A 48-year-old Jewish author, Thomas Harding is attempting what his ancestors might never have imagined: re-applying for German citizenship.
Harding, whose family perished in the Holocaust feels it is part necessity, part right. When the U.K. voted to leave the European Union earlier this year, Harding decided he should not be denied twice of his European citizenship as did his family previously in wake of the Holocaust.
“It’s not about something for us, or for me. It’s about something spiritual, it’s about reconciliation. It’s about acknowledging the truth of the horrors of the past but also about trying to build a better future together, and as a European, that’s what I hope to do,” Harding said.
Of the many complications arising from the U.K.’s split from the EU has sparked a wave of Britons, whose family came from other parts of Europe and pushed them to claim citizenship of the other 28 other member states so they can retain ties to the EU. Most often requested are German, Austrian and Polish citizenship.
While some apply due to convenience, for Jews the move speaks volumes. Many Jews fled Germany during the rise of Adolf Hitler, seeking refuge elsewhere. For many, re-affirming ties to a country which murdered their families is a daunting task indeed.
According to Michael Newman, chief executive of the Association of Jewish Refugees, what locals are referring to as ‘Brexit,’ – the exit of Britain from the EU has inspired many to take such a step. For Jews however, the process is made easier due to recent efforts made by the government of Germany.
“There is an acceptance of guilt, and I think that makes it a different proposition,” Newman said.
Harding is not alone, as several Jews are considering this option which allows them freedom of travel within the EU.
Marc Meyer, director of the Conference of European Rabbis referred to the phenomena as ” open[ing] the floodgates of insecurity and those of opportunity” to European Jews.
But for others the journey has been long towards acceptance of the past. Harding recently documented this journey in his book, “The House by the Lake.”
Six of Harding;s family members where brutally murdered by the Nazis, who forced Harding’;s family to leave behind their property, a cottage which had been in the family for generations. The surviving members escaped to the U.K.
While Harding grew up in a traditional British family, they still refused to buy German household appliances and abstained from traveling to Germany on vacation.
Harding’s grandmother gave him an envelope of family memoirs.
“Inside was the swastika-stamped passport for her husband and father-in-law, along with a black piece of cloth on which had been sewn a yellow J…[grandmother] Elsie’s message was clear – this is my history and this is your history. Do not forget.”
In 2013, Harding returned to his family [property in Germany, and found the cottage in a dilapidated state. Having examined the house, Harding noted, “One room looked as if it had been used as a drug den, littered with broken lighters and soot-stained spoons.”
Harding claims that it’s logical for Jews to cling to the EU, which strove to prevent a Third World War.
“You could argue that the flight of the German Jews, the persecution of the German Jews, was the symbol of the breaking up of Europe, and the European Union was set up specifically to create a political, social context of peace. That’s part of it, isn’t it?”
Source: Israel Hayom; Times of Israel
By: Yafit Ovadia