This is a question regarding the economist and political thinker Ludwig von Mises.

A short biography: Mises was born in 1881 in Lviv, then part of Austria–Hungary. He studied and worked in Vienna from 1900 until 1934, when he moved to Geneva, Switzerland (this was, I believe, due to the rise of Nazism in Germany and Austria; Mises was Jewish). In 1940, Mises moved to the United States, and became a US citizen in 1946. He lived in New York until his death in 1973.

Mises is sometimes described as having been of Austrian nationality; the German Wikipedia page, for example, says that he was an “österreichisch-US-amerikanischer.” But if Mises had in fact been an Austrian citizen, he most likely would not have been able to retain the noble particle in his name (von) when the Austrian nobility was abolished in 1919. (Friedrich Hayek, an Austrian citizen, was called Friedrich von Hayek prior to 1919.)

After the fall of the Austro–Hungarian Empire in 1918, Lviv (Mises’ place of birth) became part of Poland and remained thus until 1945, when it was annexed by the Soviet Union and integrated into Ukraine. Was Mises perhaps a Polish citizen during that same period, and could that explain why his name remained unchanged?

2 Answers 2


I cannot offer definite proof right now, but I'm almost certain (von) Mises was an Austrian citizen at least sometimes before his forced emigration to Switzerland. Consider e.g. this:

  • He was working for the national chamber of commerce and consulting for the Austrian government. Such roles are usually filled by citizens even today.

  • Lots of people kept their noble titles casually, i.e. outside official documents. You can e.g. see evidence of this on graveyards of people who died past 1918. There are also many cases involving dual citizenships: e.g. the Prince of Schwarzenberg was allowed to keep his title by virtue being a Swiss citizen as well (in Austria he usually styled himself Karl Schwarzenberg, agronomist). I used to know a guy (born after 1970) who called himself "von" to impress local girls at the disco (or so he thought).

  • While this does not seem to apply to von Mises' case there are also names that sound as if indicating noble title, however their "von" carries a different, more verbatim meaning about locations: e.g. von der Tannen, von Grüningen.

UPDATE: Mises' biographer Jörg Guido Hülsmann relates that his subject e.g. served as an officer in the Austrian-Hungarian army (i.e. before 1918), that he held an Austrian passport (expired by 1939), and that he was issued an American passport (in 1964). The facsimile (included on p. 833 of the biography) shows that American officials considered Austria (e.g. not Poland) as his birthplace, perhaps again meaning that he had been in possession of an Austrian passport around or before the time when the application was made.

  • I concur about the von - people who had noble status often chose to retain the von particle as part of their surname after the formal abolition of the titles. A case in point is John von Neumann. Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 14:14
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    @FelixGoldberg John von Neumann was German citizen, though. Germany did not abolish noble titles in the same way as Austria did (see e.g. also Richard von Weizsächer or Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg to quote the names of two German politicians perhaps at the opposite ends of a wide quality scale :) Notice e.g. also that Wikipedia mentions "(Graf von)" (count of) in the entry for Viennese archbishop Christoph Schönborn, although he is never actually referred to that way.
    – Drux
    Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 14:40
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    Also, according to Mises’ American passport (Hülsmann, p. 833), his full name was Ludwig Heinrich Mises, i.e. stripped of the noble attributes Edler and von. Furthermore, in a footnote on the previous page, it says: “He [Mises] renounced his title of hereditary Austrian nobility, but kept the name Ludwig von Mises as a nom de plume.”
    – Bernheim
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 8:18

If you search online for his signature you can find several examples of "Ludwig Mises" without the "von". See for example the letter he wrote to Ayn Rand. He also signed his autographs "Ludwig Mises".

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