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Friday, April 20, 2012
History ...

Many people have pondered the question of whether their lives are shaped by their names. Obviously, movie stars and popular performers believe this, given all the name changes they go through in search of fame. Here’s a list of some real names of famous people. Yea, I probably wouldn’t think the same way about Tom Cruise had he kept his birth name, Tom Mapother IV. And John Denver as John Deutschendorf Jr.? Would anyone care if a Mr. Deutschendorf sang of his Rocky Mountain High?

But one of the most ironic name changes probably occurred in Germany around the turn of the century (the turn of the 20th Century, that is). The father of the man we knew as Adoph Hitler was an illegitimate child; his father did not know his own father’s last name, so he used his mothers’, i.e. “Schicklgruber”. Before the future Nazi tyrant was born, his father’s mother married a man named Heidler. His father did not at first want to adopt that name, but after his mother died he went to live with her brother, who convinced Hitler’s father to take on the family name. But in the process of registering his name change with the officials, an accumulation of bureaucratic errors transmuted Heidler into Hitler. Sometime after that, Hitler’s father married several times; the fourth child of his third wife was Adolph.

Had Hitler’s father decided not to change his name, Germany would have had an Adolph Schicklgruber to deal with. Somehow I don’t think he would have been taken very seriously with that name. And even Heidler doesn’t have the “mental impact” that Hitler does. This was a perfect storm of circumstances, one that helped to propel an angry WW1 corporal into the forefront of a powerful and deadly political movement.

It’s amazing how a series of innocent and unmemorable little events sometimes conspire to shape the historical currents that change our world. Unfortunately for the worse, in this instance.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:55 pm      
 
 


  1. Jim, What fascinates me about your story about Hitler is the circumstances of his birth and life. His father was illegitimate–in those days something that was almost insurmountable in society. Nowadays it’s nothing for a child to be illegitimate; no one even thinks in terms of the fact that many movie stars’ children are illegitimate, to say nothing of all the other children in the world whose parents are unmarried. But in those days! Such a situation was one that would condemn one to the dregs of society. (So to say.)

    I’m not sure I understand the whole business about the marriages (or non-marriages perhaps) of Hitler’s paternal grandmother, his father, and even his own mother. What does impress me is that Hitler seems to have had a rather “bad” family life with a father who may or may not have wanted him, a mother who died young and could not give him the care and love he might have needed. For that matter who knows if she were really able to give him such care and love.

    It seems to me that more than simply a name change was involved in Hitler’s ending up as he did. There must have been some kind of mental issue(s) that was passed down the generations. Perhaps that mental problem was at the root of Hitler being the way he was. A sad, sad story, to say the least, and one with so many terrible repercussions on so many millions (literally) of people throughout the world, repercussions that to this day still reverberate.

    You note comes on a day that I received from another family member a picture of a cousin from March 5, 1945, taken the day he was killed in WW 2. He was 19 years old; one life lost but still remembered.

    Think of all the lives lost in that war–not only in the fighting but in Hitler’s attempt at extermination of the Jews. One is left speechless, unable to express the grief/sadness in confronting it all. The “why” of it all is something that will likely never be solved. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — April 21, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

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