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Identity And Inter-Religious Dialogue: Dialogue Or Identity Hate

The Letter, Issue 13, Summer 1998, Pages 106 - 116


Yves Pierre Baumstimler

There are people who suddenly lack their support for existence and

who, instead of sinking into depression, begin to hate the one whom

they think has this support; that he has taken or stolen this support

from them; and in this hatred, they find the support they need to exist.[1]

For a while during my childhood, my maternal tongue was forbidden in my country. My first given name was also excluded simply because it could not be translated into the master language. My first given name, unlike my surname (Baumstimler), was thereby excluded because it had no German equivalent. If the given name represents it's bearer and the surname indicates family tradition, then the intention to eliminate, at all costs, 'small differences' between the given and the family name was achieved (in my case) by doing away with the French first given name and by 'translating' the second (Pierre) into Peter. Is this not a way of wiping out, at the level of the given and family names, the small difference which simply voids the importance of the father's name as difference? The National Socialist state run by Hitler occupied a piece of French territory which he thought he could easily integrate into Germany according to the principle of the recognition of nationality by right of possession. This state had simply forbidden the use of the French language and changed all names which could remind them of this history. The name is not just a word. Its particularity lies in the fact of its having no meaning other than that of representing a citizen. An attack on a person's name is therefore an attack on his symbolic identity. The next stage in this nullification process of a person's genealogical history will consist in suppressing his name, replacing it by another or perhaps just with a number. This game may be continued until finally ending with the genocide of a whole people, as everyone knows.

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