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The Führer's Passport

DW staff / AFP (kjb)March 12, 2007

Sixty-two years after his death, Adolf Hitler risks being stripped of his German citizenship in what a politician said would be a "symbolic step" against the Nazi leader and the horrors he unleashed.

Adolf Hitler gave up his Austrian citizenship in 1925 and became German in 1932Image: AP

German media reported Sunday that a deputy in the state legislature of Lower Saxony, Isolde Saalmann, had convinced her fellow Social Democrats to file a motion to review whether the citizenship extended in 1932 can be rescinded.

Hitler, born in Austria, needed to become German to advance his political career in the much larger country. His wish was granted in the city of Braunschweig on Feb. 25, 1932, less than a year before Hitler became German chancellor.

"Once and for all"

Saalmann, who represents Braunschweig, said she wanted to sever the city's notorious connection with the Nazi leader with her motion.

Adolf Hitler
Hitler needed a German passport to be active in German politicsImage: AP

"If the state of Lower Saxony, as the legal successor of the then free state of Braunschweig, distances itself from it, it could be helpful," she told the daily Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung.

"We want to clear this up once and for all."

Hitler requested release from his Austrian citizenship in 1925 on the grounds that he had been living in Germany since 1912 and served in the German army in World War One. Austria agreed and Hitler was stateless until officially becoming German seven years later.

When locals congratulated him on the step, Hitler replied, "It is not me but Germany that you should congratulate," wrote the Spiegel Online news Web site.

Questionable legality

Saalmann said that while she felt the gesture of rescinding the citizenship carried symbolic importance, she did not aim to whitewash the history of Braunschweig, which was a Nazi stronghold in the 1930s.

"This should never serve to play down history along the lines of 'Look, he wasn't a German at all,'" she said. "That would never be my intention as a Social Democrat."

Although Braunschweig deprived Hitler of his honorary citizenship in 1946, one year after his death at the end of World War Two, Spiegel Online said the motion to withdraw his citizenship could face a few daunting hurdles.

"Dead is dead," an unnamed official at the Lower Saxony justice ministry was quoted as saying. "You can't take anything more away then."

According to German law, citizenship cannot be revoked if the person in question would then be stateless, which would be the case for Hitler, who abdicated his Austrian passport seven years before officially becoming a German.

A decision on the motion is not expected for several weeks.