Claim: Harpo Marx changed his given name from Adolph to Arthur in order to avoid an association with Adolf Hitler.
Origins: An age-old technique for mobilizing a populace to fight a war is to so thoroughly demonize the enemy that the conflict becomes seen by the public as a moral battle rather than a political one. This technique was used to maximum effect in America during World
attributed, and suddenly everything Germanic became anathema. German-Americans sought to avoid being branded as disloyalists, traitors, or spies by declaring themselves to be Dutch or anglicizing their names, and common items with German names were retitled: sauerkraut became “victory cabbage,” hamburgers turned into “liberty sandwiches,” and “hamburger steak” was henceforth known as “Salisbury steak.” And a young comic named Julius Marx, who came from a German family and who was touring America in a vaudeville show with his three brothers, altered the persona of his stage character from German to Yiddish and finally to American. Julius would later became nationally famous as Groucho, one of the celebrated Marx Brothers.
The renaming frenzy didn’t carry over to
Although Harpo was indeed born under the name of Adolph Marx, he had quickly been nicknamed “Ahdie,” a name he much preferred to
Last updated: 28 October 2014
Kanfer, Stefan. Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx. New York: Knopf, 1999. ISBN 0-375-40218-7. Louvish, Simon. Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of the Marx Brothers. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. ISBN 0-312-25292-7. Marx, Harpo. Harpo Speaks! New York: Limelight Editions, 1988. ISBN: 0-879-10036-2.