Citizenship status of Galician Jewish refugees after World War I

Ustrzyki-Dolne in current Poland (source: wikimedia)

I mentioned already in an earlier post (see “Where to look for old newspapers in Flemish-Belgium“) that my great-grandfather and the children were were stateless citizens before they naturalized as Belgians. The reason for their statless status was that when my great-grandfather Gerschon Lehrer was born in Ustrzyki-Dolne, it was Austrian and after the First World War it became Poland.

My great grandfather lived since 1919 in Dresden (Germany) and Poland took away the nationalities from all citizens that were not in the country for a long time, hence my great-grandfather and grandfather automatically became stateless (source: naturalization file 21875N).

That was a short explanation about the stateless status from my great-grandfather and his children.
I am subscribed to a few mailinglists with an interest in genealogy. One of these lists is from the “Gesher Galicia SIG” (see http://www.jewishgen.org/galicia for more information about that group).
Recently there was a discussion on the stateless status of Galician Jewish refugees who moved to GERMANY after WWI.
I’d like to post these discussion in this post because I believe that the information in that discussion goes a bit deeper on the background of my ancestors’ stateless status after the First World War, then what I wrote before.

In my opinion the last post from Rivka Schirman which you can read below, provides us with the most complete answer. It is mainly the following paragraph which interests me:

Once the Conference of Ambassadors legally attributed East Galicia to Poland, it also based it on the articles of the Treaty of St Germain en Laye regarding nationality and citizenship (full text available at http://www.forost.ungarisches-institut.de/pdf/19230315-1.pdf). This time, those who opted for Polish citizenship, because it was possible, had, according to article 78, 12 months to move to Poland.

I’ve got two letters (from my great-grandfather’s Belgian naturalization file no. 21875N) which I’d like to share. The first one is an explanation from my great-grandfather Gerschon Lehrer to the Belgian authorities in which he explains the reason why he has not nationality. He writes that he was born in 1902 in Ustrzyki-Dolne as an Austrian subject. After the First Wolrd War, Ustrzyki became Polish and Gerschon subsequently became a Polish subject but he never received a Polish passport.

The Polish government decided that all Polish nationals who were living outside Poland and did not return to Poland for a while, would lose their rights to the Polish nationality. This was why Gerschon became Stateless.

This is also confirmed in a letter from the Polish consul in Lepizig from 1929 to Gerschon:

A letter from Gerschon to Belgian authorities (February 4th, 1954)
Letter from the Polish consul in Leipzig to Gerschon (January 12th, 1929)

Read the complete discussion hereunder as appeared in the “Gesher Galicia SIG” newsgroup:

Subject: Citzenship status of Galician Jewish refugees to the Austrian Republic after World War I
From: “Norbert Weinberg”
Date: Thu, 7 Apr 2011 10:40:27 -0700
X-Message-Number: 3
During and after World War I, thousands of Galician Jews fled to Austria and remained there rather than return to what became Poland. What was the status of these Jewish citizens of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire -were they automatically granted Austrian citizenship? Were they considered Polish citizens? If Austrian, was this citizenship revoked after the Anschluss?
I ask this because my father and grandparents were citizens of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from galicia who settled in Vienna after World War I. I found a photograph of my grandmother which is embossed with the seal of the Polish consulate and I assume it is c 1938-39, about the time they fled to Switzerland and while I do not have the original document, I assume it is some kind of Polish travel document (passport or visa). I know that my grandfather upon entry to the US has “Stateless” stamped on his visa, and my father, as I see from his documents, received his Austrian citizenship in 1949.
Thanks for any information you may have.
Rabbi Dr. Norbert Weinberg
Encino, CA 91316
email: norofra@sbcglobal.net
http://karmisheli.blogspot.com
Researching Family Records of WEINBERG (Dolyna/Ukraine,
Vienna/Austria, Frankfurt AM, Germany), ZARWANITZER
(Dolyna/Ukraine), IGER (Lviv, Podwolochisk/Ukraine),
GOTTDENKER (Lviv, Bolekhiv/Ukraine).


Subject: Re: Citzenship status of Galician Jewish refugees to the Austrian Republic after World War I
From: “J.C.Keiner”
Date: Thu, 07 Apr 2011 19:44:42 +0100
X-Message-Number: 5
If my own family is anything to go by, Jews from Poland who were established residents of either Austria or Germany were able to choose their nationality after the war, presumably under the arrangements of the Treaty of Versailles. Thus, in my mother’s family (which came from Galicia but had been living in Berlin since around 1907), she, her parents and one brother took Polish nationality, another brother took Austrian nationality and the oldest brother took German nationality. Ironically, my mother was the only one born in Berlin– both the parents and the three brothers were all born in Galicia.
The Jews living in Galicia were not given the option, as far as I know, to take any nationality other than Polish. However, many newly young male Polish Jews were faced with being conscripted into the overtly anti-semitic Polish army which immediately became embroiled in a war with Russia after 1919. Huge numbers of them intentionally became stateless after departing to Germany, Belgium, France etc to avoid being conscripted in this situation.
My father was one of them; his father had loyally fought for the Austro-Hungarian army and gone through horrific battle experiences on the Isonzo. The writings of Hannah Arendt repeatedly dwell on institutionalized statelessness as something central to post World War I Europe, and to it affecting Jews in particular.
Poland passed (covertly anti-semitic) legislation in 1938, stripping Poles who had emigrated after 1919 of their nationality if they had not returned to Poland for 5 years. It was this that was the cause of the Nazi expulsion of Polish Jews to the No Man’s Land between Germany and Poland at the end of October 1938, because they did not want to find themselves having a permanently resident additional population of newly stateless Polish Jews. The expulsion lead to the murder by an enraged young Jew of Vom Rath, a Nazi diplomat in Paris, which in turn was used by the Nazis as an excuse to unleash Kristalnacht and its attendant horrors, which effectively marked the end of organized Jewish communal life in Germany.
I don’t think the Poles have ever really acknowledged the enormity of their anti-semitic legislation of that period, and the role it played in bringing into action the exterminationist phase of Nazi anti- semitism.
Judy Keiner
Norbert Weinberg wrote:
> During and after World War I, thousands of Galician Jews fled to
> Austria and remained there rather than return to what became
> Poland. What was the status of these Jewish citizens of the old
> Austro-Hungarian Empire -were they automatically granted
> Austrian citizenship? Were they considered Polish citizens? If
> Austrian, was this citizenship revoked after the Anschluss?..


Subject: Citzenship status of Galician Jewish refugees to GERMANY after WWI
From: Rivka Schirman
Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2011 11:19:47 +0200
X-Message-Number: 1
J. C. Keiner wrote: “If my own family is anything to go by, Jews from Poland who were established residents of either Austria or Germany were able to choose their nationality after the war, presumably under the arrangements of the Treaty of Versailles.
Thus, in my mother’s family (which came from Galicia but had been living in Berlin since around 1907), she, her parents and one brother took Polish nationality, another brother took Austrian nationality and the oldest brother took German nationality.”
As said in my other post, there were two distinct Treaties, and the Treaty of Versailles, signed 28 June, 1919, dealt exclusively with Germany, and not with Austria (full text available http://net.lib.byu.edu/~rdh7/wwi/versailles.html):
“Article 91: German nationals habitually resident in territories recognized as forming part of Poland will acquire Polish nationality ipso facto and will lose their German nationality.
German nationals, however, or their descendants who became resident in these territories after January 1, 1908, will not acquire Polish nationality without a special authorisation from the Polish State. Within a period of two years after the coming into force of the present Treaty, German nationals over 18 years of age habitually resident in any of the territories recognised as forming part of Poland will be entitled to opt for German nationality. Poles who are German nationals over 18 years of age and habitually resident in Germany will have a similar right to opt for Polish nationality. Persons who have exercised the above right to opt may within the succeeding twelve months transfer their place of residence to the State for which they have opted.”
Now, many “ost-juden” opted for Polish citizenship but remained in Germany as foreign residents.
J. C. Keiner wrote: “Poland passed (covertly anti-semitic) legislation in 1938, stripping Poles who had emigrated after 1919 of their nationality if they had not returned to Poland for 5 years. It was this that was the cause of the Nazi expulsion of Polish Jews to the No Man’s Land between Germany and Poland at the end of October 1938, because they did not want to find themselves having a permanently resident additional population of newly stateless Polish Jews.”
1. On August 1938 it was the Nazis who firstly decreed that all residence permits for foreigners, including Jews born in Germany but of foreign origin, are revoked and would need individual renewals.
2. The Polish Decree voted consequently the same month by the Polish Parliament argued that any Polish citizen residing in Germany and Austria and who had lived their continuously for more than 5 years without having visited Poland even once, “would have lost their connection to the Polish nation”, and thus should be given the possibility to “revoke the the citizneship”.
See: Polish citizens residing in these countries were called to report to the respective Polish consulates presenting their passports for renewal and duly warned that non-show by the deadline October 30, 1938 would mean that their Polish passport would be invalidated and its holder considered stateless and will lose his/her right to enter Poland. Some Polish citizens living in Germany and Austria, Jews or not, went and had their passports renewed. Some didn’t and became stateless. Jews of Polish origin residing in Germany who did not renew their Polish passports and had their residents permit in Germany revoked became both stateless and illegal residents in Germany.
3. The Polish decree referred to all Polish citizens of all faiths and ethnic groups. In order to prove that this decree was “covertly anti-semitic” one would have to (1) provide the number of Jewish Polish residents in Germany versus non-Jewish Polish residents in the country at the same time (b) of these, provide the number of Jews and non-Jews who actually came to renew their passports in the Polish consulate within the legal deadline (c) of these, provide the number of Jews and non-Jews who were possibly refused renewal of their Polish passport when actually presenting it within the deadline.
As a control group, I suggest it would be very interesting to check how many of the Ukrainian nationalists, all originally Polish citizens from East Galicia, members, activists and leaders of the UVO (then OUN) who were by then residing in Germany, came to renew their Polish passports.
4. It was the Nazis who expelled these 12,000 people, and they expelled only the Jews of Polish origins but not, for example the Ukrainians mentioned above.
5. The Jews of Polish origins that were expelled were not a “newly additional population” at all, most of them were Jews who had lived in Germany for decades and have been living in Germany since long before WWI.
J.C. Keiner wrote: “The expulsion lead to the murder by an enraged young Jew of Vom Rath, a Nazi diplomat in Paris”.
The “enraged young Jew” was Herschel Feibel Grynszpan, born in Hanover, Germany on March 28, 1921. His Parents arrived in Germany in 1911 (!), opted for Polish citizenship and remained in Germany. All Grynszpan children were born and the surviving ones raised and educated in Germany. Herschel murdered vom Rath as an act of protest against the expulsion of his parents, brother and sister and the 12,000 Jews. You are welcome to read more about this “enraged young Jew” at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herschel_Grynszpan.
Rivka
Rivka Schirman


Subject: Citzenship status of Galician Jewish refugees to the Austrian Republic after World War I (take 1)
From: Rivka Schirman
Date: Fri, 8 Apr 2011 11:41:50 +0200
X-Message-Number: 2
Rabbi Dr. Norbert Weinberg asked: “During and after World War I, thousands of Galician Jews fled to Austria and remained there rather than return to what became Poland. What was the status of these Jewish citizens of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire – were they automatically granted Austrian citizenship? Were they considered Polish citizens?”
J.C. Keiner answered, among others: “If my own family is anything to go by, Jews from Poland who were established residents of either Austria or Germany were able to choose their nationality after the war, presumably under the arrangements of the Treaty of Versailles.”
In fact, there were two separate and distincts Treaties, not to be confounded. The Treaty of Peace with Austria is called the Treaty of St Germain en Laye, signed on September 10, 1919 (full text available at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat/treaties/1920/3.html).
The Treaty defines the new Borders of the Austrian Republic, excluding Galicia, but as yet, does not attribute East Galicia to any other State. It is crucial to remember that at the time of signature of the Treaty of St Germain en Laye, the eastern borders of the Second Republic of Poland were not yet defined or agreed upon, these were defined only by the Conference of Ambassadors (March 15, 1923).
Now, within the borders of the Austrian Republic, the Treaty of St Germain en Lay stipulates the following:
General clauses:
Article 64: Austria admits and declares to be Austrian nationals ipso facto and without the requirement of any formality all persons possessing at the date of the coming into force of the present Treaty rights of citizenship (pertinenza) within Austrian territory who are not nationals of any other State.
Article 65: All persons born in Austrian territory who are not born nationals of another State shall ipso facto become Austrian nationals.
Section VI, Clauses Relating to Nationality.
Article 70: Every person possessing rights of citizenship (pertinenza) in territory which formed part of the territories of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy shall obtain ipso facto to the exclusion of Austrian nationality the nationality of the State exercising sovereignty over such territory. (exception refer, in articles 71-77 to Italians, Serb-Croat-Slovene and Czecho-Slovak)
Article 78: Persons over 18 years of age losing their Austrian nationality and obtaining ipso facto a new nationality under Article 70 shall be entitled within a period of one year from the coming into force of the present Treaty to opt for the nationality of the State in which they possessed rights of citizenship before acquiring such rights in the territory transferred.
Option by a husband will cover his wife and option by parents will cover their children under 18 years of age.
Persons who have exercised the above right to opt must within the succeeding twelve months transfer their place of residence to the State for which they have opted.
Meaning, so far as I can understand and without being a interwar lawyer, that a Galician refugee ho was already residing in Vienna in 1919 (that is, who had fled East Galicia at the early years of the war), for not being a citizen of another actual State (because East-Galicia was not yet legally part of Poland), ipso facto became an Austrian citizen.
Once the Conference of Ambassadors legally attributed East-Galicia to Poland, it also based it on the articles of the Treaty of St Germain en Laye regarding nationality and citizenship (full text available at http://www.forost.ungarisches-institut.de/pdf/19230315-1.pdf).
This time, those who opted for Polish citizenship, because it was possible, had, according to article 78, 12 months to move to Poland.
The question is, how many of the former refugees actually bothered to go through the paperwork in 1923, when for them, the war was already over for 5 years in their new place of residence and they have been living in Austria for already 4 years.
I do not have the answer for this and do not know where to look for it but am positive that someone else can direct you to reliable statistical sources concerning the exact numbers of Austrian Jewish citizen and foreign Jewish residents and (their origins) in Austria by 1938-1939.
“I found a photograph of my grandmother which is embossed with the seal of the Polish consulate and I assume it is c 1938-39, about the time they fled to Switzerland”
The Polish Consulate where ? In Switzerland ? And your grand-mother fled to Switzerland from Poland or from Austria ?
Hope the above did provide some help,
Rivka
Rivka Schirman

One thought on “Citizenship status of Galician Jewish refugees after World War I”

  1. Hi Gershon, I spoke with the Austrian embassy. Since my great grandfather remained to live in Galicia (Brody) after 1920 (treaty) it entitled him to citizenship from Poland that took over. Now my grandfather was born in Vienna in 1917, however they moved back to Brody after 5 years, since he did not apply for austrian citizenship he is not Austrian. Screwed from every direction, maybe i will speak to the poles.

    Keep up the good work!

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