The community had three kinds of names slavic

This preview shows page 12 - 14 out of 16 pages.

The community had three kinds of names; Slavic, Germanic and those of Hebrew origin. It would be reasonable to think that if the intentions were purely Zionist, then both Slavic and Germanic names would have been changed. In practice, almost all – clearly over ninety per cent – of the name changes occurred with names that were of Slavic origin or bore Slavic endings, as in the above example ‘-ow/-off’, or ‘-sky/-ski’. Moreover, hardly any names of Germanic origin – such names as Weinstein, Grünstein and Manteuffel – were changed.This would mean that the chief aim was to get rid of the Slavic stigma, and that anti-Russian resentment rather than simply antisemitism was behind the urge to change names. The Slavic names were perhaps more complicated, and more difficult to pro-nounce and spell in an increasingly Finnish-language dominated atmosphere. The German names, by contrast, had a certain prestige attached to them as the Baltic-German pronunciation testifies (Muir 2009a). During this period many Finnish families with Russian names decided to get rid of their Russian names. The most manifest forms of Finnish antisemit-ism of the 1930s were thus an organic part of anti-Russian resentment and anti-Bolshevism; purely racially motivated, National-Socialist antisemitism did not gain so much of a foothold. The pattern to change family names had stopped by the end of WWII. There were naturally individual cases where someone had a name changed, but there are no longer any signs of an organized name-changing project. Despite the fact that Aliyah was the expressed goal of the community members and that the Israeli state preferred Hebrew names, Israel’s declaration of independ-ence did not trigger any new wave of name changes. Hence, the motivation to change family names seems to have been trig-gered, after all, by trends in Finnish society. In some parts of Europe the posi-tion of people with Jewish backgrounds was so remarkable that having one’s name changed was associated with Jewishness. For example Farkas (2012: 6) has noted that Magyarization of names in Hungary was a Jewish trait. In Finland, by contrast, ‘half of the elite’ had Fennified their names; the name change as such raised no associations. Those Jews who chose a new family name did not aim to translate their names into Finnish and efforts were rather made to find new names with a Hebrew meaning.
185Name changes and visions of ’a new Jew’ in the Helsinki Jewish communityOne cannot draw too many parallels with the fierce campaigns between, on the one hand Finnish and Swedish language activists in Finland, and on the other questions concerning Jewish languages among European and world Jewry. As to the Finnish and Finnish-Jewish family names, there are however certain factors that interlink the two phenomena: the new names – Finnish and Finnish Jewish alike – were consciously made, yet the motivation for changing a traditional name into a new one was to locate imaginary, lost, ancient roots.

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture