Hundreds Of British Jews Apply For German Citizenship In Wake Of Brexit

For some, the decision to seek another passport has been years in the making. Harding has long been coming to terms with his German past, a journey documented in his book, “The House by the Lake.”

The Nazis killed six of his relatives, revoked his family’s citizenship and forced them to leave behind property, including the idyllic summer cottage built by his great-grandfather Alfred Alexander, a doctor whose patients included Albert Einstein and Marlene Dietrich. Those who survived fled to Britain.

Harding grew up in a family that toasted the queen, refused to buy German washing machines and went on holidays everywhere in Europe except Germany. When his grandmother, Elsie, finally decided to show Harding and six cousins the city of her upbringing, she handed over a brown envelope.

“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,” he wrote in the Guardian newspaper. “Elsie’s message was clear — this is my history and this is your history. Do not forget.”

In 2013, he returned to the cottage, his grandmother’s “soul place,” which was empty and derelict. He climbed through a broken window to look around. “One room looked as if it had been used as a drug den, littered with broken lighters and soot-stained spoons,” he wrote in the book’s prologue.

The building at Gross Glienicke, a village on the outskirts of Berlin, was to be demolished. In a bid to save it, he unearthed the history of those who lived there. The house encapsulates the history of modern Germany. It was built during the Weimar Republic, confiscated by the Third Reich, separated from the nearby lake by the Berlin Wall and became part of a united Germany after the wall came down.

Now it’s Alexander Haus, which seeks to teach local history.

Its programs also aim to help residents better understand the recent wave of Syrian and other refugees seeking protection in Germany. That has special meaning for Harding, because his sister married a Syrian Kurd. The way Harding sees it, Germany is showing leadership by taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees last year.

Now it’s logical, he says, for Jews to cling to the EU, which was created to build ties that would make another European war impossible.

“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,” he said. “That’s part of it, isn’t it?”

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