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Post Is Guderian an Armenian Name?
Created by John Eipper on 02/09/13 5:39 AM

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Is Guderian an Armenian Name? (Cameron Sawyer, USA, 02/09/13 5:39 am)

When commenting Tim Ashby's post of 8 February, JE wrote:

"I always assumed Guderian was an Armenian name! I worked for years in a building named after an illustrious Armenian (Alex Manoogian, inventor of the single-handle 'Delta' faucet), so anybody named X-ian is Armenian in my book. Until today: I thank Tim for setting the record straight."

I'm betting that Heinz Guderian was descended from Armenians. Guderian/Gederian/Giderian/Guderyan etc. is a fairly common Armenian surname (Armenian is written with its own very ancient alphabet, so any given Armenian name might have a lot of variations in Latin letters, especially in cases where, like the case of Armenians from Poland, as are the likely ancestors of Heinz Guderian, the name came through Russian first.)

"Guter Jan" does not seem like a plausible German origin of the name to me; for one thing I don't think this "d"/"t"/"th" substitution is characteristic of the Eastern forms of German. It would be an exceptionally odd coincidence that a very unusual German name like this, formed in a unique way, would coincidentally resemble a common Armenian surname. I don't buy it.

Heinz Guderian was born in what is now Chelmno, Poland, near the geographical center of present-day Poland. Guderian's father was born in Wielka Klonia not far away, and Guderian wrote in his memoirs that as far as he knew, all of his ancestors were landowners and lawyers from West and East Prussia. There has been a significant Armenian community in Poland for many centuries. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenians_in_Poland . It is true that the Teutonic Knights who conquered the region (episodically) and established a German presence in this geography did not mix very much with the local populations, but it was not unheard of. This area of West Prussia was more under Polish (and therefore often Russian) control than under German control, over the four or five centuries previous to Guderian's birth. As time went on, the German landowners and nobles did intermarry sometimes with Polish landowners and nobility of similar social status. Armenians in Poland were quite often landowners and there were a number of Polish-Armenian noble families. Whether there were any Guderians or Gederians among them I have not been able to determine, but I bet the data is available somewhere. Here is a whole history of the Polish-Armenian noble familes: http://www.wbc.poznan.pl/dlibra/docmetadata?id=72812&from=publication . But it is in Polish, which I can't read.

I'm guessing that "Guderian" really is an Armenian name; that the "Guter Jan" story was invented later for Aryan credibility.

JE comments: When Aldona wakes up, I'll pester her for a reading of the above. I'm puzzled that by the confusing race ideology of the Nazi era, an Armenian name would carry a stigma: aren't the Armenians more "Caucasian" than anyone, except perhaps for the Georgians?

Another question:  did the Nazis use "Caucasian" as a race term, together with the vaguely Indo-Iranian "Aryan"?  According to Wikipedia, the notion of a "Caucasian race" originated in Germany, around 1800.

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  • Is Guderian an Armenian Name? (Timothy Ashby, -Spain 02/10/13 3:50 AM)
    I tend to agree with Cameron Sawyer (9 February) that the Guderian surname is probably of Armenian origin (some genealogists have suggested this as well).

    The Third Reich enlisted Armenians (mainly Red Army POWs) as a foreign unit of the Wehrmacht during World War II (the Armenische Legion or 812th Armenian Battalion), and Alfred Rosenberg, the Reich Minister for Occupied Territories, officially declared that Armenians were Indo-European, or Aryans, and thus subject to conscription. However, there is no doubt that Hitler and other senior Nazis considered Armenians to be "Non-Aryans" and therefore racially "impure." Hitler said "In spite of all declarations from Rosenberg and the military, I don't trust the Armenians either" (Dallin, Alexander [1981]. German Rule in Russia: 1941-1945: A Study of Occupation Policies. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. pp. 229, 251).

    This bolsters my theory that Guderian was highly sensitive to his family background. How he managed to survive amidst the inner Nazi circles given this factor as well as his insubordination is a historical mystery.

    By the way, among anecdotes related to me by his former officers, they said that Guderian was a "soldier's soldier" who enjoyed being in the field, and could drive a tank and operate a cannon or machine gun as well as any man in the Panzerkorps. He was also fond of quips--the officers I met repeated Nicht Kleckern sondern Klotzen! ("Don't do things by half") with smiles. (I didn't really get this, but apparently the old Panzer soldaten loved it!) So, I think Guderian was exercising a bit of very risky sarcasm in the "racial purity" conference with Hitler.

    Here is what his friend General Leo Freiherr Geyr von Schweppenburg said about Guderian after he died of congestive heart failure in 1954: "Sixty per cent of what the German Panzer Forces became was due to him. Ambitious, brave, a heart for his soldiers, who liked and trusted him; rash as a man, quick in decisions, strict with officers, real personality, therefore many enemies. Blunt, even to Hitler. As a trainer--good; thorough; progressive. If you suggested revolutionary ideas, he would in 95 per cent of cases say 'Yes,' at once."

    JE comments: Guderian's maverick personality, tactical genius and popularity among his troops remind me of that great Confederate cavalry general, Nathan Bedford Forrest. (Though I was hoping to be the first to make the connection, scroll down to "Trotsky" [?] at the following link: http://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/archive/index.php/t-116245.html )  Forrest was self-taught and semi-literate, though, and my understanding of Guderian is that he was from a patrician background.  Still, imagine what Forrest would have achieved in command of a Panzer division.

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    • Compare Guderian to Nathan Bedford Forrest? Don't (Cameron Sawyer, USA 02/10/13 9:28 AM)
      Ah, don't compare the elegant and dashing Guderian with Nathan Bedford Forrest! [This is what I did at the conclusion of Tim Ashby's post of 10 February--JE.]

      Forrest was one of our great military geniuses, there is no doubt, but by all accounts, as a person, he was a nasty piece of work. In contrast to the refined and aristocratic Robert E. Lee and other Confederate generals, Forrest was rough and uneducated, and was a slave trader by profession. His cruelty and bloodthirstiness are legendary. He is notorious for the Fort Pillow massacre, and for advertisements he placed raising troops for his regiment, calling for men with good horses who would like to "have some fun and kill some Yankees"; reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino's revolting Inglorious Basterds.

      Although there is some historical controversy about it, he is generally considered (in Tennessee, at least) to have founded the Ku Klux Klan. His cruelty extended to his own troops, who feared and hated him. He was, however, the greatest military mind of the war, probably. But don't compare him to Guderian!

      JE comments:  I vaguely recall from a Forrest biography read years ago that the General agreed to serve as head of the KKK with the understanding it was a Confederate mutual benefit and "pride" organization, but resigned when the Klan's racist policies became evident.  Be that as it may, that Forrest was a slave merchant prior to the Civil War is widely known.  Interestingly, even slaveholders looked on the traders with contempt.

      I'll let Tim Ashby, whose relatives fought in both conflicts, be the judge here:  should we draw any parallels between Generals Guderian and Forrest?

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