I saw this really good documentary on Netflix the other day - it's called Hitler's Children - a conversational-styled movie with dialogues with the surviving children/grandchildren of the topmost (and hence the most fearsome) officers of the Nazi regime and some of the first and second generation holocaust survivors.
It deals with issues of the burden of carrying a fear-inducing surname - the feeling of guilt, responsibility, embarrassment, shame. The most powerful moment of the film for me was when the grandson of the Auschwitz camp commander visits the camp on a day when a survivor from that very camp is also visiting. The grandson is asked to answer a few questions by the tourists, and as he struggles to hold back his tears and give dignified responses, this survivor walks upto him, hugs him tight and says, "You were not there, it was not your fault. That was another time." I still get goosebumps recalling that scene. The grandson completely broke down - was it a closure or not is debatable. Did the survivor feel that having met the next generation of his perpetrator and forgiving him, he can move on - forgive and forget? Did the son feel that having got that acknowledgement from a person who lived through the camp atrocities is a befitting closure to the years of guilt and shame? I do not know.
The documentary made me wonder on the larger question of what family legacies and surnames do to an individual's life. Obviously, they have greater bearing if there is real greatness or tragedy associated - but how do children deal with it. I am sure sons and daughters of politicians and actors in the current world have it easy - do they really have a "burden on their shoulders", I think not. Ditto with business men. (Pardon me for my dismissive tone.) But imagine being born to parents who have been responsible for killing millions or some other negative impact that history can never forgive and forget - what do you do? Would you "renounce" the "name" or would you "live" with it?