"Ashkenazic Jews were among the last Europeans to take family names. Some German-speaking Jews took last names as early as the 17th century, but the overwhelming majority of Jews lived in Eastern Europe and did not take last names until compelled to do so. The process began in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1787 and ended in Czarist Russia in 1844.Its easy for Americans to forget the vast weight of Jew-gentile history in Europe given the degree to which the Nazi death regime so destroyed the Ashkenazic world. But it is just this history that helps make the present relations between Europeans and Israel so fraught, and still throws out little complications to the relationships between Jews and Gentiles in general.
In attempting to build modern nation-states, the authorities insisted that Jews take last names so that they could be taxed, drafted, and educated (in that order of importance)."
In our own country we can still see the deep scars left by the imprisonment of one race by another, even now, more than a century after the formal dissolution of that bond. What scars did the imprisonment - both physical, in places like urban ghettoes as well as within entire regions such as the Pale of Settlement, and social - of the Ashkenazim leave on both the "prisoners" and their "jailers"?
It is difficult for me to imagine how this must have seemed at the time. Did a man of my age and nature resent being told to take some name that meant nothing to him in contravention of hundreds of years of tradition? Or would he have seen it as just another day in the life that offered little justice and less mercy from the goyische world the surrounded him? Would hearing his new "name" have produced tooth-grinding rage, or a resigned sigh?