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Sara for women, Israel for men

Compulsory first names for Jews

"If a Jew bears a name differing from those which according to § 1 can be given to Jews, as of January 1, 1939, he must adopt an additional first name, namely Israel in the case of a male and Sara in the case of a female."


Twice in the course of German history, Jews were forced to change their names: the first time through the introduction of (often stigmatizing) family names during the Emancipation, the second time through the introduction of compulsory first names: “Sara” for Jewish women and “Israel” for Jewish men (August 17, 1938). Thus, Jews were singled out and made to stand apart from the rest of society. If the given name appeared on an officially approved list of Jewish names issued by the Nazis, no additional name was required. The regime also saw to it that Jews who had changed their family names in order to blend in and avoid discrimination had to return to their previous names.



Leo Baeck Institute – New York | Berlin


Kurt Hirschfeld Collection, AR 25708


Box 1, folder 1


on the days before