2020, that the word "descendants" in Article 116 applies to all offspring of persons deprived of their citizenship rights.

Thus, someone who was born out of wedlock to a denaturalized German Jewish father, as long as paternity is acknowledged, is a legal descendant. 

Also—and just along for the ride through the German legal system—children of German Jewish mothers and non-German fathers, such as ourselves, also fall under the more inclusive interpretation. 

Following the court decision, the German Bundestag adopted the Fourth Amendment of the German Nationality Act on August 20, 2021, enacting these provisions into law.