What’s the best way to upset Hitler? Apply for German citizenship, say Matt Lucas and David Baddiel

The comedians discussed the significance of Jews returning to the home of their ancestors


What’s the best way to upset Hitler? The answer, according to Matt Lucas and David Baddiel, is for Jews whose ancestors fled Nazi persecution to claim German citizenship.

In a discussion held last Thursday night at Westminster Synagogue under the auspices of the Association of Jewish Refugees, Wiener Holocaust Library and German Embassy, the comedians explained that Brexit had triggered for both a desire to reclaim their European roots.

In November 2021, Mr Lucas revealed that he had become a German citizen over 80 years after his grandmother fled Berlin. Mr Baddiel has not applied yet himself, he told attendees, but is now considering it.

While other members of his family did not feel comfortable accepting a German identity, Mr Lucas said, he believed: “The Germany of today is not the Germany [of the past]; the Britain of today is not the Britain my grandmother came to.”

Discussing the reaction of his relatives to his new citizenship status, the Little Britain star said: “They felt my mum’s mum would not have been comfortable [with my application]… So I think possibly my grandmother would have been against it, but there’s other aspects of my lifestyle my grandmother would have been against, to be honest.”

He asked: “If we don't return to Germany and then there are no Jews in Germany then what? What has been achieved?”

Responding to the question, Mr Baddiel said: “If you want to look at it in very simple terms: what is the thing Hitler would have liked least? 

“Me and you becoming German, I would say especially you because you're gay as well.”

A bill passed by the Bundestag in May 2021 eliminated restrictions that blocked some descendents of German Jews persecuted by the Nazis from claiming citizenship.

At the time, British lawyer Felix Couchman hailed the decision as a “milestone”.

He told Deutsche Welle: “For a significant number, the importance is not a piece of paper, not a passport, but a recognition that a wrong was done to them and their family members and forebears and that is now finally being acknowledged and being corrected.”

Speaking at Westminster Synagogue, Mr Lucas said he had previously told his agent that if he received an offer of acting work in Germany, “I don’t think I could take it.”

“I don't know if I would take it because I would be worried about seeing people on the street who are of a certain age and thinking, what did they do in the war?

"Were they the ones- I would have that problem, and now just purely practically to be any kind of age of responsibility during the Second World War you would need to be nearly 100 years old.”

Deputy Ambassador Rüdiger Bohn, who attended the event with embassy staff ready to provide citizenship application advice, said the Jewish community was now “flourishing” in Germany.

Alongside America and Tel Aviv, the German Embassy in London is among the top three places people apply for German citizenship in the world, he added.

Mr Beger told attendees: “For us the Jewish community is now a fundamental part of our society, it’s really an extraordinary gift for Germany, born from the wonder of  forgiveness, so to speak. 

“With every story told, with every passport issued, every stay in Germany, Jewish life is returning to Germany and taking hold. We are regaining this aspect of our identity and I am most grateful for that.”

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