An aliya application from a Swiss woman whose grandmother was murdered by Nazis is expected to be denied in the coming days.
Officials at the Interior Ministry have indicated that proof she provided documenting her grandmother’s Jewishness is questionable, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Monique Martinek found out only two years ago that her grandmother – her father’s mother – had been murdered for being a Jew; before then, she and her family had no idea of their Jewish roots or the fate of the grandmother during World War II.
Martinek’s father had been raised as an orphan in Switzerland after his mother was murdered in Vienna in 1941.
“When I first found out, I was shocked; my father never knew what had happened to his mother,” said Martinek, a pediatric nurse who had been researching her family’s history at the national archives in Vienna.
“But when I found out, a lot came to my mind and I realized that I never really fit in, in Switzerland.”
After discovering her Jewish ancestry, Martinek took the documents, which included a Third Reich-issued identification card stating that her grandmother and great-grandmother were both Jews, to a rabbi in Vienna. He verified the story and told her about measures taken against the Jewish community in Austria during the early 1940s.
Martinek also found her great-grandmother’s grave, which showed her great-grandmother had been Jewish, and undertook to visit Israel.
“I grew up in Switzerland just like all the Christian people around me, but I never went to church,” she said, adding that she had grown up unaffiliated with any religion. “However the minute I arrived in Israel I felt that I was at home.
“Finding this document completely changed my life,” said Martinek, who
arrived here for good in April and has been studying Hebrew.
Though Martinek is not halachically Jewish, the Law of Return offers
automatic citizenship to anyone who has a Jewish grandparent.
But as Martinek began the immigration process she hit a brick wall, when
it was discovered that written in fine print on one of the documents
was a reference to the fact that her grandmother had practiced Roman
Catholicism. Officials at the Interior Ministry then began to question
her application and indicated that she would be turned down for aliya
because it seemed likely her grandmother had converted to a different
A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry confirmed to The Jerusalem Post
on Tuesday that her application would not be granted.
“It is unfortunate that Monique’s grandmother was Jewish enough to be
murdered by the Nazis, but not Jewish enough to allow her granddaughter
to immigrate based on her Jewishness,” Martinek’s attorney, Michael
Decker from the law firm Yehuda Raveh & Co. and a representative of
the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, told the Post
“In essence, if the grandmother would have miraculously survived the
Holocaust, she herself would not have been entitled to immigrate, even
though the Nazis persecuted her and tried to murder her for being
Jewish, and even though the state has no evidence, whatsoever, that the
grandmother willfully changed her religion,” Decker said.
He added: “In my opinion, the basic assumption should be that a Jew is a
Jew, and that a Jew would not willfully change his religion.
The state will need to prove that Monique’s grandmother willfully changed her religion.
“If they cannot prove this, and since Monique’s grandmother was
persecuted and murdered by the Nazis for being Jewish, the vague
indication that she ‘practiced Roman Catholicism’ in a document, which
also mentions that ‘her mother is Jewish’ and that ‘she was killed in
the persecution,’ does not sufficiently rebuff the basic assumption that
a Jew would not willfully change his religion, especially since there
are tens of thousands of examples of Jews who have ‘technically’ changed
their religion in order to save their lives, which in our case,
unfortunately, did not happen.”
Decker said he planned to take the case to the Supreme Court as soon as
the Interior Ministry officially turned down his client’s application.
Sabine Hadad, spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry’s Population and
Immigration Authority, which authorizes citizenship, responded that
Martinek’s papers had been turned over to the Jewish Agency for
“Based on their response, received in the past few days, this
application for aliya will be turned down,” Hadad wrote in a statement.
Jewish Agency spokesman Haviv Rettig Gur told the Post
it was not the role of the Agency to determine who was a Jew, only to recognize those eligible under the law.
“Regarding Monique Martinek, we do not have an opinion about her case
and we have never expressed a position on her eligibility,” he said. “It
is ultimately the decision of the Interior Ministry.”
Martinek, who said that her funds were fast running out because, under
the law, she has not been able to work here, said: “I am just waiting
for them to make a final decision, but if they do not accept me it will
be very emotional and difficult for me.
“To know that your family suffered in such a way is very hard to accept,
so I just hope that it will all work out and I can finally come home.”