chapter  11
“This too is partly Hitler’s doing”: American Jewish name changing in the wake of the Holocaust, 1939-57
ByKirsten Fermaglich
Pages 11

In 1952, J. Alvin Kugelmass wrote an article for Commentary magazine entitled “Name-Changing-and What It Gets You.” Basing his research on conversations with city court clerks, Kugelmass wrote that name change petitions had increased by 100 percent since World War II, and that 80 percent of those petitions were from Jews. Kugelmass argued that this upsurge in name changing was “partly Hitler’s doing”: while European Jews had been murdered by the millions, the American Jew “was sharply reminded of his identity and bore it with pride and militant defiance.” Yet as soon as the war was over, he suggested, Jews’ return to postwar comfort was accompanied by an abandonment of Jewish pride and identity. Kugelmass interviewed 25 men who had changed their names, and found that most of them were unhappy: “all twenty-five would like their old, comfortable names back.”1