There are so many Indonesians named Asep that they made an organization centered around their shared name (membership is around 2,400 people). And if you're name is Budi or Rani, you'll probably mentioned in countless of textbooks used in public schools. Some people are lucky enough to have been given “cool” names. But what if your name is too unique, like, say, Hitler?
Though it's definitely not a great thing to share a name with unarguably one of the most evil people on Earth, there are more people named Hitler in this world than you probably think. In Indonesia, I managed to track down one of them—a 30-something man with the birth name Master Hitler. He carries the name on all his IDs today, and when I asked him what he generally feels about it, he said with a laugh, "On one hand it’s kind of funny, but on the other it’s just tragic." Right on. Here are more of what he had to say about his name:
VICE: So what’s your real name?
Master Hitler: The name on my birth certificate is Master Hitler, but on my government issued family card, my surname Marpaung is included there. So on my diplomas is my birth name, but on my national identity card I’m Master Hitler Marpaung.
Have you ever asked your parents what Master Hitler means?
I’m pretty ignorant, so I'd never thought to ask. But I still carry the burden.
What kind of burden are you talking about?
Well, it's both good and bad. The first drawback was that in school, teachers always picked the students with "funny" names to call on. I wasn’t a very active or smart kid. Not much of a leader either. I tried to make myself not so visible, but I still kept getting called on. My lecturer would ask “So Hitler, what’s the answer?” even though I was probably sleeping in class. It’s not great to be singled out. I considered myself lucky if I knew the answer and if not, well, whatever.
Watch: Hitler was High During Most of World War II Says Norman Ohler
OK, that’s pretty simple. Any other more serious instances?
Yeah, when I applied for jobs. If it’s a local company then it’s not really a problem, but if it’s a multinational company, it’s definitely a problem. I’ve applied to two multinational companies and with one of them, during the first round of interviews, the one with the Indonesian bosses, went fine. But the process didn't stop there. At a certain level, my CV was sent to the regional office for a review. I didn't get the job even though I was referred by a friend who works in that company. It turned out that the CEO was a Jewish man in his 50s or 60s. I assumed maybe he’d had a bad experience, or maybe someone in his family was a victim of the Holocaust. I heard he even asked the Indonesian management, “Are you sure you want to hire this person?”
When you were a kid, did you ever wonder why your name was memorable to other people?
When I was a kid, people told me that Adolf Hitler committed genocide. I began to understand about this when I was in kindergarten. The association meant little to me then, but I got increasingly annoyed as time went by. I’m a pretty laid back guy, and I don’t want too much attention. I didn’t know why my parents named me Hitler, maybe it's just my dad being cheeky. All i know is that my first name is "Master" because my mom wanted me to at least have a Master's degree.
Is there a good thing about being named Hitler?
It's also taught me to keep a good reputation. Since people will remember my name, they will also always remember me when I do bad things.
Have you been to Germany?
I’ve always wanted to visit Finland, Germany, and Israel. I want to take my mom there, but I don't have enough savings to do it. Right now, I only have enough to travel around Indonesia.
Are you worried about not being able to enter Germany because of your name?
I’ve asked my friend who works at an airline company about this. The company has a branch office in the Netherlands. My friend told me that it shouldn’t be a problem. I think people are more open-minded now. So far, I’ve only traveled to countries that don’t need a visa.
How do you introduce yourself to new people? What’s their reaction?
At first, people will think that I'm lying, that Hitler is just my nickname. I show my ID card when they ask, but I've never allowed people to take a picture of it.
Have you ever thought of changing your name?
My friends said that it’s easy if I want to change my name. I only need to go to the local court, and remove the "H" or something. But, I’ve never thought about it. I’ll embrace my name unless it stands in the way of me and my dream. It’s unlikely to happen, though. Besides, my name has become my identity.
If you could pick any name for yourself, what would it be?
I think I would open a Greek dictionary and find something meaningful. But really, I've never thought of changing my name.