German passport is a way to a job

Hundreds of Czech citizens from the border region, near the north Moravian city of Ostrava, have discovered a new way to get a job. They are applying for German citizenship, which will enable them to live and work in Germany. In an area where the unemployment rate exceeds 16 percent, this comes as no surprise, especially when the average German wage greatly exceeds that in the Czech Republic. For more here's Zuzana Smidova.

In the border regions of North Moravia, the Czech Republic now borders on Poland, but the geographical situation hasn't always been that way. After Germany's annexation of the border regions of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and Hitler's invasion of Poland a year later, men of fighting age from the Czech border areas were forced to enrole in the Wehrmacht or stand trial as traitors to the Nazi Third Reich. Many Czechs had become Germans overnight and ended up fighting on the German side in the Second World War. After the war ended, they received a Wehrmacht pension.

It may seem paradoxical but recently it's become something of a fashion among people living in the area to look for their German ancestry. At a time when it's becoming more and more difficult to find a permanent job, and when having an EU passport is a real advantage, many locals from the region are searching for documents of their German grandfathers. Last year, the German embassy here in Prague received some two thousand applications for German citizenship, and they are expecting even more this year. In order to obtain a German passport, the applicant has to prove he or she has or had a German father or grandfather. Last year the embassy approved 80 percent of the applications.

But having a German passport doesn't mean that the locals move to Germany straight away, although there have been such cases. Most of them stay in the Czech Republic. They go to Germany to work, leaving the family behind, or as students they go to earn some money over the summer. For the young generation, having a German passport is an easy way to travel and maybe study abroad, since--as EU citizens--they don't have to pay high university fees. But in most cases, they take it as insurance for the future--that is if they don't find a job here in the Czech Republic, they'll just go to Germany, or another EU country.

Author: Zuzana Šmídová
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