Sunday, May 29, 2016

Post-Nazi Sexism

Last year I went to Berlin for the first time. I expected to hate Germany, since my mother, grandmother, grandfather, and great-grandmother fled the Nazis in October 1938, just days before Kristallnacht. Many of our relatives were not as fortunate, eventually perishing at Auschwitz. Deciding to go to Germany was tough, but my feelings changed once I arrived. Germany was amazing. The people I met, mostly lawyers, talked openly about the dark days of Nazism with shame and regret. I was there to participate in an American trial demonstration for the German-American Lawyers Association, since the German civil legal system works markedly different than our American system. I so enjoyed getting to know our German counterparts. One of the American lawyers on the trip was a judge from Texas. He, too, had Jewish parents who had escaped the Nazis in Germany. He had been back to Germany many times, eventually obtaining dual citizenship in America and Germany. It seems that descendants of Jews who lost their German citizenship from 1933-1945 because they were Jewish are entitled to become German citizens.

German citizens can travel unrestricted throughout the European Union. The Germany of today is a progressive state. Germans still work hard, just as I remember my grandmother and great-grandmother filling their "free" time cooking, cleaning and baking. I loved my grandparents and loved the qualities they gained from their German heritage before Germany went crazy. Although I never learned to speak German, since anything German was discouraged as I grew up, I heard plenty of German around my grandparents' house.

Reconnecting with my German roots sounded interesting. I am an American first and foremost, but getting the benefits of German co-citizenship was inviting. Plus, the thought of having options if we elect a President Trump seemed reassuring. So, I got online and found the law allowing people like me some justice - regaining German citizenship in the family. I began gathering the necessary documents, my mother's birth certificate, American citizenship papers, my birth certificate, etc.  Dual citizenship, here I come, or so I thought.

I discovered a glitch in German law that foils my quest to be semi-German. That glitch is my non-bastardhood. My father's family came to America by way of Palestine from Poland just one year before he was born in 1929. Even though my parents divorced when I was little and I was raised by my mother and grandmother, my mother was married to my father when I was born. And, it seems, that I cannot become a German citizen unless my father was a Jewish German refugee instead of a first generation American-almost Polish refugee. The only way I can become a German citizen because of Hitler's genocidal focus on my family is if my mother was my father, or if my mother was an unwed mother.

How ironic. The law to partially remedy Hitler's anti-Semitic genocide to restore citizenship is cancelled out by European society's longstanding sexism. I could complain to the German government, but since I know their civil justice system, with lack of jury trials, sucks, I don't think I will get anywhere. I suppose if Trump wins, I will have to flee to Nova Scotia with the rest of the Americans, which totally ironic, since Germany's Chancellor is Angela Merkel. Perhaps the screwed up German laws of citizenship explain why Merkel, obviously a woman, chose not to have children.
Perhaps she feared her descendants could someday lose German citizenship, after she worked so hard to help the European Union. This sucks. MLK said, "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice."  Well, the history arc sometimes does not bend quickly enough.