Eligibility of Jewish people with Slovak heritage

Jewish people with Slovak heritage are often eligible for Slovak citizenship by descent. This article briefly explains their specific situation.

During the interwar period, around 140 000 Jews lived in Slovakia. After 1918, they became very active Czechoslovak citizens, increasingly speaking Slovak in their daily lives. In 1920, there were 77 Jewish primary schools, two high schools, and a Jewish political party on the territory of today’s Slovakia. Due to the horrific events of the Second World War, after 1945, only 30 000 Jews remained in Slovakia. Most were killed or, if they were lucky, fled. Once the Communists assumed control over the country in 1948, more than 11 000 Slovak Jews decided to emigrate, often to Isreal. Today, only around 5000 Jews remain in Slovakia.

Slovak citizenship by descent is open to the descendants of all former Czechoslovak citizens who were born in today’s territory of Slovakia. Slovak ethnicity is not a requirement. Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Slovak Jews who lived in Czechoslovakia after July 1920 clearly qualify for citizenship by descent if their ancestors were born on the territory of today’s Slovakia. If their ancestors left Czechoslovakia after July 1910, they equally qualify but the evidentiary situation can be more tricky. In some cases, even great-great-grandchildren of Slovak Jews qualify for Slovak citizenship by descent.

For descendants of Slovak Jews who emigrated after the 1940s, the situation should be quite straightforward. Often, the census documents from the interwar period would capture their whereabouts in Slovakia. Their Slovak birth certificates should be easily accessible in the archives. If they were direct victims of the Holocaust, their personal stories might have been recorded in numerous databases.

Moreover, the descendants of Slovak Jews born abroad could have automatically gained Slovak citizenship (even if they were never issued a passport proving this). If both parents were Czechoslovak citizens, they would usually gain citizenship. If only one of the parents was a Czechoslovak citizen, they would usually gain citizenship only if children were born abroad after 1969. Even more, they could have passed the citizenship to their own children (i.e., grandchildren of emigrees). For instance, a daughter of two emigrees from Slovakia born in Isreal in the 1950s would have automatically gained Czechoslovak citizenship, and she would pass it also to her children born after 1969.

The situation of descendants of Slovak Jews who emigrated around 1848 or earlier is much more difficult. In short, it is extremely unlikely that their descendants qualify for citizenship by descent as the law only considers parents, grandparents and great-grandparents relevant.

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