April 15, 2023


Donald Trump Sinks to a New Low by Dog-Whistling an Old Racist Tune: Insinuating that special prosecutor Jack Smith changed his name might seem like an odd tactic for someone whose family name was Drumpf--unless you know the history. (David Margolick, 4/14/23, The Nation)

Henry Ford, an inveterate anti-Semite from whom Hitler learned much, expounded on these Jewish manipulations a hundred years ago in his Dearborn Independent. "To mollify a suspicion held against them wherever they have lived (a suspicion so general and so persistent as to be explainable only on the assumption that it was abundantly justified) the Jews have been quick to adopt the names and colors of whatever country they may be living in," he explained.

The Jewish "passion for misleading people by names," Ford wrote, had just given "immense camouflage" to those Jews who'd been behind the recent Russian Revolution and, closer to home, misled patrons of the country's leading department stores. "There is an immense difference in the state of mind in which a customer enters the store of Isadore Levy and the state of mind in which he enters the store of Alex May," Ford explained.

But it wasn't only merchants. Take the head of the American Jewish Committee, Louis Marshall. "What could his old family name have been before it was changed for the name of the chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States?" Ford asked. (In Ford's eyes, Marshall was guilty not only of deception but also of effrontery.) And actors, too: Charlie Chaplin, Ford speculated, had probably been "Caplan" or "Kaplan." (It hadn't mattered to Ford, either, that Chaplin was not actually a Jew.)
When anglicizing our names threatened Harvard President A. Lawrence Lowell's mission to slash Jewish enrollment in the 1920s, Harvard decreed that all applicants must disclose whether their parents had changed their names. Twenty-five years later, during the Red Scare following World War II, the issue flared up again. Seeking to discredit a letter denouncing the House Un-American Activities Committee, Representative John Rankin of Mississippi rattled off the foreign-sounding, Jewish-sounding, birth names of some of the signatories, as if each were a smoking gun.

"Danny Kaye," he said as he went down the list. "We found out that his real name was David Daniel Kaminsky. Another one is Eddie Cantor, whose real name is Edward Iskowitz. There is someone who calls himself Edward Robinson. His real name is Emanuel Goldenberg. There is another one here who calls himself Melvyn Douglas, whose real name is Melvyn Hesselberg." Neal Gabler's biography of Walter Winchell describes the same Rankin calling Winchell "Lipschultz" and declaring, "I am a little skittish about a man who has his nose manicured, his face lifted, his name changed."

Such outing has largely vanished from American life. In her book A Rosenberg by Any Other Name, Kirsten Fermaglich, a historian at Michigan State University, notes that some American Jews have even reclaimed their original family names. But Trump never got the message. Only a few weeks after Smith's appointment, he started with the innuendos. Apart from calling him a "thug," he put Smith's name in scare quotes, then appended a question mark to it. The night before his indictment, he was back at it, referring to "Jack Smith (What did his name used to be?)."

Posted by at April 15, 2023 8:33 AM