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8/4/09

What's In A Name?

In December of 2008 Heath Campbell, wanted his three-year-old boy's name put on the child's birthday cake. The bakery at the supermarket refused. The refusal made national headlines and, eventually, the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services investigated the parents, then took their children into custody. What was it all about? The name.

The parents had named the child Adolph Hitler, in full, Adolph Hitler Campbell. The New York Times reports Campbell, a white supremacist, once had confederate flags on the walls of his house, and recently became interested in Nazi Germany. The house became decorated with swastikas and other Nazi paraphernalia. He legally changed his children's names. Adolph's one year old sister was named Joyce Lynn Aryan Nation Campbell. The eight month old was named after Heinrich Himmler, though misspelled as Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell.

I am reminded of an old Johnny Cash song, "A Boy Named Sue."
My daddy left home when I was three
And he didn't leave much to ma and me

Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
Now, I don't blame him cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me "Sue."


In Cash's song, the name becomes a curse on the boy but in typical Country & Western fashion, all turns out well in the end.

In real life, it is highly unlikely that all will turn out well for these children. With such names they face a lifetime of hardship, rejection and worse. Forensic psychologist N.G. Berrill said naming a boy Hitler could be considered child abuse. "Part of it is the infantile nature of the parents’ behavior," Berrill said. "You can name your dog something weird, but they think they’re making some kind of bold statement with the children, not appreciating that the children will have separate lives and will be looked at in a negative light until they’re able to change their name. It is abuse."

Take one giant step now, from New Jersey to Germany, the country that brought us Hitler and WWII.

The boy and his siblings could never have been given such names there.

Germany has strict naming regulations. Here is a commentary from Der Spiegel:

"Indeed, children must be given names that clearly denote gender and they cannot be given family names as first names. Out-of-the-ordinary designations are likewise verboten. Moon Unit Zappa could not have been German. . . .

Everyone knows Schroeder, Charlie Brown's buddy in the "Peanuts" comics who pounds out Beethoven tunes on his miniature piano all day. Germans too are Schroeder fans, with Snoopy and friends having been around in the German language for half a century. . . .

Schroeder, though, as it turns out, could never have been named Schroeder had he been born in Germany. The moniker is not allowed." More

One account of the Adolph Hitler Campbell news event.

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