When we first opened our doors in the UK, we knew that we wouldn’t be received with open arms by everyone. After all, we were offering services to descendants of Jews who had to escape Nazi Germany and certain death.
The criticism didn’t take long to follow. “Why on earth would someone whose ancestors barely escape the Nazi regime and the horrors of the Holocaust opt for the citizenship of Germany, of all places?” was one of the nicer criticisms directed at us and our clients.
The question is legitimate. Or is it?
One should, when passing judgment, remember the history of Jews in England, which was filled with discrimination and exploit, pogroms and slaughter from the late 12th century onwards like the massacres of London in 1189 or of York in 1190. One should also keep in mind the surge of antisemitic sentiments due to the infamous blood-libel and the religious tensions during the years of the crusades. One should not ignore the expulsion of all Jews from England, part of which came to the area of Germany and the total ban of all Jews for a period of almost 400 years, until their slow resettlement from 1655 and onwards.
One should also not forget that out of the 300,000 Jews who had escaped Germany after the rise of Hitler and until the year 1939, a mere 20,000 – 25,000 were allowed to settle in Great Britain after providing large amounts of money as financial guarantees to the government and only following extensive negotiations between the Board of Deputies of the British Jews and the government. In order to obtain an immigration visas, a guarantee in the amount of £50 had to be supplied, to ensure the person for whom the guarantee was given would not become a financial burden for the British Government.
In the wake of Kristallnacht in November 1938, following further negotiations between Jewish and Quaker community leaders with the British government, the government allowed for the immigration of a mere of 10,000 unaccompanied children without visas through the so called Kindertransport – the Children’s Transport program. They were forced to leave everything behind, including their parents, never to be seen again. They lived in foster homes or orphanages, often under dire conditions. But they lived.
And finally, given the very strict immigration restrictions to the area of the British Mandate to Palestine, which the League of Nations had passed upon Great Britain in order to establish a “national home for the Jewish people”, given that after the White Paper of 1939 all legal immigration to Palestine stopped, many European Jews perished in the Holocaust because the British Government simply forbade settlement in an area “His Majesty” had promised to them in the Balfour Declaration.
Today many of the Jews living in the UK are seeing their lives in danger. They are afraid of rising antisemitism not only within ever growing Muslim communities but also within the Labour Party. Of course, there is a difference between ancient history and more recent history. But ultimately Jews resettled both in the UK and Germany despite the ancient and the more recent history.
We should know that throughout history of mankind, circumstances changed, regimes changed, foes became friends and friends became foes. We should know that part of what helped the Jews to survive as a people was their ability to adapt to outside circumstances without surrendering their Jewish identities. We at GCR don’t pass judgment on anyone who decides to never set foot in Germany. We are simply here to assist anyone who decides to apply for German citizenship.