German Jewish Names

Looking up German Jewish Names? Learn more about the history of Jewish names from Germany…

There were many Jewish surname changes in Austria and Germany during World War II. Due to the many restrictions suffered by the Jews up till the early 19th century they had to change their names. In fact, in January of 1782 the Austrian Emperor Joseph II had established a new law known as the Edict of Tolerance. The aim was to integrate the Jews into the nation and economic structure of the country without marginalizing them. Providing access to job training, apprenticeship and higher education were just a few of the precepts covered under the law. Apart from this he abolished Jewish writing and language and all of the documents were officially written out in German.

Change of German Jewish Names

None of the Hebrew surnames and family names were acceptable under the new law, and each Jew living in Austria had to take on a solid German name which was not a derivative or twisted version of the Jewish names. Any name that was not part of the German language was to be abolished and even the first names had to be Germanized. Of course the limitations were massive, and when the Hebrew translators submitted two thousand names to the authorities only 156 were acceptable. Unfortunately, the prosecution for using Hebrew names was severe and punishable under law by a fine. Even though the Jews got citizenship, they were far from being awarded equal rights and stature in the professional arena.

Spread of Jewish Name Change across German Lands

Soon enough the example of the Austrian Emperor was followed by The Duchy of Baden, and subsequently the same rules were implemented by German states. Most of the emperors declared the Jews were national subjects as well as citizens. Unfortunately the Jews who had gotten citizenship rights could not work at state offices or lecture at universities. Most of the Jews who were living in Germany before the 19th century had used double names or a fixed surname. There are many records and documents that can be traced back to the early 19th century where the name changes took place. The previous name and the changed name is also mentioned in these lists.

Change in the Legislation for German Jewish Names

There are many birth registrations in Naugard, Prussia that show the registration of different people. One of these is Nathan Friedländer that has a remark on it stating “by the name Silberstein”. Other records will depict the name as Nathan Friedländer Silberstein, but that is only prior to 1821 following which the name appears only as Silberstein. During the first quarter of the 19th century there are many double names in the records. This is the family surname before the name was changed. In certain cases the new surname was actually adopted and this was the third change that was recorded.

Records of German Jewish Jews

The Hebrew records are very rare and unclear because most of them were destroyed or lost when the new regulations were implemented. Some of the Jewish ancestry can be traced back to the 19th century and even further back because meticulous records have been preserved by them. Some of the surnames were chosen by people who were not even related to each other. Since all over Germany the Jewish people had to change their name, they would have no idea who was picking which name. This meant that unrelated people would end up sharing the same new name just by default.

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