Modern Software Experience


small row

A small row broke out a few days ago around Dutch Minister of Justice Ernst Hirsch Ballin.

Double Dutch names book

The 2008 Jan 21 edition of the Telegraaf, the biggest Dutch newspaper, features a story about double names in their society column Het Stan Huygens Journaal. Journalist Willem Kool writes about Het Dubbele Namen Boek, a book by Christoph E.G. ten Houte de Lange and Alle Diderik de Jonge. For the record, ten Houte de Lange is a double name, while De Jonge is a single name.


The authors are certainly not unknown in the Dutch genealogical community. Christoph E.G. ten Houte de Lange founded the Nederlands Instituut voor Genealogisch en Heraldisch Onderzoek (Dutch Institute for Genealogical and Heraldic Research), which is the company through which he performs paid genealogical research for third parties.

Alle Diderik de Jonge is a theologian, but was also the director of the Central Bureau for Genealogy from 1985 to 1990.

Dutch census 1947

The basis for their book consists of the 4850 double names that occur in the Dutch census of 1947. The authors conclude that most of these, 3337 in total, are used unlawfully.

Since the introduction of the Burgelijke Stand (Civil Registration) in 1811, the only legal way to have your name changed is by Royal Decree. However, civil servants would often register double names that people had started to use anyway.

Of course, many descendants of such rogues do not even know their name is illegal, nor have they ever had any other official name than the double name they have now.

Hirsch Ballin

One of the double name discussed in the article is Hirsch Ballin. The newspaper article notes that this name has only been in use since 1965 and that the authors of the book do not mention a Royal Decree to support its usage.

This brief mention was enough for the popular weblog GeenStijl (NoStyle) to suggest that minister of Justice Ernst Hirsch Ballin may be an illegal alien.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

GeenStijl makes a joke that plays on the similarity with the situation around member of parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose passport was withdrawn because she had lied about her name.

The basis for that withdrawal was a judgement of the Hoge Raad (High Court) that when a false name is given during naturalisation, said naturalisation does not apply to that person, as that person’s name is different.

constitutional crisis

Without a Dutch passport, Ayaan Hirsi Ali could not remain a member of parliament. This obviously affected her both personally and professionally, but its consequences reached much farther. It was a true constitutional crisis, as it cast doubt on the legality of the entire parliament and its decisions. After all, the decision that Ayaan Hirsi Ali had never been Dutch automatically implied that the parliament had not been consisting of 150 Dutch citizens as it should…

The withdrawal of the passport led to a demonstrative departure by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, before the debate about her status was finished. Her Dutch citizenship was restored, but the public debate about the matter led to he fall of cabinet Balkenende II. A slip of the tongue by prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende made it clear that he had not been honest about the pressure put on Ayaan Hirsi Ali to sign a statement that basically admitted that everything was her own fault, thus letting minister Verdonk of the hook.

GeenStijl reasons that the minister of Justice is guilty of the same offence as Ayaan Hirsi Ali was. He lies about his name, and may therefore be an illegal alien. One thing GeenStijl does not state, because it is obvious to their Dutch audience, is that Hirsch isn’t a Dutch name.


A second illegal alien as a minister so shortly after Ayaan Hirsi Ali would be quite embarrassing already, but the idea is made even more poignant by two others facts.

Firstly, the Dutch government continued to pay for Ayaan Hirsi Ali's protection for some time, even after she had moved to the U.S.A., and it was minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin who terminated the payments.

Secondly, after the fall of cabinet Balkenende II, minister Rita Verdonk, who had withdrawn the passport, had to give up her post as minister of Immigration and Integration. Perhaps to lessen the public loss of face, the post was discontinued, and alien policy became part of the Ministry of Justice. Thus, as Minister of Justice, Ernst Hirsch Ballin himself decides whether he is Dutch or not.

the public figure in public sources

Is the minister of Justice an illegal alien? Let's see what we can find out about this public figure in public sources.

census records

This quick bit of research starts where the authors of the book started. I check the 1947 census records through the Nederlandse Familienamen Databank (Dutch Familyname Database). There are no occurrences of the name Hirsch Ballin in the census of 1947. The name Hirsch does not occur either, nor does the name Ballin.

public curriculum vitae

All Dutch ministers have a public curriculum vitae and an entry in the Dutch Wikipedia. That makes it easy to figure out the official name and birthday. Both his official curriculum vitae and the English Wikipedia entry mention his date and place of birth. The Dutch Wikipedia entry additionally includes the names of his parents.


The inclusion of his parents’ names is handy, but a bit surprising. It hardly seems relevant, but it is. His father, Ernst Denny Hirsch Ballin, studied law too. In fact, his father became a prominent teacher of law at the University of Amsterdam.

There is a short biography of Ernst Denny Hirsch Ballin by Frans van Isacker (1920 - 2000), published in the 1976-1977 Yearbook of the Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde (Society for Dutch Literature) in Leiden. 

This is a lucky break. The Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde takes its biographies seriously. Not only is it reasonable to assume that their information is accurate, but the biography provides all the information we need, and then some.

condensed biography

Ernst Denny Hirsch Ballin is born on 1898 Nov 27 in Wiesbaden, as the son of Heinrich Hirsch and Amalia Louise Ballin. The family Hirsch is of Jewish descent and Ernst Denny is arrested on 1938 Nov 9, shortly after the Kristalnacht. Several months later, on 1939 Apr 12, intervention of his family gets him a release from concentration camp Buchenwald on the condition that he leaves Germany. His brother Fritz Maximiliaan moves to England, he moves to the Netherlands. During WW II, he remains in hiding and takes part in the resistance. He meets Maria Koppe during the war, and they marry a few years after, in 1947. He becomes a Dutch citizen in 1948. Their child Ernst, the current minister of Justice, is born in 1950.

Jewish Biographical Dictionary

The Maatschappij voor Nederlandse Letterkunde is a respectable source, but it remains nice to find that the recently published Joden in Nederland in de twintigste eeuw (Jews in the Netherlands in the Twentieth Century, published by Het Spectrum, 2007-11-13, ISBN 978 90 274 5195 8, Rena Fuks-Mansfeld, ed.) seems to confirm some details, but actually lists the same article as it source.

questions answered

This brief summary already answers some important questions.

The origin of the name Hirsch Ballin is obvious now. Ernst Denny's father and mother were called Hirsch and Ballin respectively.

The absence of the name from the census is explained too. During the census of 1947, Ernst Denny was still a German citizen. He became a Dutch citizen in 1948, after the census. Whether he should have been included in the census because he was a Dutch resident is a moot point, what matters is that we understand his absence.

legal questions

What is still not clear is whether the name Hirsch Ballin is legal. Using both the father's and the mother's name is common in Spain, but not in either Germany or the Netherlands.

Ernst Denny was naturalised in 1948. Whether that naturalisation was legal hardly matters anymore, as he died in 1975. Based on the information we have now, it is natural to assume that Ernst Denny took the name Hirsch Ballin at some point, to include his mother’s name. If you search for information on Ernst Denny, you’ll find that most references are to professor Hirsch Ballin.

That seems to clear up who adopted the name, but when? Before or after his naturalisation? Did he change his name when he was still living in Germany?
If he was naturalised as Hirsch, and never officially changed his name to Hirsch Ballin, then what is the legal status of the double name his son is using?
If he was naturalised as Hirsch Ballin, while his birth records shows his last name to be Hirsch, was that naturalisation legal? If it was illegal, has it become legal after more than 50 years? If it is not legal, then what is the nationality of his son?


I am not a lawyer, so I can only offer a layman’s opinion. Based on the information so far, the legality of the name Hirsch Ballin and the naturalisation are still unresolved, but in my opinion, the minister is Dutch.

After all, Ernst Hirsch Ballin was born in Amsterdam, to an officially Dutch father and a Dutch mother. He grew up in the Netherlands, lives in the Netherlands, speaks Dutch, has a Dutch passport and is married to a Dutch wife. The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) probably categorises him as a second-generation immigrant.

Thus, using easily accessible public sources, I found some answers and formulated some more specific questions. The next step was to get official facts, to find the naturalisation record and search for a name change record.

official facts


I can not answer all the legal questions above, but I can research the basic facts. The documents needed to figure these out are available in the Dutch archives. Naturalisations and name changes are public. They are published in the Staatscourant (State Newspaper).
The National Archives keeps copies of the Staatscourant and may have the original documents, but the adjoining Central Bureau for Genealogy (CBG) is geared towards genealogists.


The CBG has the naturalisations available on microfiche. There appears to be no index, but they are sorted by year and there are just two fiches to search through. A few minutes of searching turns up the naturalisation of Ernst Denny by Queen Wilhelmina.

The naturalisation decision is a law that applies to the people mentioned in it, and is itself named after the first person in the list. Zitting 1947 - 1948 - 640: Naturalisatie van Paula Mathilda Augustina en 20 anderen (Session 1947- 1948 - 640: Naturalisation of Paula Mathilda Augustina and twenty others) lists Ernst Denny as number four. Below, I provide a fairly literal English translations after the original Dutch text:

Original Dutch

4º. Ernst Denny Hirsch, geboren te Wiesbaden (Duitsland), 27 November 1898, privaatdocent aan de Rijksuniversiteiten te Utrecht en Leiden, wonende te Amsterdam, provincie Noordholland.

The Noordholland spelling for Noord-Holland is how it occurs. Throughout the document, provinces are consistently spelled without a hyphen.

English translation

4º. Ernst Denny Hirsch, born in Wiesbaden (Germany), 27 November 1898, private tutor at the State Universities of Utrecht and Leiden, living in Amsterdam, province Noord-Holland.


For each applicant, there is a brief elucidation that provides some background on the person and the reasonability of their request.

Original Dutch

De verzoeker genoemd in artikel 1 onder 4º is geboren te Wiesbaden (Duitsland). In 1939 kwam hij naar Nederland. Sedertdien heeft hij steeds hier gewoond. Door zijn verblijf hier te lande en zijn omgang met Nederlanders is hij zich hier geheel thuis gaan gevoelen. Tijdens de oorlogsjaren nam hij actief aan het verzet deel. Verzoeker, die in 1923 te München promoveerde tot doctor in wereldlijk en kerkelijk recht, werd in October 1946 toegelaten als privaat-docent in het Internationaal Auteurs- en uitgeversrecht aan de Rijksuniversiteit te Utrecht en in Januari 1947 aan die te Leiden.

English translation

The requester named in article 1 under 4 was born in Wiesbaden (Germany). In 1939 he came to the Netherlands. He has lived here since. Through his stay here in the country and his association with Dutchmen he has come to feel himself completely at home. During the war years he took active part in the resistance. Requester, who in 1923 in München promoted to doctor in secular and canon law, was in 1946 admitted as private tutor of International Author- and Publishing law at the University of Utrecht and in January 1947 at the University of Leiden.


This makes it clear that professor Ernst Denny Hirsch Ballin was naturalised as Ernst Denny Hirsch. He was born Hirsch, and did not try to claim the double name Hirsch Ballin through the naturalisation procedure. Thus, the naturalisation cannot be invalid because it used the wrong name, and there is no need to search for a name change in German records, because his name had not changed yet. The simple fact is that the German Ernst Denny Hirsch was naturalised as Ernst Denny Hirsch.

Yet, Ernst Denny used the name Hirsch Ballin, and the best-read Dutch newspaper, the Telegraaf reports that two respected researchers have stated that the necessary Royal Decree does not exist. So, how can he and his son, currently a minister of Justice - surely someone who should know better than to use anything but his legal name - use that name?


It seemed silly to double-check two such respected researchers, but the necessary microfiches are in the same cabinet as the naturalisation records and it takes take only a few minutes. Besides, I have not seen this new book yet, and do not know what it states, I only know what that the society column reports about it. That column is not written by a genealogist, and may have been edited to make it fit.

So, I double-checked the name change anyway. The Central Bureau of Genealogy has indexes for every few years, with entries for both the old and the new name. These indexes provide both the last name and the initials.
I checked these indexes from 1948 onwards, but did not find E. D. Hirsch. I did not check beyond 1974, but there is a good reason why I stopped searching; I had found what I was looking for anyway.
I found the name change, the Royal Decree that changes the name Hirsch into Hirsch Ballin. I did not find an E. D. Hirsch. in the index, but I did find an E. M. H. Hirsch. The index referred me to 71K / 04R4; the fourth row of the fourth microfiche for 1971.


The document on that microfiche is a form letter from the Minister of Justice to the Koninklijk Nederlands Genootschap voor Geslachts- en Wapenkunde (KNGGW). It states

"Bij Koninklijk besluit van 26 januari 1971 nr. 63 is de geslachtsnaam van de vader van de minderjarige Hirsch, Ernst Maurits Henricus, geboren 15 december 1950 te Amsterdam gewijzigd in Hirsch Ballin."

"By Royal Decree of 26 January 1971 no. 63 is the surname of the father of the minor Hirsch, Ernst Maurits Henricus, born 15 December 1950 in Amsterdam, changed into Hirsch Ballin".


Ernst Maurits Henricus was born on 1950 Dec 12, so 1971 Jan 26 is slightly more than a month after his 20th birthday. That made him a minor at the time. Today, legal adulthood starts at 18, but back then it started at 21.

The letter states that the name of the father changed. It seems logical that, because the child was still a minor, his name changed with it.

Royal Decree

The Central Bureau of Genealogy (CBG) has many such letters. These letters are not actual decisions, they merely provide information about a decision. The CBG does not have copies of the actual decisions, but the National Archive does.

Royal Decrees about name changes are public and published in the Staatscourant, but the letter already gave the date and number of the Royal Decree, so I asked for the decision itself.
The decision of 1971 Jan 26 contains ten family name changes. The last one is the name change of Hirsch into Hirsch Ballin for Ernst Denny Hirsch, born in Wiesbaden on 1898 Nov 27.

Contrary to what the society column claims, usage of the last name Hirsch Ballin is supported by a Royal Decree. The minister isn’t a illegal alien, but a legal citizen.

Brief Ahnenlist for Ernst Hirsch Ballin

1. Ernst Maurits Henricus “Ernst” Hirsch Ballin, née Hirsch, b. 12 Dec 1950, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands

 2. Ernst Denny Hirsch Ballin, née Hirsch, b. 27 Nov 1898, Wiesbaden, Hessen, Germany, d. 15 Mar 1975, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands

m. 1947

3. Maria Koppe, d. 24 Nov 1977

4. Heinrich Hirsch

5. Amalia Louise Ballin, d. 1942, Theresienstadt


2008-04-04 grandmother

In an interview for radio show Kruispunt Radio (Dutch: Crossroads Radio), broadcast on 2008-03-23, minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin notes that his grandmother died in 1942 in Theresienstadt. The brief ahnenlist has been updated to include that fact.

2008-04-04 the book

The book indicates whether there is a Royal Decree for a name change with a symbol. That symbol is absent for the change from Hirsch into Hirsch Ballin, so the society column quoted the book correctly. The book is in error, perhaps because the CBG index listed the name change with other initials than expected.

2010-04-24 ahnentafel

Replaced abusage of ahnentafel with correct ahnenlist.

2011-04-23 Dubbele Namen boek

Uitgeverij Balans broke the link for Het Dubbele Namen boek years ago. I've found a new, hopefully more permanent one.