Grandson of Auschwitz survivor talks to Euronews about taking German citizenship ahead of Brexit

Grandson of Auschwitz survivor talks to Euronews about taking German citizenship ahead of Brexit
By Luke Hanrahan
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Simon Wallfisch's grandmother was a German-born Jewish survivor of Auschwitz. With Brexit approaching, the cellist has adopted German citizenship.


Many professional musicians rely on free movement between European countries to make a living.

"At the moment you can travel to Berlin or Paris just as easily as you can travel to Manchester or Newcastle," says Simon Wallfisch, a London-based cello player.

But Wallfisch fears that this will change after Brexit.

To deal with this, the grandson of a German-born Jewish survivor of Auschwitz has recently adopted dual German citizenship.

"It's a no-brainer, it doesn't mean that I am suddenly 'a German,'" he says. 

Since the referendum in June 2016, the German embassy in London has received more than 3,000 applications from members of once Jewish German families living in the UK.

Prior to Brexit, as few as 20 applications were received per year.

Wallfisch’s grandmother has lived in the UK for more than 70 years and credits her survival of Auschwitz to her ability to play the cello.

"And then she asked me ‘what did you do before the war? I said I played the cello. She said ‘fantastic, you’ll be saved' — and that’s how it happened," Anita Lasker-Wallfsih recalls.

More than 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, lost their lives at Auschwitz before its liberation by the Red Army on January 27, 1945.

Following the war, Lasker-Wallfisch emigrated to the UK and swore never to set foot in Germany again.

So how does Lasker-Wallfisch feel about her grandson becoming a German citizen?

"He’s a musician; he travels; he’s a European. It’s nothing to do with German — I’m not allowing the German’s to think we want to be German again, forget it…European, he is a real European."

With his dual European nationality, Wallfisch says he’s lucky to continue playing and singing in Europe and the UK as he does today.

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