Re: Name changes #germany

Judith Romney Wegner

Ted Kotzin wrote:

One reason that Jews, as well as others, changed their names is
reflectedin this song, which goes back to about the time of the
California Gold Rush. The best known verse goes:

Oh, what was your name in the States?
Was it Thompson or Johnson or Bates?
Did you murder your wife and fly for your life?
Say, what was your name in the States?
Dear Ted Kotzin,

I would be very surprised if the proportion of Jews who murdered
people during the Gold Rush was anywhere close to the "average" in
the various ethnic populations as a whole. Apart >from anything
else, even though tempers may have flared up frequently among the
prospectors themselves, the principal connection of Jews to the Gold
Rush (both in USA and in Australia and New Zealand -- and presumably
also in South Africa) was not as prospectors but as peddlers or small
storekeepers, who made their living by supplying the needs of miners
and prospectors living in the Gold Rush townships.

As is well known, the actual reason why so many Jews changed their
names after moving to western European countries -- or England or USA
-- was purely and simply to avoid being disadvantaged by
anti-Semistism. A Jewish name stuck out like a sore thumb -- except
of course in USA, a country of immigrants >from everywhere, with phone
books full of German and Polish surnames, among others (which
explains why the number of American Jews who bothered to change their
names is far smaller proportionately than elsewhere -- at least in
the case of Jews wrote retained their affiliation to Jewish

But in Britain and Western Europe, at least until the late 20th
century when large populations of non-Europeans moved into those
countries, if one opened a telephone book in any city or town, a
non-British (or non-French, etc.) name was so rare that it stood out
from the rest -- and this was especially true of Jewish names.
Everyone would know or at least might guess that this person was a
Jew. Parents simply didn't want their children impeded in their
educational or employment opportunities because of anti-Semitism, so
they often anglicized their names. It is as simple as that, and
that was certainly the reason that my father's family changed their
name >from Rumianek to Romney. I am frankly astonished at the
suggestion that Jewish name-changing may have had anything do with
criminal behavior, except in a negligible number of cases. In fact,
most of us know about the few Jewish organized crime figures like
Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky precisely because they had *not*
changed their Jewish surnames.

Judith Romney Wegner

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