Remember when 3-year-old birthday boy Adolf Hitler Campbell caught everyone’s attention back in 2008 for being named after the most infamous dictator of all time?
Believe it or not, a similar thing happened way back in 1943 — right in the middle of World War II.
Joseph and Bertha Mittel of Astoria, Queens, welcomed their seventh child in January of 1943 and decided to name him Adolf Hitler Mittel.
Joseph said that “the whole thing started as a joke. Before the baby was born, I bet my wife that she would have triplets and that if she didn’t I’d name the baby Adolf Hitler. And I did.”
Bertha didn’t care for the name, “but [she] named the other kids and [she] thought he ought to have his say this once.”
Adolf Hitler Mittel became front-page news across the country. Here’s some of what Joseph told the press:
“Yes, sir, the baby’s name is Adolf Hitler and it’s not a joke.” declared the father, an unemployed woodworker.
“The real Adolf Hitler doesn’t mean anything to me, but I’m of German-Austrian descent and that’s one reason why I picked the name. I don’t think the name will be a handicap, because after all there are lots of people named after persons in the same class as Hitler, such as Napoleon, Caesar and others.
“He’ll grow up and be a good man despite the name.”
Needless to say, the public was not supportive.
And, almost immediately, Joseph announced that he was willing to change it. “I certainly don’t want to hurt the little guy’s future. Judging from the riding the papers and the public are giving us, the only thing to do is to find him another name.”
That new name? The very patriotic Theodore Roosevelt Mittel.
Mother Mittel said she always liked the name Theodore; Father Mittel said she always admired Theodore Roosevelt–and they filed the name forthwith with the Jamaica office of the board of health.
Dr. Ernest L. Stebbins, New York City’s Commissioner of Health at the time, called the name change a “humanitarian move.”
- “Dad Willing to Change Name of Son, ‘Adolf Hitler’ Mittel.” Evening News [Tonawanda, NY] 10 Feb. 1943: 6.
- “Now It’s Theodore Roosevelt, Not Adolf H.” Deseret News 10 Feb. 1943: 3.
- “This World We Live In.” Prescott Evening Courier 10 Feb. 1943: 1.