ewsdI believe in reparations; cultural or financial which address the past and ongoing tyranny of colonial invasion and subsequent extractionism. Reparative gestures that facilitate liberation and freedom of movement also feel potent in these times of restrictions, boundaries, borders and confinement.
In 1933 my Hungarian German Jewish (by birth but not religion) Grandmother was stripped of her German citizenship by the Nazi party. She was a book binder and amateur photographer alongside her manual day jobs. With my dad dead, I am less able to validate the tales I was told, but as one version goes - she was working for the Communist Party in Germany, forging passports to allow Communists and Jews freedom of movement in the early thirties. Whilst forging passports she met my Granddad, Leo Knuptfulmacher and with him, her new love, fled Germany. She eventually arrived in London, May 1938, a single mum with my dad and his brother in tow. I told this story in my solo It’s Like He’s Knocking, which I created back in 2009.
On the 2nd of March 2023 my brother and I were reinstated as German citizens at the German Embassy in London. It was framed as an act of reparation. The embassy representative was sincere, eyes full of emotion and filling with tears as she handed us our documents and apologised for the past atrocities, expressing on behalf of her country their deepest regret that this genocide should have marked the cultural landscape.
I'd entered this process two and half years ago as the restrictions brought in by Brexit began to infringe on the pull of my heart. The fact that I (along with millions of others) couldn’t legally be with my partner or build a life together was just plane wrong. So I started with practical 'fuck Brexit' motives. Our documents were lost in transit and the whole process took a year longer than it should have done, but last week my German passport arrived and once again I have free movement across Europe. Movement that throughout the ages has been restricted and refused to my ancestors.
I have never felt religiously Jewish (brought up by atheists). I’ve always felt like a Londoner, but never felt English, always felt like an immigrant, but in general I’ve had the capacity to assimilate into the dominant white British culture (i.e. I’ve not experienced excessive racism). The genocide, subjugation, abuse and expultion of Jews plays a fundamental part of European history, however Jewish whiteness has allowed us in many contexts to pass as the subjugator.
The offer of the reinstatement of our German nationality by the German state is fair and just, an act which stands in stark contrast to the lack of reparations offered by Great Britain to descendants of the enslaved, abused and murdered citizens of lands colonised throughout The British Empire.
Germany has been forced to recon with its recent past and this has allowed for some healing, allowed for civil servants' eyes to well up with a sense of shared culpability when returning citizenship to descendants stripped of their rights. What would it look like if the British state were to face up to our culture's brutal colonial history and start to process the pain inflicted on millions by it's past empire. How would this sit in stark contrast to the recent past, current and projected future brutal treatment of refugees and migrants, and members of colonised lands who helped to build this country through their labour, their culture and their riches.
Maybe my experience of reparative justice can hold hope for what can actually occur when a nation faces up to the atrocities of their past in an attempt to do something towards putting it right. I feel greatful to have been able to reclaim my ancestral citizenship I feel happy to be able to Fuck Brexit, Fuck separations, Fuck fragmentation and Fuck restrictions on movement.
So, that said, anyone need me for work in Europe?