ATHENS, Greece (JTA) — Jews who left Greece during World War II can have their citizenship reinstated following the enactment of a new law in Greece.
The Greek government on Sept. 2 passed an amendment to a new foreign resident law that will automatically reinstate Greek citizenship for all Jews that were born in or before 1945.
The number of Greek Jews affected by the amendment is likely no more than 300 to 350, according to reports. Their descendants, although eligible, will not receive citizenship automatically. They must apply and meet the proper criteria to receive their Greek passports and citizenship.
The amendment comes after 65 years of appeals, applications and behind-the-scenes efforts by the Greek Jewish community.
During World War II, a number of Jews were able to escape to Turkey, where the Greek consular officer tried to persuade them to join the Greek army in Egypt. Those who refused and wanted to reach Palestine were stripped of their citizenship.
Another group of Greek Jews fought with the communist partisans’ organization against the Nazis. After WWII and during the civil war in Greece from 1946 to 1951, the members were hunted down as communists and either executed, imprisoned or exiled in concentration camps that mirrored the Russian gulags. In order to avoid that
fate, many Jews accepted the government’s offer to go to Palestine and be stripped of their citizenship.
During the debate in the Judicial Committee of the Greek Parliament, Justice Minister Harry Kastanidis said "it is an honor to Greece [to have these people requesting their citizenship back], an honor that Greece would be obligated to reinstate their citizenship no questions asked."
The far-right LAOS Party and the Communist Party fought the amendment, with the Communists saying it was one step closer to forming close ties with Israel in order to further the "imperialistic plans regarding the natural gas reserves."
Greece and Israel have strengthened their ties in recent months.