Opinion Number. 1344


german subject naturalised in england in 1905: german national according to german law: effect of treaty of versailles: whether german national in 1920 for purposes of treaty

Key Legislation

WAR PRECAUTIONS (ENEMY SHAREHOLDERS) REGULATIONS 1916: Treaty of peace between the allied and associated powers and germany Treaty of Versailles

The Comptroller-General, Department of Trade and Customs

The Public Trustee has forwarded me the following minute for advice:

  • 16 shares in the Mount Lyell Mining Railway Co. Ltd., formerly held by Mr W. of Konigswinter, Germany, were transferred to the Public Trustee under the War Precautions (Enemy Shareholders) Regulations and sold.
  1. The amount held in respect of the shares by the Public Trustee’s London Delegate is £25.19.11.
  2. Application has been made by Mr W. for the release of the moneys held in respect of the shares.
  3. Mr W., who was naturalized in England on the 16th March 1905, is still regarded as a British subject by the British Authorities. (Ex.1.)
  4. Attention is also invited to a letter (copy attached Ex.2.) addressed by the British Vice-Consul, Cologne, to Mr W. in which he states that ‘under the Treaty of Peace naturalized British subjects of German origin lose their former German nationality.’ That this is the view adopted by the British Authorities would appear to be confirmed by the attached copy of a letter addressed by the Secretary of the British Clearing Office to the Official Secretary in Great Britain. (Ex.3.)
  5. The particular Article of the Treaty referred to is Article 278, which reads:
  6. Germany undertakes to recognise any new nationality which has been or may be acquired by her nationals under the laws of the Allied and Associated Powers and in accordance with the decisions of the competent authorities of these Powers pursuant to naturalization laws or under treaty stipulations, and to regard such persons as having, in consequence of the acquisition of such new nationality, in all respects severed their allegiance to their country of origin.

  7. It would appear from the foregoing that Mr W. was not, on the 10th January, 1920, a German national according to German Law, but in an opinion given in connection with the nationality of Dr F. (whose case came before the Loyalty Commission) the Commonwealth Solicitor-General stated inter alia:
  8. Article 278 of the Treaty is merely an undertaking by Germany to recognise new nationality acquired or to be acquired by her nationals under the laws of the Allied or Associated Power. It is not of such nature as to effect a change in the national status of any person. Dr F. is not a person who acquired ipso facto under the Treaty the nationality of an Allied or Associated Power.

    On the facts and information before me the position appears to be that on the 10th January 1920, Dr F. was a German under German law, and a British subject under Commonwealth law.

  9. In view however of the attitude adopted by the British Authorities, it may be desirable to submit the matter to the Secretary, Attorney-General’s Department for advice as to whether in his opinion Mr W. was, on the 10th January 1920, a German national according to German law.

The question of W.’s nationality arises in connection with the application of the Treaty of Versailles.

By the decision in Chamberlain’s case(1) a person who is a German national according to German law must be regarded as a German national for the purposes of the Treaty, notwithstanding that he has acquired other nationality under the law of another country.

Mr. W. was naturalised in England before the commencement of the German Imperial and State Nationality law of 1913, namely, on the 14th March, 1905. It is stated in the file, however, that he attained Australian nationality on the 13th August, 1914, but did not give up his German nationality. Possibly W. obtained the permission of the competent authorities of his home state to retain his German nationality under paragraph 2 of clause 25 of the law of 1913. In any case, however, Commonwealth naturalisation in 1914 only effected a change of nationality so far as the Commonwealth was concerned. With regard to the change of nationality said to be effected in 1905, the same arguments apply as were stated in my opinion of the 27th October, 1921, in the case of Dr F.

In my opinion W. was for the purposes of the Treaty a German national on
10th January, 1920. The practice in England in relation to cases of this description does not affect the law on the subject.

[Vol. 20, p. 403]

(1) In re Chamberlain’s Settlement (1921) 2 Ch 573.