Prof. Aaron Demsky, Bar-Ilan University
The Eleventh International Conference on Jewish Names, Paper Abstract
Genealogists looking at official documents from Germany, Austria and Bulgaria dated after August 17, 1938 will probably find that Jewish citizens of those countries had an additional personal name – Yisroel (Israel) or Sore (Sarah).
After a century of assimilation most German Jews had an official vernacular first name and possibly a surname similar to that of their gentile neighbors, giving no indication of his/her racial or religious identity. The Nazi regime knew the power of names. In their pursuit of "racial purity" and the ultimate removal of the Jews from their society, they required Jewish citizens by law to take a specific first name and register it with the Department of Interior and the Security Police - “Yisroel” and “Sore”.
There was also a strange collection of so-called Jewish first names that could theoretically be substituted for Israel or Sarah, some taken uncritically from the Bible and others derived from Yiddish. For instance, Chamor -“Donkey”, while biblical, was certainly not Israelite (Gen 34:2); Ahasver recalled the Medieval Christian name for the "Wandering Jew"; and, ironically, Isidor, which is pagan in origin, became an epithet for the Jew.
This paper will explore the range and implications of "brand names" considered by the Nazis to indicate Jewish identity, beginning with Yisroel and Sore as the primary options.