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Austrian law extends citizenship to descendants of Jewish refugees

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Descendants from Jewish refugees expelled from Austria under Nazi rule can apply for Austrian citizenship under a new law that goes into effect Tuesday.

About 120,000 Jews living in Austria fled persecution after Nazi Germany annexed its neighbor in 1938 with many going to the United States and the United Kingdom. Most refugees, The Observer notes, became naturalized citizens in their new countries, but post-war Austria banned dual citizenship, meaning those who left were considered foreigners in their homeland. Eventually, in 1993, former refugees were able to reclaim their Austrian citizenship, but descendants were left out, preventing the country from restoring its pre-war Jewish community, which numbered 200,000. That’s unlikely to happen even now since the applicants will be dual citizens and won’t necessarily reside in Austria. For instance, a major factor for eligible U.K. citizens, per the Observer, will likely be the desire to regain European Union citizenship post-Brexit through the program.

Still, campaigners believe the law represents both historic justice and could potentially help sway change in Austria, where some citizens believe anti-minority sentiment is on the rise. Bini Guttman, the Austrian president of the European Union of Jewish Students, said the law can “help deliver justice” for the applicants’ “successors here and for the future” if they exercise their voting rights.

Hannah Lessing, secretary general of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism, applauded the law, but said “it can never truly make amends for the Holocaust.” Read more at The Observer.

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