(This article was originally published in 2008.)
Recently, WABC-TV reported the fascinating story of a “cute, cuddly” three-year-old boy named Adolf Hitler Campbell, whose parents, Deborah and Heath Campbell of Easton, Pennsylvania, were refused at a nearby supermarket when they tried to order a birthday cake that spelled out their son’s name.
What’s fascinating to me about this story are the following items:
- Heath Campbell, the boy’s father, said he named his son after Adolf Hitler because he liked the name and because “no one else in the world would have that name.”
- The Campbells’ other two children also have unusual names: JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell.
- Additional research reveals that Honszlynn Hinler was named after Heinrich Himmler, the head of Hitler’s SS who set up the first concentration camp in Dachau and was a leading proponent of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany. And JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell’s middle two names celebrate the concept of a Jew-free Germany.
- The Campbells had previously requested a swastika decoration on their child Adolf’s birthday cake.
- Heath Campbell is reported to have “sounded surprised by all the controversy the dispute had generated.”
Based on the names of all three Campbell children and the request for a swastika decoration on the cake, it is evident that the Campbells have purposely selected names that trumpet an undeniable anti-Semitic agenda. While it is quite likely that “no one else in the world would have” any of those names (except for the original Adolf Hitler, the original Heinrich Himmler, and the German Aryan Nation itself), there’s a pretty good reason no one else would use those names: All three are associated with the most barbaric, horrific, and heinous crimes in history.
Probably the most fascinating aspect of this story, in my view, is the fact that Heath Campbell claimed to be surprised by the controversy. Assuming, for the moment, that the Campbells are ardent followers of the Nazi cause, it’s hard to believe they are so infected with anti-Semitism that they don’t understand how most people in the world feel about Hitler, Himmler, and the concept of an Aryan Nation. If they don’t, they are completely out of touch with reality.
When I advise people about selecting names for their children, I suggest that they talk to friends, relatives, even passersby about the names they are considering to find out how their favorite names come across to others, or to look up the images of names they are considering in one of my books. Here’s how a quantitative survey reveals people perceive a boy named Adolf: “People perceive Adolf as a cruel and socially awkward control freak with Adolf Hitler’s trademark moustache and lank, dark hair.”
In addition to selecting a name they like, parents should try to select a name that will create a positive identity for their child and be a pleasure for the child to use every day. With those objectives in mind, it would be hard to pick a worse name than Adolf Hitler, unless the Campbells considered Saddam Hussein or Robert Mugabe or Nero.
It is my impression that the Campbells, like the fictional parents of “A Boy Named Sue” and self-involved celebrity parents (who shall remain nameless), are so focused on their own personal agendas that they run the risk of doing irreparable harm to their childrens’ social and psychological development.
© 2008 Bruce Lansky
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