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It seems as though, by the time of A New Hope Darth Vader's real identity was unknown by most people. Were Anakin and his alterations kept secret from everyone? Who knew who Darth Vader really was?

As far as I can tell these are the few:

  • Vader (of course)
  • Obi-Wan
  • Yoda
  • Palpatine

I can't think of anyone else who specifically knows.

Who else knew, and was Vader's true identity (and past life as Anakin) kept secret?

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    maybe it wasn't so much a secret but that nobody outside the Jedi order knew or cared who Anakin Skywalker was. If they did know who he was it could easily be assumed that he was another random Jedi probably killed or scattered during the Great Purge – Doug T. Jan 23 '12 at 1:17
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    Palpatine most certainly does know. At the very least, he was the one who told Vader that Luke was his son. As I recall, though it's possible I'm mistaken, he was also the one who pulled him out of the lava and was there when his suit was first completed at the very end of the third prequel. And how could Palpatine not recognize him through the force (and where else would he have gotten a random mostly mechanical sith)? – Kevin Jan 23 '12 at 3:44
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    @DVK yes I am, is that not clear from the question? – AncientSwordRage Jan 23 '12 at 10:10
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    Here's the corollary to this question: How did anybody outside Palpatine and his inner circle find this out at all? As far as everyone else (including Obi-wan and the Lars) was concerned, Anakin turned evil and then died on Mustafar. Palpatine addressed Anakin by the name 'Vader' before the transformation, but there was no one to hear it at the time. – HNL Jan 23 '12 at 12:17
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    Ahsoka also knew, as on Rebels she first sensed it was him when she encountered Vader at the start of the second season and when they fought in person at the end of the season, she explicitly stated she knew, calling him Anakin (although whether or not she survived until ANH still isn't known). – Keith Morrison Jan 4 '18 at 21:01
27

It is hinted in A new Hope that both Owen and Beru Lars knew the fate (i.e. being "destroyed") of Anakin, when Owen expresses that he is afraid that Luke might become like his father.

Other than that, Anakin was so much of a nobody before becoming a Padawan and later a Sith, that very few of the people who survived are likely to have known him.

However, there is evidence that his identity was indeed a secret: as a high person in politics, Leia would have known Vader's true name if it were public. Thus, she could have guessed that Luke might be somehow related to Vader.

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    @GoranJovic: Many (all?) totalitarian regimes have huge military forces but still use propaganda to promote their views. That's not a contradiction. – bitmask Jan 23 '12 at 10:48
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    @bitmask - sorry, but you suck at propaganda. Having a turned Jedi would be an EPIC PROPAGANDA WIN – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 23 '12 at 13:13
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    @DVK: I'll take it as a compliment, that I suck at propaganda :) – bitmask Jan 23 '12 at 14:47
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    Owen and Veru were under the impression that Anakin was dead. His exact words were that he didn't want Luke running off on "some damn fool idealistic crusade", indicating he thought Anakin had died a hero on a crusade. – Nathan C. Tresch May 4 '12 at 22:39
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    @NathanC.Tresch: You cannot imply that. Anakin did run off on some damn fool idealistic crusade. Although we know that he physically didn't die, it still destroyed him. But that isn't even important. From Owen's point of view (which is interestingly close to Yoda, if you think about it) this whole business with adventure and so forth was foolish. What ultimately happened to Anakin is irrelevant for the point he's making. – bitmask May 4 '12 at 22:54
27

The canon novel Tarkin provides an answer to this question: it was not public knowledge that Vader was originally Anakin Skywalker. Only a very small number of people knew, and many of them had to figure it out without being told.

Tarkin himself was never told who Vader was (p. 70):

Tarkin had long nursed suspicions about who Vader was beneath the black face mask and helmet, as well as how he had come to be, but he knew better than to give open voice to his thoughts.

Tarkin worked out that Vader was originally Anakin, but only due to his close association with Palpatine and Vader, as well as the fact that Tarkin had previously worked with Anakin during the Clone Wars (p. 73):

Very early on in their partnership—soon after both had been introduced to the secret mobile battle station—Tarkin grew convinced that Vader knew him much better than he let on, and that behind the bulging lenses of his face mask, whatever remained of Vader’s human eyes regarded him with clear recognition. More than anything else it was those initial feelings that had provided Tarkin with his first suspicion as to Vader’s identity. Later, observing the rapport the Dark Lord shared with the stormtroopers who supported him, and the technique he displayed in wielding his crimson lightsaber, Tarkin grew more and more convinced that his suspicions were right. Vader might very well be Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, whom Tarkin had fought beside during the Clone Wars, and for whom he had developed a grudging appreciation.

The novel provides a list of rumors surrounding Vader's origin and identity (p. 73):

It was that genuflecting obedience, the steadfast devotion to execute whatever task the Emperor assigned, that had given rise to so many rumors about Vader: that he was a counterpart to the Confederacy’s General Grievous the Emperor had been holding in reserve; that he was an augmented human or near-human who had been trained or had trained himself in the ancient dark arts of the Sith; that he was nothing more than a monster fashioned in some clandestine laboratory. Many believed that the Emperor’s willingness to grant so much authority to such a being heralded the shape of things to come, for it was beyond dispute that Vader was the Empire’s first terror weapon.

In addition to the individuals listed in the question, we can only confirm that Tarkin knew. And since Tarkin was a very high-ranking individual (Grand Moff and commander of the Death Star), it is possible that Tarkin was the only other person who knew.

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    Eventually, Ahsoka Tano figures out who he is during the events of Star Wars: Rebels. – Derek Aug 24 '18 at 3:09
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In one of the side stories of Coruscant Nights II: Street of Shadows, Captain Typho believes Darth Vader was responsible for the death of Padme and goes on a personal mission to avenge her (as well as the death of Anakin Skywalker who everyone believes was killed during the attack on the Jedi Temple). He confronts Darth Vader before Typho is killed, Vader tells him he did murder Anakin and Padme. So the galaxy didn't know Darth Vader's identity nor did Vader tell people who he was before Order 66.

Also in Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, the surviving Jedi being hunted by the Empire don't know where Darth Vader came from or who he is (is he human, what species, is he a robot?). They just know that post-Order 66 that Darth Vader became the Emperor's right hand.

3

Very few people knew about the true identity of the cyborg known as the Darth Vader. It is obvious that Obi-Wan, Yoda, Palpatine and Darth Vader himself knew what became of the 'Hero with No Fear' after Order 66.

However, it is also clear that Owen and Beru Lars knew of the demise of Anakin Skywalker and his rebirth as the Emperor's right hand man. It is not confirmed for certain as to in what detail they knew of his fate, but many believe that during Obi-Wan's exile on Tatooine, he may have revealed some details to them. But how much he disclosed to the Lars is unknown; as we see in A New Hope, Owen clearly has a sense of disgruntlement towards the hermit Ben Kenobi, who seeks shelter on the planet.

Furthermore, it is also quite possible that Bail Organa knew about Darth Vader's identity before Order 66. As he was there for the birth of the twins and witnessed Padmé's death, supposedly because she 'lost the will to live'. It is sensible to assume that because Bail did know Padmé quite well, he could have come to the conclusion that the father was Anakin, if Obi-Wan or Yoda hadn't told him already, and that the cause of her heartbreak was something to do with him. Finally, the timescale also matched; as Anakin Skywalker died, Darth Vader was born, not to mention his ability to wield a lightsaber, which was unmatched by anyone.

But, in conclusion I don't think that many people were able to piece together the shattered parts in order to determine who Vader was before the birth of the Empire. It is also possible that information on such people could have been deleted from record so as to ensure certain articles of information remained a secret.

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    Welcome :) You have to leave a clear line between paragraphs, otherwise the site markdown doesn't recognise them. It doesn't start a new line in the actual post wherever you have one in the source. You can sort of force it to, but it's much easier just to leave a clear line between paragraphs :) – Au101 Oct 30 '16 at 10:38

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