Can I call my son Adolf

The agony of choosing a name - How can you call your child Adolf?

The journalist Adolf Stock was born in 1951, just a few years after Adolf Hitler's death. Because of his name, he has experienced embarrassed work colleagues and was himself embarrassed by a reaction in New York. In the meantime he has quasi faced his name and researched it.

SRF News: When did you first notice that you have a special name?

Adolf Stock: That was pretty late, I think. I was already a student in Berlin when I realized it. As a child, my name wasn't a problem at all, it was somehow taken for granted. I was actually proud to be called Adolf. All of my schoolmates were called Uwe or Wolfgang and I had a name that belonged only to me. I didn't understand the connections until much later.

Why did your parents choose this name?

My grandfather as well as my father were also called Adolf - it was simply a carelessness. I think a real Nazi wouldn't have named his son Adolf at that time. At the time, my parents didn't even realize what they were giving me.

Was your father a staunch National Socialist?

No, you can't say that. My father came from a very humble background. During the war he was able to travel for the first time. It was all a great experience for him. He was later in Russia, where he was seriously injured. The war wasn't so fun then. My father came back a broken man. The whole experience was completely apolitical. In his naivete, my father had been pushed through contemporary history. That's how I rhyme it up, not to protect him.

You said earlier that a real Nazi would no longer baptize his son Adolf. But were there many Adolfs during Hitler's time?

In the Third Reich, people tried to name their children Adolf. At the registry office, however, the officials told you that the Führer didn't want that. Female forms, such as Adolfine, were really forbidden. Then the people evaded and named their sons either Horst, after Horst Wessel (Sturmführer of the SA and “martyr” of the National Socialists), or Hermann, after Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring.

They say Hitler didn't want the children to be called Adolf. Why?

I can only speculate there. I think he didn't want the name to be used inflationary, but rather that it be reserved for him. Hitler already set great store by that. And if you ask around, there really aren't that many Adolfs from the Nazi era.

What do you experience when your name is Adolf?

I was with friends in America. My colleague got tickets for the show "The Colbert Report". The satirical comedy show was absolutely cult in New York at the time. The heater, who set the mood before the show, spoke to a young Jewish man. In response to a question from the heater, the boy said: 'I'm not really sure what to do with my life.' Then it was my turn. I said: 'I'm Adolf from Berlin.' There was silence in the room before the heater said: 'Adolf from Berlin.' Then people started laughing out loud and the heater went one better and even joked about Jews. I then went out with very ambivalent feelings.

I am Adolf from Berlin.

Conversely, people in Germany probably react to the name Adolf with an embarrassing silence.

I actually had strange experiences less with Germans than with my professional colleagues. I am a journalist specializing in architecture. For example, when the Jewish Museum in Berlin opened, I was given the task of describing the architecture. The Libeskind building is very prominent, that's why we had a live broadcast from the museum. Then my report was imported. During the moderation, my colleague said: 'That was a contribution by Alfred Stock.' It happened more often.

Did your name give you a job?

Now I think I am a living stumbling block. As if I were carrying a sign in front of me that said: I come from a strange or dubious past. And I am now also willing to take it seriously. When someone asks me about my name, I no longer just want to talk about my feelings, but also about what actually happened to that name.

Interview conducted by Peter Voegeli.

The name researcher Thomas Liebecke is also concerned with how the first name shapes a person. In principle, the following should be observed: "A name is first of all a label, a brand, a word to identify the child", Liebecke is convinced. «So for a child the name means first of all 'I'." However, information would always also resonate.

"With Adolf it was clearly assigned as a male, old-fashioned name," describes Liebecke. In addition, the majority of this name is also proven to be unsympathetic, not melodious, solitary and unattractive. "That shows its effectiveness profile, the onogram, very clearly," says the expert.

When asked whether the first name actually characterizes the bearer of the name, Liebecke is skeptical. "I think no, at least I don't see any reliable evidence for it."


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Overarching perceptions of first names can be shown in impact profiles, so-called onograms. For this purpose, the ratings for given pairs of connotations are recorded and graphically processed. You can call up onograms for 2,300 names here, link opens in a new window.

The expert is convinced that the essence of a person is primarily shaped by their environment. "Above all through the parents." And the environment is also what makes the choice of name. "Parents who name their child Maddox have a certain probability of moving in a different social or spatial environment than parents who call their child Constantin."

If people with the same name actually resemble each other in their traits, this could mainly be due to the fact that they grew up in a similar environment. "It is not the name that shapes people, but the namesake," notes Liebecke.

Effect profiles are rarely taken into account by parents

“It's the same with age. We can locate many names in a specific generation. " At the beginning of the 20th century, Gertrud was one of the most popular names for girls, similar to Mia at the moment. It is likely that Gertrud has reached the end of her life, Mia is still at the beginning. "Neither of them grew up with the same values."

Parents who deliberately check names for possible negative associations in advance are rather rare. "With the effect profiles, the onograms, it is easily possible to quickly see whether a name is perhaps considered unsympathetic or has an old-fashioned reference."

Child-like first names are trendy

According to Liebecke, there are three reasons why short first names are increasingly being used in Switzerland. On the one hand, tradition as a motive for choosing a name has taken a back seat. On the other hand, there is an increased penetration of names from other languages, “especially from the English area”.

There is also a more recent trend: open syllables, melodious vowels and soft consonants - ma, mi, mo, le, la, na, ni, etc. - are popular building blocks for first names. Such syllables alone would result in short, soft, somehow childlike first names. "That is probably the spirit of the times," said Liebecke.

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