But their children and grandchildren see their old names as a trail of their family history. The problem is, French law doesn't allow someone to revert to a former name. And on the rare occasions requests are considered, officials insist that the whole family must agree.
"I started by filing requests at the State Council 25 years ago, before my daughter was born. I wanted to give her my real name," said Olivier Rubinstein, now Raimbaud.
"My parents changed our name in the sixties because they did not want us to be subjected to antisemitism. They'd been through the war. After my first request, I was told I cannot reclaim what's considered a foreign name."
For 200 years French law has stipulated that family names are "immutable" and must be continued. People can change their last name if it sounds ridiculous or foreign. They can also claim another name if it's about to disappear. But this only applies to "French" names.
About a dozen people formed an association called The Strength of the Name and were received at the justice ministry and filed four new individual requests for name changes.
"We're waiting to see how this procedure goes before we decide how to move forward," said founder Céline Masson. "We insist that we're not asking to change names but to get our names back. It's completely different."
Yes, it is completely different. There are many families where only a few people survived - and if their names are not restored to this generation they will be gone from history forever. Eradicated as though they never existed - as was the original intention.
These names must be restored.