Under Article 116 of the German constitution, former German citizens who between January 30, 1933, and May 8, 1945, were "deprived of their citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds, and their descendants" can apply to become German citizens anew — and on application, they shall be deemed never to have been deprived of their citizenship in the first place.
The law primarily applies to German Jews, members of Communist or Social Democratic Parties and other opposing political groupings, homosexuals, Roma people, and Slavs.
The June 23, 2016 referendum on UK membership of the European Union resulted in a significant uptick in applications by Britons for German citizenship, and British citizens residing in Germany likewise applied for permanent settlement in droves. As of October 2018, 3,731 applicants have invoked article 116.
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In 2015, there were only 59 applications under the article — in 2016 760, in 2017 1,824, and 1,147 in the first eight months of 2018. The figures were compiled by Funke Mediengruppe, and published in response to a parliamentary question from the Free Democrats (FDP).
FDP interior affairs spokesman Konstantin Kuhle said the development showed many UK citizens were keen to retain "the benefits of European citizenship" within the EU.
"This is not surprising given the British government's chaotic Brexit negotiation line…many people in the UK feel close to the EU," he added.