Erich von Stroheim was born on September 22, 1885, in Vienna, Austria. He asserted that his full name was Erich Oswald Hans Carl Maria Stroheim von Nordenwald and that his father, Frederick von Nordenwald, was a major in the Imperial army.
His mother, Johanna Bondy, was the sister of Emil von Bondy, an Imperial counselor. Von Stroheim's claim to aristocratic status has been questioned. An alleged birth certificate stating that his parents were Jewish has been published in the British film magazine Sight and Sound, together with speculations about his family and social position.