should we fire the relatives of Nazis?

A reader writes:

I am casual friends with a couple who are both teachers at a public high school. One day while catching up, they told me that they found out one of their recently-hired colleagues (“Jane”) is the direct descendant of a Nazi. I don’t know which Nazi, I don’t know how they found out, and I don’t know if the school knew this before Jane was hired. My friends said that Jane did not volunteer this information and has never mentioned it, and she has never shown any support for Nazi views or any kind of hate.

Even though Jane is a pleasant and competent coworker, they both expressed strong discomfort with working with her because of her familial connections and said they wished that the school district would terminate her employment because of it. I asked them if they thought that no one should ever hire Jane because of this, and they said, “I’m not saying that nobody should ever hire her, it just shouldn’t be here.” I disengaged from the conversation at that point, but my sense is that by “here” they meant both a school where teachers have access to children, and the state where they live which is a bit of a hot spot for white supremacy.

Is it legal to fire (or refuse to hire) someone because they’re related to a Nazi? It doesn’t sound like a protected class to me, but on the other hand it seems a bit unfair that someone should be ostracized solely because they’re related to a terrible person. I know you’ve had letters before from people who have relatives who did horrible things; is this the same or does the Nazi aspect take this to a different level?

I am fully in favor of firing Nazis. (I am in favor of a bunch of additional things worse than firing for them as well, in both their original incarnations and their modern-day ones.)

But we should not be firing people for being the descendants of Nazis. Or the descendants of slave owners or mass murderers or child abusers or Pol Pot. You don’t deny people employment because of the sins of their ancestors.

Legally, no, “related to a Nazi” is not a protected class. But not only would firing them –or refusing to hire them — be unethical and unfair, it would also open up a can of worms about who else we might decide to fire or not hire because we don’t like something their great-grandparent did. And I’m quite confident that if we looked into everyone’s ancestors, we’d find a whole lot of problems.

And look, I’m a Jew. Would I be uncomfortable finding out a colleague’s grandparent or great-grandparent was a Nazi? Honestly, yeah, probably, until and unless they gave me reason not to. (Other Jews might not; we’re not a monolith.) But “I feel a little uneasy around this person” isn’t anywhere near “and thus they should lose their job.”

{ 691 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A note that it’s not helpful or necessary to the topic to post specific bigoted comments your descendants have made, transcribed verbatim (even in the process of distancing yourself from them) and I’ve removed some of them.

  2. A. Nonymous*

    I’m the daughter of a man who looked at child porn. It is cruel to judge the offspring for the parent’s crime.

    (Side note: if your son has the exact same name as a man arrested for child porn….change his name before he starts applying for jobs and has to have the world’s MOST uncomfortable conversation with everyone who hires him. Ask my brother how he knows.)

    1. Hills to Die on*

      My father was a horrible racist. I was ashamed and embarrassed of him as a child and would never, ever behave like him. It would be really unfair to punish normal, good people for something someone else did. I suppose that could be different if it were a close friend who is a Nazi – I would not be okay with that. But you can’t choose your family.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Exactly. You can’t choose who you’re related to, but you can choose who your close friends are. If you’re close friends with a Nazi, the best thing I can say about you is that you’re not bothered by Nazi views, which, as far as I’m concerned, is functionally the same as being a Nazi.

        From this description, we have no reason to believe that Jane agrees with Nazi beliefs. Though I’m certainly not going to be upset with people taking some time before they decide whether they’re comfortable with her. Judge her on her own merits, not what some ancestor she may never have even met did.

    2. A Nonny Nonny*

      One of my ancestors was likely a Nazi or at best a sympathizer.

      Another of my ancestors was a Jew who fled the pogroms.

      Same time, different branches of the family tree. I wonder what these coworkers would make of me.

      1. Ready to Pump You Up*

        I hate to break it to OP, but there are probably millions of people across Europe who are lineal descendants of people who belonged to the Nazi Party.

        Not just Europe, in fact: Arnold a Schwarzenegger’s father was a Nazi.

        1. Enai*

          And he made a very good video statement about it, too. You can find it on his youtube channel. Well worth a watch.
          (Spoilers: in his memories of growing up surrounded by former Nazis, their ideology and the war did them no good at all. “Broken people” was the phrasing iirc) Or, if you don’t want to watch a talking Austrian: my takeaway was that fascism will destroy you even if you’re unequivocally a member of the most privileged class. It will just take longer to get around to you than the ostensible targets of its ideology.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            I remember that video. He said something to the effect that they were full of bullet wounds and guilt. It’s a great video that really paints a picture.

        2. JM60*

          Moreover, it’s likely that ~99.9999% of us have ancestors who have committed murder, though some of us are more closely related to murders than others.

          As a general rule, it’s unfair to treat someone differently for the conduct of others (in this case, their relatives). An exception would be if you’d be in sufficient danger that you need to assume that they’re like their relative unless/until proven otherwise. For instance, if you’re a Jew or someone else at high risk of being murdered by the Nazis in a territory controlled by Nazi Germany in the 1940s, your right to reduce your risk of being murdered trumps the right of another person to not be treated differently due to the crimes of their Nazi relatives. Thankfully, such extreme cases like this are rare in Western countries today.

      2. It's complicated*

        One of my grandmother’s brothers was euthanized because he was in an institution, the other died in Greece fighting for the Germans (he was drafted, it wasn’t a choice). My grandfather spent time in both Russian prison camps and a concentration camp (and was freed from that camp by the Nazi widow of the widower of a dead relative, so the fact that they new of a Nazi in power they could write to made the difference). And they were refugees and displaced persons. That’s one family (well, one married couple’s complications). You don’t even need to have different parts of the family tree for it to be complicated.

    3. Mouse named Anon*

      My best friend was married to someone that did something similar. She had absolutely nothing to do with his crime. Still practically tells no one bc of the stigma associated. When it first happened she was convinced she would get fired and have to change careers. She was a teacher back then. Its def not fair to associate crimes with family that def had nothing to do with crimes their spouses, parents, or grandparents did.

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Exactly. A great-great-grand-relative killed his wife and her lover. Don’t judge me for the actions of someone who lived decades before I was even born.

        1. Buffy will save us*

          That reminds me of the story that my great aunt shot my great uncle in the leg because he was cheating on her and my grandmother bailed out her sister-in-law and took her in and left her brother with his mistress to fend for himself. So you can judge me by them for that story (don’t look further though.)

        2. Princess Sparklepony*

          Similar story in my family. A great (or double great) grandfather killed his mistress and her other boyfriend, then he abandoned his wife and children and went on the run from New York or New Jersey to Florida where he married again and had another family. About twenty years later he showed up again in New York and reconnected with the original family. I don’t think the reunion went so well…

          And I never knew this until about two years ago.

      2. D'Arcy*

        I think that’s a substantially different situation because you don’t choose your relatives, but you *do* choose your spouse. And more importantly, you choose whether to remain in a relationship with them after their crimes have been brought into the open.

        1. Cmdrshprd*

          “And more importantly, you choose whether to remain in a relationship with them after their crimes have been brought into the open.”

          Someone choosing to stay in the relationship after they find out is an entirely different story. Yes you choose your spouse but horrible people can often hide things for a while.

          So if someone marries a person and they end up doing something horrible, or they person was always horrible but they hid it, it should still not be held against the innocent spouse.

        2. A. Nonymous*

          Yup — my mother remained with my father, and was SHOCKED that some people adjusted their perception of her accordingly. Don’t willingly & knowingly pal around with people who look at child porn and you won’t have this problem.

        3. Lucy*

          It does say, “was married”, not “is married”. Honestly, it’s really comforting to think, “there are always signs”, or, “she must have known”, because it makes us feel we’re safe and it could never happen to us. But I know that I, personally, would find it difficult to work out, because there have been cases in my life where I have had suspicions and my first thought was, “no way, they’d never..!” (This is just when things were weird or off or just not right. I didn’t have this reaction to children’s disclosures, of course.) My second thought, as a child protection professional was always, “trust but verify” and I acted accordingly, assuring that appropriate responses were in place. But I was so surprised by how strong the knee jerk denial reaction was for me, because I had thought I was savvier than that – and these were people I hadn’t fallen in love with and married.

          Although I was always able to push through the first response for work, I can’t imagine how much harder it would be if it was someone you really loved and had faith in.

          1. Rainy*

            Many years ago a friend of my first husband’s turned out to be someone who’d been convicted of a sex offense against a child–easily verified as he was a Level 3 sex offender. The website listed the offense for which he’d been convicted, where/when it had happened, the age and sex of the minor child, and also the terms of his parole, which he had been breaking. Constantly.

            When he realized I’d been told, the friend cornered me and tried to do damage control, and when he realized it wasn’t working he threatened me socially–that he’d find a way to make sure no one believed me if I didn’t vocally and publicly support him, that he’d make sure I lost all my friends, that sort of thing. (Believe it or not, I don’t want the kind of friends who support an unrepentant child molester.)

            His wife, who’d been married to him when he committed the crime, through the court stuff, knew he was violating his parole, and whom he was abusing (!) stayed with him. She did eventually divorce him, I hear (I moved away years ago), but during the period when it all came out and then after, she stayed with him even though she was miserable. I’ve never understood it, but unfortunately I’ve seen it happen since as well.

          2. Mouse named Anon*

            Oh yes, they are no longer married. She has separated her life from him, as much as she can.

        4. Divorce? In this economy?*

          Also: Is there anyplace in the primarily-Engish-speaking world where divorce is likely to be inexpensive? Because if it’s an amicable divorce with no children and no disagreements as to who gets which joint asset, around here it’s two thousand dollars before I pay for the lawyer. This does not include the cost of finding a different place to live, moving what possessions I can be sure will be considered exclusively mine, rearranging my health insurance and my life insurance and my retirement funds and my automobile insurance, separating our phone plans outside the contract renewal cycle, oh and wherever I wind up living will need its own internet plan.

          If I ever get divorced, I’m probably going to be living in my car for a few months. And I am fortunate to have a middle class income! Enough to have established a small savings account unconnected to my spouse, just in case I ever need it! Imagine how much tougher a choice this would be if I were living paycheck to paycheck.

          I cannot wait around for one judge to maybe find my spouse guilty of something in order to convince another judge to award me sole ownership of our house, which I will probably have to sell anyhow because I cannot pay the mortgage alone. In fact, in my state I cannot have a divorce at all until I have spent an uninterrupted calendar year living away from the spouse I wish to divorce, at a different address.

          1. A. Nonymous*

            All of this is true, and it’s *still* more important and ultimately worth it to do it to get away from a pedophile.

        5. pope suburban*

          That is really unkind to the partners of bad people. Oftentimes, bad people are really, really good at manipulating others into thinking they’re not bad, and they also tend to be really, really good at putting people in situations where they’re dependent or afraid to leave for safety reasons. Add in that bad people tend to prey on those who don’t have robust defenses, like people who grew up around abuse or in poverty or whatever else, and it’s just not so simple. I wish we were better as a society about having a safety net and believing victims so that people could more easily leave. I wish we had an accessible health care system with therapy and social workers so that people could more easily leave. But that’s not the world we live in and I think it’s important to give the victims of abusers some grace. That’s not to say there is never a point at which you go, “Hey, that’s a choice you’re making and it tells me a lot of not-great things about you,” it’s just to say that maybe that point isn’t precisely where we’re speculating it is here.

        6. Jellyfish Catcher*

          It’s easy to say that regarding both earlier times and today’s times, at least for women.

          There were no more elections in Germany after 1935; most citizens were never official Nazis even then.
          It would be difficult to impossible for a woman to leave with her children, unless her other side of the family was well off, hadn’t pissed off any Nazis, and managed to get her out with the kids.

          It’s not easy today: if you’re a housewife, or wife with a low paying job, you suddenly have to get a good paying job, a rental, and pay A Lot of day care to just survive.

          1. Lucy*

            A lot of citizens were official Nazis because it was the only way to get or keep a job, too. Without any actual feeling of alliance to the regime. I think that’s one of the things that feels the most icky to me, because I *think* I would resist a fascist regime, even if it lost me my job (I am considerably more resistant than most) – but actually, even some of those Germans who risked their lives hiding Jewish people or other victims of Nazi ideology, did officially join the party – maybe to dispel suspicion, maybe as part of the social and financial pressure.

            Kids leaving school, who hadn’t engaged sufficiently in the Hitler Youth army training programmes etc, were warned that they may struggle to get a post in a good profession, too.

            None of this is meant to be defending those who looked the other way. But sometimes I think that we expect a certain level of heroism from ordinary people of the past, and ignore all the evil and injustice around ourselves today that we close our eyes to. And it doesn’t really help to say, “but that’s not as bad” – because for most of us today, that means resistance would be correspondingly less dangerous.

            You don’t think, when you learn your history, that maybe some people may not have attended a protest one weekend for such a small reason as, because they felt super tired from work and just couldn’t work themselves up to it – but I know I’ve done that before. But when we look back, we don’t retain that context.

            1. Lucy*

              (In conclusion, I agree – and would even take your point further. On rereading, it sounds like I’m disagreeing with you – but I’m not!)

            2. Lisme*

              It’s not a rare phenomenon for the grandchildren of Nazis to convert to Judaism and move to Israel. After they learn what really happened and start looking into their family history, it has led some of them in quite the opposite direction! There are some cases covered in the media but I’ve heard that there are many more who keep it quiet because they don’t want the attention and the stigma and just want to settle into their new environs. So assuming they are similar to their ancestors is really a leap unless you have more information about them.

            3. Good Enough For Government Work*

              Oskar Schindler, the most famous person to have rescued Jews during the Holocaust, was a fully paid-up member of the Nazi Party even before it was effectively mandatory and had a very large enamelled swastika pin which he wore ostentatiously at many occasions. It was probably *because* of this that he was able to get away with everything he did.

    4. NerdyKris*

      And in this case, it would be a grandparent or great grandparent. I doubt most people would even know what their great grandparent’s values were. The couple are being extremely weird to the point that I wonder if this letter is even real.

      And like Alyson mentioned, go back to the 1800s and a LOT of people’s ancestors owned slaves. It would be absurd to refuse to hire anyone for the crimes of long dead ancestors.

      1. Java*

        “And in this case, it would be a grandparent or great grandparent. I doubt most people would even know what their great grandparent’s values were.

        Especially because a lot of nazis were smart enough to lie about it if they could – they lost, they knew what it would mean to publicly admit their nazi values after the war and/or be discovered as a member of the nazi party.

        I’m in Canada and just a couple years ago I found out that the elderly neighbour I grew up across the street from was a member of the nazi party – we would have never suspected and only found out because he’s got dementia and doesn’t have the capability to keep it secret anymore.

    5. BurnItAllDown*

      My parent is a serial money launderer and fraudster. I would be devastated if I was disqualified from my profession because of the choices a parent made. #imnotmyparent

      1. You're not alone, friend*

        My father is a rapist, child abuser, wife beater, animal torturer, and financial cheat. I’m his rape victim (I hope I’m the only one). I too would be devastated for being barred from a job because of his crimes.

        I hope that all of the other people who are reading this thread and hurting know that they are not alone.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with all that! And so impressed that you’re functioning, cause I don’t think I would be.

        2. iglwif*

          I’m so sorry. And no, absolutely no one should be judged or ostracized or denied employment just because they’re related to a horrible person!

    6. plumerai*

      Hey, a fellow anonymous shouting out to one of my kind. It was my brother, not my father, but it was a high-profile case (it was more than porn) and our shared and one-of-a-kind last name (and the fact that “brother” is a Google autofill for my name) means this information is out there. Being judged for my brother’s crimes is literally one of my worst nightmares.

      Hang in there, fellow commenter with family shit!

    7. Anon for this*

      My husband is the son of a man who molested his own granddaughters. Definitely not fair to punish people because of the illegal actions of their relatives.

    8. TG*

      100% agree – children or distant family members should not pay for the sins of their “fathers” or ancestors. I actually think your friends need to be very careful because it could create a harassing environment to hold judgements on someone who had no control in what happened in the past.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        What I’m wondering is how OP’s friends found out, and why do they care? Why aren’t they aware of all the things we’re saying here? And again, how did they find out? The only reasonable way would be for this woman to have told them.
        There must be more going on here.

    9. MeleMallory*

      I just found out that my cousin’s grandfather (on her mother’s side, we’re related through our fathers) was a Nazi. Like, he fought for Germany in WWII. But my cousin is the nicest person I’ve ever met in my entire life. She doesn’t have a racist or antisemitic bone in her body (I know that’s cliche, but in her case it’s true.) I would hate to think that anyone would judge her because of the sins of her grandfather.

      1. Ellie*

        Some of my relatives are into that, and other apps. I’m half English and half-German (at least, I thought I was). My German grandmother seemed fairly blameless, but my German grandfather was a raging Nazi. Only he wasn’t my grandfather… it seems my real grandfather was a Russian soldier. Probably during the fall of Berlin. And my German grandmother was actually Danish.

        On the English side it’s not much better, my grandmother went back a couple of generations, and it turned out our side of the family was actually descended from a lodger that lived with the young family for a brief period.

        I guess…. who knows where we all really come from?

    10. iglwif*

      My BFF’s grandfather was in the Wehrmacht during WWII. Was he an actual card-carrying Nazi? We don’t know, but it’s not unlikely.

      Why am I, a Jew, not uncomfortable with this?

      1) My BFF barely knew their grandparents, because their parents left Germany like 60 years ago to come to Canada
      2) I knew my BFF’s mom very well growing up, and she had a fair bit to say about Nazis, all of which boiled down to “absolutely the f!!k not”
      3) I have known my BFF for 40+ years and they are, yes, tall and blonde with blue eyes, but also a committed anti-racist, a teacher enthusiastically working to decolonize their curriculum, and a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community (as well as, like, a very cool person whom I love a lot)

      Everyone is descended from somebody. It’s what you do with and about that legacy that matters, not who your grandfather was.

  3. Looper*

    That these “casual friends” are high school teachers and responsible for teaching children critical thinking skills is disturbing. Almost as disturbing as the fact that someone “ancestry stalked” Jane and then spread a bunch of vicious rumors about her.

    1. Czhorat*

      This is a good point; one thing we need to ask in this day and age is how much research on a new colleague is acceptable, and when it crosses a line.

      Find them on professional social media like LinkedIn and look at their public activity? Probably fine.

      Look at the public posts on other social media (X, Facebook, Instragram)? Maybe.

      More than that it’s starting to move towards stalking territory; you aren’t HR and haven’t been tasked with performing a background check. Stay in your lane and allow a separation between your new colleague’s private and professional lives.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        My line is pretty simple: I type a name into Google. And I take things with a grain of salt (I have a fairly unique name and a first-page Google result shows two people who aren’t me, along with pretty obvious “first name here” and “last name here” in articles for athletics who aren’t me either.) because obviously.

        If the first hit is a photo of said new coworker with their name in the caption at, say, the Charleston Riot, and that photo looks like the person I just was introduced to? Well. But beyond that? Unless the first couple of google hits hint at a “well that’s, um, interesting and probably an important fact to know”? Nah, not my circus.

        1. Orange You Glad*

          This is why my company has a policy that we are not allowed to do any googling or social media stalking of prospective candidates before the interview. The background checks are HR’s responsibility and we are supposed to remain unbiased and focused on skills and values during the hiring process.
          That policy of course can’t prevent anyone from using the internet, but it’s gotten me out of the habit of looking into people before I meet them.

      2. Tio*

        A school in my old hometown hired a new teacher. Some parents basically e-stalked them, found out that they had had mental health issues from one stray post, determined from their other posts that they were LGBTQ friendly, and started a (successful) campaign to get them fired because they seemed “unsafe”.

        1. Lab Boss*

          Which I think points to another reason that firing people for attenuated reasons like “descended from a Nazi” is a bad idea. Not only is it unfair to punish people for their ancestors’ bad conduct, but it’s no stretch to point out that modern-day terrible people will happily jump on that concept to punish people for all sorts of extended family “bad conduct” (like daring to be gay, or whatever else they hate).

          1. not nice, don't care*

            I dream of a day when religion is no longer a safe space for bigots. Better to ditch religions based on hate in the first place, but ‘merica.

              1. JM60*

                One can certainly be a bigot while lacking belief in any deities. However, the special respect that society tends to give to religious beliefs, combined with using “faith” (by which I mean belief in things without sufficient evidence) being a socially acceptable way of obtaining truth if you’re religious, makes it easier to be bigoted than if you didn’t have any religious beliefs.

      3. Smithy*

        Yes, I think a huge reality is that some people happen to have names that are just far easier to bring up a lot of information in a Google search. I have an unusual surname, so it makes it quite simple to find quite a lot about me. And because I happen to be a descendent of a religious community that’s since died out – there’s a lot of information out there that someone could easily deep dive without trying all that hard.

        However, the reality is that doing that deep dive gives you space to do a lot of guessing about my background without ever talking to me. So the space for “fanfic” and spiraling can be quite high. Overall, it’s really disappointing to see high school teachers descending that way.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          “Hershberger” is a fairly unusual surname, but not as unusual as people often assume. Punch my name–both first and last–into Google Scholar and there are three of us. I’m the one with the baseball stuff. Speaking of which, in the baseball context I often get asked if I am related to Willard Hershberger, who holds a small but unfortunate place in baseball history. Nope. Again: not nearly as rare a name as one might think.

          1. Artemesia*

            I have an unusual last name. When my brother moved to a big city as CEO of a major company, the headlines in the local paper were all about a recently captured serial killer with our uncommon last name. That was fun.

            1. Anon for this*

              I share a name with a well known VICTIM of a crime. Occasionally I get people on social media asking me aren’t I supposed to be dead, and part of me wonders if this is going to become a problem when I job hunt next.

            2. A perfectly normal-size space bird*

              I have an extremely unusual last name. Spouse and I are considering choosing a new last name for a multitude of reasons. One of which is that name is tied to a long history of criminals. Apparently everyone in this family were just the worst, starting with being slave owners back in Europe. It would be nice to Google our name and find nothing interesting rather than the latest arrest record.

              1. Pyjamas*

                And if THAT showed up in google, ppl might assume you were trying to hide a blood connection to the crime family

          2. Freya*

            Every single person in my country with my current last name (changed upon marriage) is related in some way. You google the last name, and the only results that aren’t relatives are people whose username is a combo of their first name and the first letter of their last name and it happens to be the same as the anglicised version of the patronymic that one particular ancestor had when they immigrated here before their country of origin had hereditary surnames.

          3. Zoe Karvounopsina*

            I recall someone on reddit who had the problem that his mother had wanted to name him after her dear grandfather Heinrich. The problem? His father’s surname was Himmler.

            He was now changing his name, to his mother’s vocal annoyance.

      4. Hannah Lee*

        There’s basic curiosity … like, spending 5 minutes on duckduckgo seeing if the person’s name shows up in a search. Which, I kind of get, ideally wouldn’t do, but have sometimes done, usually after a round of looking up old boyfriends and old friends.

        But the stalking of someone else’s family history, on whatever platform, and then sharing that information with your colleagues, who also work with this person, and then debating whether or not the person should be fired? Man, LW, your friends WAY out of line. No where near professional or decent human beings.

        Part of me would almost like to hear the thought process of someone advocating for this person to be fired. Like, what would be the benefit to the staff, to the kids at that school, to society as a whole of denying employment to someone who is qualified to do a job (and has apparently chosen to do one that typically both doesn’t pay great but is of immense importance and benefit to society as a whole, whatever role they are in at that high school) – simply because an ancestor or other relative of theirs held horrendous beliefs and participated in atrocities. A relative who they may never have met and may even know nothing about? A relative whose actions they had no control over? And whose own behavior in the current day has given zero indication that they share the horrendous beliefs or are at any risk of doing anything close to what their awful relatives did?

        Because thinking like that makes no sense, is a form of bigotry itself … condemning innocent people to harm, punishment due to their bloodlines when they themselves have done nothing wrong.

        And if you applied it across society would likely lead to very very few people being deemed “worthy” of employment and possibly our entire present day criminal justice system falling completely apart. Since, if people cannot be integrated into society, allowed make a living based on the criminal actions of relatives who haven’t been alive for decades, is there any hope for rehabilitation, “paying their debt to society” for people who have themselves committed crimes? What, they should all be incarcerated forever, or released and maybe be allowed to live on charity or by foraging in the wilderness, since LW’s friends would deem them unworthy of employment? Or maybe not all criminals would get that harsh treatment … but who gets to decide what is or isn’t bad enough that they, and BTW all their relatives, are banned from holding down jobs.

        1. Chirpy*

          Exactly. No one has any control over what their ancestors did before they were born, and little to no influence over what their relatives think/do in the present. I doubt there’s anyone who has a family tree completely devoid of any relatives with problematic beliefs for all of time. We can only judge people based on their own actions and beliefs.

            1. pope suburban*

              Not the same thing by a mile. Reparations is not individual families being tasked with remunerating other individual families based on who owned whom when it was legal. Reparations is about trying to correct systemic issues born from slavery that continue to harm Black people in America. It’s about trying to repair a foundation that is built on something as abhorrent and morally wrong as thinking certain people could literally own others.

            2. Kit*

              Those are about financial restitution for the enormous wrongs done to entire generations of families, which have had ongoing impacts, because the lack of generational wealth ripples forward. Reparations are not about punishing individual descendants of slaveowners, they are about our entire country recognizing that our country profited enormously from the institution of chattel slavery and attempting to make some portion of that debt whole.

            3. Willow*

              A better analogy to reparations would be if you discovered a painting you inherited was actually stolen by the Nazis from its original owners. It would be the right thing to do to return it to the owners’ heirs. But that wouldn’t be a punishment or judgment on you. Rather, it’s righting an injustice.

            4. Chirpy*

              As others have said, reparations are society making up for the societal disadvantages that still exist today, not individuals paying for their individual ancestors’ wrongs.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          ‘But the stalking of someone else’s family history, on whatever platform, and then sharing that information with your colleagues, who also work with this person, and then debating whether or not the person should be fired? Man, LW, your friends WAY out of line. No where near professional or decent human beings.’

          I so agree with this. I also knew/worked with a lot of people who felt they had A Right To Know, well, everything they wanted. They either expected information on-demand or dug around until they found something. And they made a fuss about whatever that information was, as was also their Right. If our employer didn’t take a strong enough stand, they fussed at their manager(s) about whatever they found because, again, it was their Right.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I’m guessing that the original comment is more like that it’s illogical to hold people responsible for stuff someone else did decades before they were born.

    2. Spero*

      I don’t think it’s a matter of critical thinking so much as a matter of refusing to take a truth and reconciliation based approach to history. In America we tend to deny or downplay the aspects of history that make us uncomfortable. We pretend like they’re not happening or call the oppressed people who try to highlight what we’re doing troublemakers or claim THEY are erasing our ‘preferred’ history by highlighting the actual history. We need to be better at sitting in discomfort and acknowledging it is not ok, but it is where we are.

    3. Wintermute*

      yes, people like this are why states are feeling compelled to pass laws that ban teachers from teaching ancestral responsibility and ancestral shame.

      Can you imagine how much damage they could do to a child?

      1. Liz*

        It’s cute you think that’s what’s happening instead of people claiming their child is being persecuted for having to learn about Ruby Bridges or that this has been a country with a history of racist systems and laws

        1. Czhorat*

          Yes. Wintermute is deliberately distorting the goals and the effect of such laws.

          There is NO teaching of “ancestral shame”, nor has there been any movement towards such. What there HAS been is greater focus on a long history of systemic and pervasive racism. Current-day racists object to this.

          1. Wintermute*

            you misunderstand me.

            I have said nowhere I agree with any of these laws.

            I said that people like those the LW discussed create harmful discourse by making these laws seem like they’re rational when they are not.

      2. different seudonym*

        YOur claim is untrue. The purpose of such laws is to prevent teachers from discussing racism and white privilege. There is not and has never been any movement to “teach ancestral responsibility and ancestral shame.”

        1. Wintermute*

          my claim is supported in the actual text of some of the documents. It says basically the exact words I used.

          We can argue about intent but this is not the time or place. My argument is simply that people like those the LW discussed feed into this response by making it seem more rational and sensible in light of these statements.

      3. Kiv*

        Teaching people about historical inequality and injustice is NOT the same thing as teaching ancestral shame. This is why it’s so important for people to be able to understand that they, and others, are not the same as their ancestors, and both can and are responsible for improving on whatever they may have done.

    4. tree frog*

      The only thing that occurs to me is that I wonder how these people know their colleague’s family history. If she brings it up out of nowhere, yeah, that would disturb me too. If it came up in a more reasonable way, such as a discussion of how many of us have ancestors who did terrible things, then it would be weird to hold it against her.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      I feel sorry for any kids at this school who happen to have problematic older siblings. Writing off entire families is the kind of thing you expect from very antiquated teaching. It’s really poor pedagogy to assume someone gets their entire personality and beliefs from their DNA. Simply finding a familial link is a little thin. If they had knowledge of the family being actively and recently hateful, and the new colleague being a part of that, then sure it’s a relevant fact. But without anything more directly linked or recent, there but for chance go many of us.

        1. Ms. Elaneous*

          In fact, judging people by their ancestors and DNA is kind of a …… Nazi thing

          Yes, Deborah… well said.

      1. Les Cargot*

        I was a “problematic older sibling.” Not for my teachers, though. I was quiet, a good student, very well-behaved, never caused trouble. This caused problems for my younger siblings, who were sometimes more casual about their schoolwork, more restless at sitting still and reading for long periods of time (where “long” might mean as much as – horrors! – five minutes), and not quite so compliant to the demands of the adult world. In other words, if teachers expected my younger sibs to behave like me, they were sometimes sadly disappointed. But that wasn’t fair to my sibs, who deserved to be treated as individuals and not as “mini-me”s.

        Back to the original topic: we have ancestry from a country afflicted by Nazism, so we may have had relatives who were Nazis. We also have U. S. citizen ancestors who fought for the U.S. in both World Wars. Should pacifists be allowed to judge me and try to get me fired if granddaddy was a soldier?

    6. Elio*

      I agree completely. Everyone is related to someone who did terrible things. I’m sure these self-righteous virtue signalers have bad people in their family tree too.

  4. Snarkus Aurelius*

    What exactly is it that they think Jane will do as a direct result of her relative? I’d love to hear *that* answer.

    My brother is a huge misogynist. Would your colleagues want me fired for that because I work with vulnerable populations?

    1. Antilles*

      Clearly, Jane should invent time travel, go back in time, and actively test the Grandfather Paradox!

      The non-sarcastic answer is that if you actually asked them that question, they’d hem, haw, and vaguely dodge the question since they’re asking for something that’s fundamentally impossible.

      1. Zuban*

        They’d hem and haw because this is nothing more than virtual signaling with zero critical thought. It’s quite disturbing.

    2. ferrina*

      Cultural values are often passed down through families, but at the same time, every family has exceptions and outcasts. And sometimes the “family outcast” becomes an expert in refuting the former family’s values.

      Ancestry alone doesn’t tell you what an individual’s values are. It can be helpful to know how an individual relates to their family (for example, do they excuse problematic behavior or values in their family? are they low contact/ostracized because they spoke out against problematic behavior?), but OP has no way of knowing that from Jane. The only way OP will know who Jane is is by how Jane acts.

      1. AnonORama*

        Also, it’s quite possible that Jane never met the Nazi relative. Unless she’s quite elderly, we’d likely be talking about a great-grandparent. So the teachers mining for Jane’s history now have to assume that not only was this relative – likely long-dead – a Nazi, but that their children and grandchildren also adopted similar values and passed them on to Jane. They may well have done a 180! I don’t know either way, but certainly Jane’s colleagues don’t either.

        1. Laura*

          Nah, they could be talking about a grandparent or even a parent. Both my grandfathers were in the military during WWII and I’m about 40. If Jane is a young teacher, yeah, probably a great-grandparent, but she may have known the ancestor in question. still doesn’t matter because Jane is her own person.

          1. Lisa Simpson*

            I’m around your age, and both my grandfathers also served in WWII.

            Both of them also died before I was born. My oldest cousin, who was the only one to meet Grandpa A, was under a year old when he passed. Grandpa B died before any of us were born.

          2. Worldwalker*

            A parent?

            If this Nazi ancestor was 18 in 1945, they’d be 97 today. There probably aren’t many newly-hired teachers with 97-year-old parents. And that’s if the parent was only 18 at the end of the Nazi era. If they were any sort of official, or got started earlier in the 12-Year Reich, that would put them over 100 today. Highly unlikely.

      2. Phryne*

        “Cultural values are often passed down through families, but at the same time, every family has exceptions and outcasts. And sometimes the “family outcast” becomes an expert in refuting the former family’s values.”

        This might be the case for ‘normal’ family history, but in Germany I would hardly call the next generation’s rejecting of the nazis ‘exceptions and outcasts’. It is a complex history, but overall the swing away from those values was widespread and very much the norm for most post war Germans. To this day Germany has far more laws and regulations to battle upcoming fascism and re-emerging nazism than most other countries.

        1. Starbuck*

          Well, that would be a case of something legitimately being disqualifying, ideally…. assuming you mean the granddaughter, who is herself also a fascist.

    3. niknik*

      Meanwhile i’m sitting over here in Germany, wondering how we would be supposed to ever run a school at all following this couples views…

  5. Czhorat*

    I COMPLETELY agree.

    I’m as anti-Nazi as anyone, and any Nazis deserve treatment I’ll not detail here for terms of service compliance.

    I also do not believe that the sins of the father can be visited on the son; Maybe having a Nazi parent means an upbringing in which hatred is normalized, maybe the offspring rails against it and becomes strongly antifascist. We don’t know, ant it’s not fair to judge.

    I’ll also add that “descendent” usually means more than one generation removed – perhaps Jane’s grandparent was a Nazi. That’s even more tenuous than if it were her father.

    1. CB212*

      Yeah, to your last point, anyone old enough to have fought in the war would be about 100 years old now, so it’s very unlikely Jane is the child of a Nazi. Someone who’d been a kid in the Hitler Youth would be in their mid-80s, possible but also unlikely to be the parent of a new hire.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Agreed. This person is not responsible for what someone did long before they were born.

        There is no guilt by association. Unless this person is also a Nazi then leave them alone.

        I would seriously question the judgment of these women who think someone should lose their job because of who their ancestors were.

      2. La Triviata*

        I went to school – in the 1950s and 1960s – with someone whose father had been drafted in the Hitler Youth. Never heard anything problematical from him or his older brother. The father hadn’t had a choice (well, join or suffer a serious punishment isn’t much of a choice) and didn’t pass on any of that I knew about.

      3. Laura*

        Just because the person is a new hire doesn’t mean they’re young. It’s unlikely the ancestor was Jane’s parent, but it’s not impossible depending on how old Jane is and how old this person was when they had kids.

    2. Miss Chanandler Bong*

      I believe Hitler has family members that came to the US and changed their names to not be associated with him. We absolutely cannot judge them based on who they’re related to. Heck, I’d like to forget that I’m related to some people in my family…

      1. MapleLibrarian*

        He does! His nephew was even in the US Navy during the war, as a medic. His sons changed their last name and, the last I heard, were living in upstate New York. All married, no kids.
        In fact, all of Hitler’s great-nephews/great-nieces are childless. People love to conspiracy-think about a “great pact to ensure the evil bloodline goes away”, but the family says no.

        Some of the Nazis’ kids are quite anti-fascist, anti-Nazi. Look up Niklas Frank, and what he does because of his father’s legacy.

      2. FricketyFrack*

        >I’d like to forget that I’m related to some people in my family…

        Saaaaame. One of my uncles and his son were part of a white supremacist plot to bomb a federal courthouse back in the 90s (they didn’t succeed, thankfully). That’s among other racist, sexist, homophobic garbage a lot of my extended family believes. I don’t associate with them, haven’t for basically my entire adult life, and I’d be horrified if anyone found out that we’re related and thought I agreed with their views. I can’t imagine my coworkers suggesting I be fired over it.

      3. MassMatt*

        There is a really interesting documentary called “Meet the Hitlers” about people from around the world either related to or with the last name Hitler. There’s a little about descendants of other infamous Nazis also.

      4. niknik*

        Didn’t his brother also immigrated to the UK and worked for the Secret Service or some such ?

    3. Ace in the Hole*

      My grandmother was a young woman during WWII. She has several great-grandchildren old enough to be schoolteachers. That’s three generations. It could be even more, if the Nazi relative were older at the time of the war.

      But even if it were a parent – as close a relation as one can possibly be – that still does not make the child accountable for the crimes of their parent.

      1. Worldwalker*

        There is a person in my industry who is vile and expresses his abhorrent views freely. You’d recognize his name, or at least that of the people he most closely associates with, if I told you.

        His father was a friend of mine. I suspect he’s spinning at 7200 rpm in his grave over this. This person did not learn his loathsome believes at home. He certainly didn’t express them when his father was alive.

        Beliefs and ideals are not genetic.

    4. No Longer a Bookkeeper*

      I totally agree with this – my MIL’s side of the family is German, so realistically, someone in my husband’s family tree was a Nazi. I have a great-great-great-great uncle who’s buried in the Confederate cemetery in my hometown. But this has nothing to do with who we are/ what we believe. I try to live my life in a way that would have my Confederate ancestor rolling over in his grave like a rotisserie chicken, and I know my husband feels the same way about any Nazi ancestors in his family tree.

      Honestly these teachers are just as narrow minded as the Americans who thought German Americans and Japanese Americans were automatically a threat during WWII. It’s never great when you sound like the people who set up internment camps…

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        My husband grew up hearing stories about his grandparents attending meetings of the Bund in NYC in the 1930s. They talked about it as if it were a social club. A few years ago he saw a picture of one of the Bund rallies at MSG – the stage was surrounded by swastika flags, and he realized his grandparents were Nazis. The more he thought about it the more sense it made, given his grandfather’s bigoted pronouncements about everything and everyone.

        Hubs converted to Judaism in 1999. If someone wanted to fire him because his grandfather was a Nazi sympathizer, that would be – ironic.

      2. Artemesia*

        I have ancestors who were Hessian soldiers as well as those who fought in both the revolution and the confederacy. No child of a Nazi during WWII is teaching HS today — they would be at least in their 70s.

        1. Les Cargot*

          Excuse me, please, but don’t be ageist. One of the faculty at the high school where I teach is in her 70s. She doesn’t advertise her age but has mentioned things like where she was in school during certain historic events, and arithmetic isn’t that hard.

          And, so what? She’s an expert in her field, where teachers are in short supply. I say, let her teach as long as she enjoys working with her students.

        2. Laura*

          Not true. They might still be teaching. Also, they wouldn’t necessarily be in their 70s yet, depending on how old the parent was when they had kids/how old they were in WWII.

    5. Beth*

      I have one ancestor who was a Yankee Civil War general, and another ancestor who invented the lobotomy. We all carry both shame and pride, and the hope that we can do better than the worst of our ancestors.

    6. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      We’re talking about a grandparent, great-grandparent, or possibly great-great-grandparent, bearing in mind that the actual Nazis, the people who committed those crimes, were adults.

      The youngest survivors of the Holocaust are almost 80 years old; the ones who remember what was done to them and their families are in their late 80s or 90s.

    7. Worldwalker*

      Assuming we’re talking about actual-NSDAP Nazi rather than Neonazi, they ended in 1945. So, assuming Jane’s ancestor was 18 in 1945 and everyone has children at 25, the Nazi would have to have been a grandparent or great-grandparent. The original Nazi would have been born in 1927, their child in 1952, their grandchild in 1977, and their great-grandchild in 2002. If any of them had children at a younger age, or the Nazi ancestor was older, great-grandchild is more likely. Potentially great-great-grandchild depending on the age of that ancestor.

      Can the LW guarantee that all their ancestors, back for three or more generations, were good and worthy people? Not a Klansman, not a child abuser, not a loan shark, not a murderer among them?

      Can anyone?

    8. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      But also…1 in 10 Germans were in the Nazi party by the end of the WWII. Does that mean approx 1 in 10 Germans and German diaspora are now ineligible for hire anywhere in the world? Does being in the army count? (If this is a funded ‘retirement’, please let me know where to send my bank account info).

      1. Tau*

        More than one in 10 in the modern era, even, since people have more than one ancestor. I’ve actually always assumed that most modern-day Germans who aren’t either immigrants or descended from recent immigrants probably have a Nazi in their family tree somewhere (I sure do…). IDK what people expect us to do at this point, just punt the whole country into the sun?

      2. niknik*

        It’s more then 1 in 10 for the current population, because people have more then one ancestor. How would we be supposed to run any school over here in Germany ? O_o

    9. Ellis Bell*

      I’m really baffled at the concept that this is what you learn from history, too. I don’t think the message history teachers want to send children (just what subject do they teach anyway?!) is that the Nazis were so uniquely evil that this will never happen again with other nationalities. Or, to suggest that the source of Nazism was their family tree or bloodlines. It’s super ironic really, that they think just excluding the descendants of evil people is the way to prevent eugenics and bigotry in the future. I guess it’s easier than educating our kids to do better and make good choices.

    10. Orange You Glad*

      My Dad and I have been interested in researching our family history and my Dad came across a Nazi war criminal that shares our last name. We looked into him and he has the same background and is from the same part of Germany where our ancestors immigrated from. My direct ancestors were gone from Germany decades before WW2 but we think this Nazi may have been a 3rd or 4th cousin to my grandpa. We read up on his trial at Nuremberg and overall found the whole exercise interesting from a historical perspective.

      I casually mentioned it to a friend of mine and she freaked out. She also kept asking if I was ok and if I needed to talk out this “shocking new information”. Nope. Nothing “shocking” here. My family had no connection to this person other than a shared last name and potentially being from a different branch on the same family tree, many generations removed.

    11. Troutwaxer*

      Depending on age, maybe a great or even great-great grandchild… but if the OP is nervous they might remember that World War II was over eighty years ago, and even the youngest soldiers who fought in the war are approaching one-hundred. As for the Nazi elite… Hitler fought in World War I, so he’d be 125-130 if he was alive today. So chances are pretty good that Jane was not raised as anything remotely close to a Nazi.

  6. Star Trek Nutcase*

    If I was Jane and got fired for my ancestor’s sin, I would make it my priority to research everyone involved in the decision and out them in a huge way. Yes, I’m petty AF.

    No one is responsible for another’s bad actions (except parents for minor children in some cases), and I would ostracize anyone who told me they thought it was appropriate.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Seriously, though, I think if you looked far enough into anyone’s family tree you’d find someone who did something horrific.

      1. T.N.H*

        Also, many POC are descended from slave owners because of systemic rape. Do you fire them too? Once you dig in the whole thing falls apart.

        1. ferrina*

          My mind went here too.

          What are the rules for discrimination based on ancestors? If it was one ancestor that brutalized the other ancestor, what does that count as? What if terrible ancestor disowned their child that you descended from? What if the terrible ancestor never knew they had a child? What if the descendent never knew their ancestors?
          This whole premise is just weird and lacks critical thinking.

          1. AnonORama*

            What if the terrible ancestor was terrible *to* the person you want fired? I mean “your grandfather was a child molester” is not actually a good reason to fire…his victim…

          2. Happy Camper*

            Yep. My kids ancestors committed genocide on their OTHER ancestors. Ancestry is tough.

            1. sparkle emoji*

              Based on the ethnic background of my ancestors, this is a near certainty for me as well. The entire premise falls flat quickly if you think about it for more than a few minutes and understand Nazis as a real-life evil rather than the supernatural Indiana Jones evil.

        2. Ex-Teacher*

          The “funny” part of that (funny as in hypocritical) is that a plenty of right wingers and racists like to find situations where a POC is descended from a slave owner, and throw it in their face as a “you think you’re woke, turns out you need to need to cancel yourself and not me!”

          They haven’t actually thought about exactly *why* a POC might be descended from a slave owner, like exactly how that particular conception occurred.

          1. bamcheeks*

            It’s also based on exactly the same myth of blood-based heredity that animates racism– the idea that white people are accountable for white supremacy because they are biologically linked to the architects and beneficiaries of white supremacy, not the capital, power and privilege they passed on to (specific of their) descendents.

        3. NerdyKris*

          Not just POC, most people in the US who have ancestors that have been here a while are going to be descended from a slave owner. It’s just math. Every generation doubles the number of relatives. I’m 42, my grandparents were born around 1910, so that’s 4 people there. For their grandparents, assuming they had kids around 30, that’s another 16 people born in 1880. Go back one more generation and it’s 32 people. And since slavery was around a while, you have to keep going back all the way to the first colonies or whenever they arrived. It’s hundreds of people.

          1. Worldwalker*

            I’m not; my ancestors had to find different ways to be awful people. Some of them did quite a good job of it.

          2. A Genuine Scientician*

            Ideally, yes.

            In practice, in nearly all of our own ancestries, the same person shows up more than once, sooner than you might expect. 1st and 2nd cousin marriages weren’t particularly uncommon through the 1800s.

            1. La Triviata*

              Tennessee recently had a vehement discussion over a proposed law banning marriages between first cousins.

          3. linger*

            Go more than 5-6 generations back, though, and the math stops working, because not all those familial lines are entirely independent. (Though you really want to avoid the extreme case of European royal families with fewer than 6 distinct great-great-grandparents out of the theoretical 16. See especially Charles II of Spain, whose parents were uncle and niece.)

          4. Chirpy*

            I’m not. My ancestors that got here early enough lived in northern states where slavery was never legal (and fought in the Union army.) Most came after the Civil War though.

            So my ancestors weren’t slave owners, but I know a few were problematic in other ways.

            1. T.N.H*

              Slavery was legal in every colony here. Though this doesn’t mean your ancestors specifically were ever slave holders, it’s possible no matter where they came from.

              1. Chirpy*

                Their state banned slavery from its inception. Not sure about the territory before, but it wasn’t one of the original colonies. Were there slaveholders here at some point? It’s possible, but it wasn’t common, as far as I know.

                I mean, absolutely there were colonizers claiming Native lands, though. Likely some of my ancestors.

            2. Chauncy Gardener*

              Heh. Same here. Lived on a claim and mined coal, which was it’s own special hell.

      2. Miss Chanandler Bong*

        Yep. I know I have ancestors who were slave owners. Heck, my ancestors were colonizers, which meant they stole land from people who were already here. More recently, I know my great grandfather was a wife beater and a drunk. 3 out of four of my grandparents were most definitely racist. I hope no one is judging me for the sins of my ancestors. It’s a very long list.

        1. JustaTech*

          Seriously! I have ancestors who were slave owners, Confederates, colonizers, the illegitimate child of the head of the Dutch East India company, alcoholics and child-abandoners and adulterers.
          I also have ancestors who were good people, raising their children and just getting on with life.

          We can’t change who our ancestors were!

      3. Naomi*

        Yeah, I wonder if this sticks out in an American context because most descendants of Nazis are German. But it’s probably quite easy to find Americans descended from slaveowners or slave traders. The important part is for the descendants to reject that ideology and do better.

      4. shrinking violet*

        Seconding this. I have ancestors who were slave-owners in the early 19th century. Breaks my heart, makes me sick — but should I have been fired from jobs because of it?

      5. Quill*

        Yes. Especially because people who were well documented 150 and 200 years ago tended to be either rich (so likely exploiting someone, somewhere) or on the records because they were tried or convicted of a crime.

        (Obviously the nazi ancestor is more recent, but the principal remains that you’re going to often find more documentation of them than of their surviving victims.)

    2. L-squared*


      Oh, you want to do that to me, well Ms. Smith’s grandfather owned slaves, Mr. Johnson’s great grandfather was in the KKK. I’d go scortched earth.

      1. Artemesia*

        As far as I know my family were not slave owners (just by accident of geography). I do know that my grandparents were in the KKK — in Olympia Washington where there were probably no black people at all — but they were trying to keep Al Smith out of the White House (The KKK is anti-Catholic as well as racist). Meanwhile I am married to the son of a woman who was in a convent although she didn’t take final vows.

    3. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*

      One of the few times when “whataboutism” might be logically acceptable.

      1. Wintermute*

        it is in most cases yes, obviously details and exact law varies by context but in general it’s not okay and probably illegal.

      2. Ha2*

        Yes, but the political affiliation of ancestors (Nazi party) isn’t, legally speaking, race or ethnicity or national origin…

        1. Nina*

          In the US (where I am not) isn’t there also something about genetic information and how you can’t discriminate on that? Would that include ‘who your ancestors were’?

          1. Wintermute*

            not under the law, the law is meant for things like if you’re predisposed to a medical condition (the main reason, because employers have an insurance incentive to get rid of people prone to expensive things) or if they ever discover biomarkers that indicate mental illness (a fear talked about when they passed the bill if I recall, that employers would start trying to look for mental illness through gene tests).

            That said race, national origin, religion and ethnicity could all be potentially implicated if you start getting involved in policing the sins of the father.

    4. Bitte Meddler*

      Yanno, if I were the OP, *I* would be looking into the couples’ histories, just to point out to them how ridiculous they’re being.

  7. Jennifer Strange*

    All Nazis are 100% bad, but it doesn’t mean people who happened to be descended from them are. Many people come from horrible families and become amazingly wonderful people. Look no further than William Patrick Stuart-Houston, who was Hitler’s actual nephew who fought against his uncle as part of the US Navy.

    1. Evan Þ*

      Even “all Nazis are 100% bad” is an exaggeration – consider John Rabe, a German businessman and Nazi Party member who saved hundreds of thousands of Chinese from the Nanjing Massacre, and later tried to publicize Japanese atrocities and even got arrested by the Gestapo for it.

        1. Peter the Bubblehead*

          While I do not know if the others are buried in Israel, Schindler, along with Karl Plagge, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, Helmut Kleinicke, and Hans Walz are among the few Nazi Party members to be named Righteous Among the Nations.

        2. Jessica*

          I think there’s a difference between an actual Nazi and someone who changes their mind about Nazism and poses as a Nazi to actively undermine the Nazi project.

          1. Boof*

            From a purely historical standpoint, plenty of people probably joined the party either because it was unsafe for them not to (ie, hiding “undesirable” ancestry) or because it was otherwise expedient without actually believing in the ideology – as tends to happen with any group in power. Obviously tho the real sadists were pretty obvious to their victims.

          2. Worldwalker*

            You’re leaving out a large — possibly the largest — group: people who joined the Nazi party because it was socially expected of them, or legally required for their profession, or for some other pro-forma reason, not because they cared (or possibly even gave a thought) about its ideals. There are a lot of people who join churches, for example, for similar reasons.

      1. Peter the Bubblehead*

        Another perfect example is Oskar Schindler (of whom Steven Spielberg made a movie) who joined the Nazi Party in 1939 and even spied on behalf of the German Government in Czechoslovakia, but is considered one of the Righteous Among the Nations for helping save the lives of more than 1200 Jews during World War II and is buried with honor in Israel.

      2. Jessica*

        All Nazis are bad.

        Saving Chinese people doesn’t absolve you of actively working to wipe out Jews, or vice versa, any more than being a good husband or father makes you not a genocidal monster.

        Sometimes horrible people do non-horrible things.

        You can’t balance out active participation in genocide. Human lives aren’t a %#*!ing balance sheet.

        1. Chirpy*

          And sometimes people change their mind, and try to make up for previous actions/ beliefs by helping elsewhere. It’s not a balance sheet, no, but people aren’t always fixed permanently in their beliefs.

          1. Jessica*

            Absolutely, you can change your mind. Then you’re not a Nazi anymore.

            But I’m not interested in listening to gentiles argue that actively supporting exterminating me and everyone related to me doesn’t always make you a bad person.

            1. Chirpy*

              All people who commit genocide should absolutely be held accountable, no matter what good they’ve done elsewhere. People are just unfortunately complicated.

    2. Armchair analyst*

      Yeah, when people were basically forced to join the German Nazi Party to save themselves, their businesses, or their families, I’m not going to agree with 100% of Nazis are 100% bad. Nazis by choice, now… or American Nazis…. They’re pretty much 100% bad but may have the capacity to change and certainly can have wonderful children and grandchildren

  8. Ben the PM*

    I’m the Jewish descendent of Holocaust (and pogrom) and the idea of firing somebody because they were *descended from a Nazi* is absolutely horrifying to me. I don’t even have words for this. If Jane *is a Nazi* by all means fire her. If she’s pro-Nazi, same thing. But whether or not she’s descended from them makes not a speck of difference here. Yikes.

    1. sparklecat*

      Yeah, I am also horrified by this. I am also Jewish. The fact that these people are uncomfortable with Jane is actually *worse* to me than the fact Jane had Nazi ancestors.

      1. Observer*

        I agree. Because I’m pretty sure that this is not actually about Nazi ideology, but about simple bigotry. Who else are they going to want to get fired (legally or not) because of who they are rather than what they did / do?

        And that’s the biggest irony. One of the ideas at the heart of Nazism is that “blood” is everything. And the some streams are better than others. The similarity to what these women are saying and that ideology is striking.

      2. Worldwalker*

        This whole thing brings a lot of Nazi ideology to mind — but it’s the accusers, not Jane, who look like Nazis. They’ve just swapped “Nazi” for “non-Aryan” in their “purity” research, and think that, like someone who had Jewish ancestry under the Berufsbeamtengesetz, Jane should be ineligible for employment because she’s a mischling. That is exactly Nazi ideology, just with different groups. But totally the same mentality.

        From the US Constitution: “…no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

        Corruption of Blood is right out.

      3. sparkle emoji*

        Yes. This whole response from the friends feels like they see Nazis as a supernatural evil like the Nazi zombies in an Indiana Jones movie. As if it is an evil that’s unique and alien to us, rather than an evil that we need to watch out for and work to keep the promise of “never again”. There’s this complacency that as long as you don’t have a Nazi in your family tree, you could never be guilty of that kind of evil.

    2. EMP*

      I think it’s horrifying because it’s that same assumption that someone’s genetic makeup will determine their actions that is used to justify pogroms, Jim Crow, and so much other bigotry and violence. It’s not a comfort that the bigotry is directed at the “right” group here.

      1. metadata minion*

        Yes, agree. I read an interview years ago from the granddaughter of…Himmler, maybe? One of the top leadership anyway. And she said that she decided not to change her name because a) she didn’t want to try to hide from her family’s history and b) that would feel like affirming the Nazi ideology that your blood and ancestry determine your destiny and worth as a person.

      2. Stopped Using My Name*

        EMP, this is the closest comment as what I have been feeling. The comment section is uncomfortable for me today.

        I am not Jewish (since the topic is Nazis), but in some circles my group would be the “right” group to direct bigotry at. Groups are not monolithic, even the problematic ones. The focus needs to be on how the handle the individuals.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Also Jewish, very visibly and loudly so, also a descendant of people who fled from pogroms (my great-grandparents, whom I knew quite well) and never in a million years would I ever be ok with someone being fired simply because of who their parents are. That approach troubles me deeply. How far is it supposed to go? My parents are doctors, it doesn’t mean I am qualified to provide medical care. My parents are also not very nice people, and I’ve spent many years working hard to be different from them. I do realize the stakes aren’t exactly analogous, but come on– we’re punishing people simply because of the actions of their parents and grandparents?

      I would have no problem firing someone who said, “I’m descended from [insert Nazi here] and he was the real victim and he should have finished the job.” Unless Jane tells people otherwise, this is not that.

      I also don’t think Jane should constantly be put in the position of apologizing for her parents, but that’s another discussion.

      1. Worldwalker*

        And it’s not even her parents. Not unless Jane is pretty much retirement age.

        My mother was 19 at the end of WWII. She’s old enough to be my grandmother. I’m in my 60s.

        At the very least, it’s Jane’s grandparent — more likely great-grandparent, or even before. Remember that the “1000 Year Reich” ended in 1945.

    4. Dittany*

      Same. I’m a Jew whose family fled to America, and I’d be appalled if Jane was fired because of something that happened before she was even born.

    5. Anon for this*

      I am a direct descendant of a Nazi in a helping profession, and I want to thank all of you who commented with the affirmation of hiring people based on who they are. I don’t share my family’s history, and am often tempted to instead highlight my direct relatives who were executed due to assisting their neighbors flee. But regardless of the branches of the family tree on the right side of history, I’m very aware that my great grandparents weren’t. And I’m all the more committed to justice, equity, and anti racist work, my responsibility to humility and learning, and striving to be the ally, neighbor, and coworker that brings about these things. It never feels enough. Seeing the grace and perspective of these comments gives me a boost that anyone who knows about my family may give me a chance to be judged by my own actions and character, and I’m grateful.

      1. Worldwalker*

        It is good that you are committed to justice as you are. But you don’t need to be because of your ancestor — you’re not them, you had no control over their actions (not being born yet and all!), and absolutely, you bear no guilt for their crimes.

        We are only guilty of the things that we ourselves have done; that is enough. We do not need to atone for what other people have done.

        That said: we need more people committed to the same ideals as you, whatever their reason.

    6. Abundant Shrimp*

      Similar ancestry here (my direct ancestors died in the Holocaust, but I don’t know if my family survived any pogroms), and the very idea gave me the chills. To me it is not a whole lot different from when during my childhood and youth in the USSR, the authorities (and sometimes helpful citizens) would dig into a person’s family history and dissect their parents’ and grandparents’ names to determine if they were Jews. Gross, and opens the door to a lot of terrifying things.

      Also, from a practical standpoint, how would the school even go about firing Jane without having it be an HR/PR nightmare?

      PS. My one family member who survived the Holocaust, spent the last 20 years of her life receiving substantial monthly payments as reparations. From Germany. Were some of the people involved in making those payments out to her descendants of Nazis, I bet they were. Does it matter? Should it count against them somehow? Not one bit.

    7. iglwif*

      Also Jewish, also horrified by this.

      You fire *actual Nazis*. You don’t fire someone because they are descended from someone who was a Nazi 70 years ago.

  9. Traffic Engineer*

    This feels like the reaction a lot of people are having to anything>/i> that makes them even mildly uncomfortable these days – “I don’t like this, therefore it must be bad, therefore the most extreme measure to remove this from my awareness must be taken.”

    There may be some hope in explaining that the sins of our ancestors are not our own faults, but it’ll reeeeeeally depend on the person you’re talking to.

    1. AE*

      I think often about Alison’s observation that inclusion and “safety” are often in opposition to each other (I put “safety” in quotes not to mock the idea but because it can mean different things to different people.)

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        This isn’t even about inclusion and safety. The people wanting the person fired are not in any way unsafe. They just don’t want to be around someone whose ancestors they don;t like but who has personally done nothing wrong.

        1. HonorBox*

          I disagree slightly. The people wanting Jane fired may be making her feel unsafe in the workplace. If I had people who were after me for the sins of someone I was related to but never met, I’d feel unsafe.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            Okay. I took it to mean the colleagues who wanted her fired feel unsafe working with the descendant of a nazi. But I can see your interpretation too.

            But in that case, safety and inclusion are one and the same — Jane should not be excluded for her ancestors and she should feel safe at work from others who want her fired for said ancestors.

        2. AE*

          I agree, but a lot of people seem to conflate “safety” and “comfort,” and here the coworkers are clearly uncomfortable with this information and are using “this person is a danger to the chiiiiildren” as an excuse to try to make it (the person and the discomfort) go away because they can’t think of any other way to deal with it.

          If anyone’s safety is at risk, it’s Jane’s, as Honor Box notes below.

        3. Lab Boss*

          But expanding on what Traffic Engineer said- it seems that many people aren’t able to parse the different kinds of discomfort. Discomfort from knowing an unpleasant fact is treated the same as discomfort from being actively treated poorly and discomfort from being aware of a physical risk, and the outcome can be people feeling discomfort (like Jane’s colleagues) and expressing a demand that the situation be changed because it “makes them feel unsafe.”

    2. not nice, don't care*

      idk, isn’t there some bible thing about punishment being meted out for generations? extreme xtians do like to get their money’s worth out of that old book.

      1. OneAngryAvacado*

        I believe it crops up in the Old Testament, and then in the New Testament Jesus says something to the tune of ‘people should only be held responsible for their own deeds and not their forebears’ (I believe objecting to the idea that a blind man is blind and therefore ‘divinely punished’ because of his parents’ sins); so that’s not even an accurate Bible thing!

      2. Bitte Meddler*

        And this is an excellent example of why that book shouldn’t be used as a guideline for anything in the workplace.

        I’ll also argue that that book shouldn’t be used as a guideline for *anything*, but that’s a discussion for a different website than this one.

      3. Worldwalker*

        There’s also something about it in the US Constitution, with regard for punishment for treason. “…no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.” No Corruption of Blood, y’all. Says it right there.

      4. Anon for this*

        So we are okay with bashing people’s religious beliefs and holy books here? Or just certain ones?

        1. Bitte Meddler*

          I figure that any book / belief that bigots point to as their base reason for having the government strip other people of their civil rights is fair game for criticism.

          And I’m surprised that you think the phrase “extreme xtians” is the exact same thing as bashing an entire religion when — clearly and specifically — Not Nice Don’t Care is referring to a subset of xtians.

          Unless, of course, you think that *all* xtians are extreme, Anon For This.

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          I don’t think it’s bashing a holy book to criticise people who take one line, in translation, out of context and without even checking if it’s been translated accurately and then base their moral views on that.

      5. Roland*

        What a weird red herring. The troubling trend Traffic Engineer is describing is quite common in people who know s-all about the bible and have never willingly gone to church. In fsct I’d say your comment is part of the problem TE describes, by trying to cast something you don’t like into a specific role (“extreme xtians”) so that you can dismiss it more easily without actually grappling with it.

  10. Tobias Funke*

    This is a really bad look and really poor critical thinking on these teachers’ parts. Sure glad I am not assessed as employable or not based on my relatives and ancestors. It would not be great.

  11. Dawn*

    I think something like one in every six people is related to one of the French kings, many of whom were famously not so nice.

    Off with their heads or something, I guess.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      Isn’t there a significant number of people descended from Genghis Khan? He killed plenty of people.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Over 16 million people in China carry Genghis Khan’s DNA.

      I’m trying to imagine how this mindset would work in reality. A whole lot of people are going to get fired!

      1. MassMatt*

        Genghis really got around. It’s amazing he had any time for conquest or rule, really.

  12. CityMouse*

    Don’t get me wrong, it’d be wring to fire Jane for her grandparents or great grandparents’ action under any circumstances. But if your coworkers are also defining “Nazi” as “fought for Germany in WWII” or “family lived in Germany during WWII” there’s also a decent argument that firing her would be based on a protected category (national origin). You can’t fire someone because they’re of German descent.

    1. Cat Tree*

      I think a policy of firing descendants of Nazis could potentially skirt the law due to “disparate impact”. (Note I am not anything even resembling a lawyer.) And it would be national origin as you mentioned.

      1. CityMouse*

        Not legal advice. Disparate impact involves firing people for a reason that is facially neutral but the result ends up impacting people based on a protected category. Here, explicitly firing people based on German descent would be on its face discriminatory.

    2. Here for the Money*

      This is my situation exactly. My grandfather was drafted into the Wehrmacht, he emigrated here after the war and spent his whole life putting it behind him and being an upstanding member of his community. He actively downplayed and disavowed that part of his life until he died, but it’s still there in the past. He wasn’t a Nazi, as he wasn’t part of the political party, but he still fought for that army (drafted against his will, but still), and that’s a very difficult point to get across to people.

      1. Angela Zeigler*

        This is a very good point- I highly doubt OP and the teachers even think about that distinction. I really hope it wasn’t just ‘New teacher comes from a German vet’ and they just assumed it was a villain in Schindler’s List.

      2. Anon for this one*

        I have a dear friend whose uncle by marriage was the son of a German printer. His father fought in the war on the side of Germany. He’s told us that his father ended up drinking very heavily in his later years because of the guilt he felt. They were able to emigrate to the US later on, where his uncle married a Jewish woman and had two Jewish sons. He’s a wonderful person who I would never hold responsible for his father’s actions, and really, what options did he have?

        1. Worldwalker*

          I do find it interesting when the “my country right or wrong” crowd suddenly has issues with people fighting in the army that drafted them.

          1. Ha2*

            Because it’s “my country, right or wrong”, not “that other country, right or wrong”, of course!

    3. DyneinWalking*

      Yeah, if you’re a native German it’s almost guaranteed that at least one of your ancestors was a Nazi.
      The requested policy would remove the majority of the population of Germany…

      My own great-grandfather, for example, was a (very minor) Nazi officer who is mentioned by name in at least one history book. My grandfather, his eldest son, refused to join the Hitler Jugend and was considered a disgrace by his father.
      I never met any of the Nazis in my family because they “died out” with my great-grandparents. And I certainly never held these believes myself.

      I hate what my great-grandfather did, but what would punishing people like me for our ancestor ever accomplish? He is long dead and wouldn’t be affected by this at all. None of his actions would be changed and none would be prevented.

      1. Florp*

        Yeah, came here to say this. There are so many Germans who are explicitly anti-Nazi and who also have a Nazi in their family tree. You can’t judge someone by the accident of their birth–their actual present day character and actions are what count.

      2. I&I*

        And even if he was a passionate Nazi who held a lot of power in the party, that’s not his (great?)-granddaughter’s fault. Piss on his grave, not his descendants. If she’s a decent person – and there’s nothing in the letter that suggests she isn’t – she probably feels bad enough about it without losing her job!

    4. Lab Boss*

      That’s what I thought as well- even being a registered member of the party in the 30s and 40s is not the same as being an active and willing adherent to the Nazi ideology, let alone the fact that not all Germans or even the whole German military either belonged to the party OR supported the ideology.

      1. D'Arcy*

        This is true, although keep in mind that after the war, most of the people who *were* active and willing adherents of the Nazi ideology falsely claimed that they were only nominal members.

    5. Janet*

      Yeah, I am even side eying whether they know for a fact that one of the teacher’s ancestors was a nazi or whether they just learned that *gasp* her mother’s maiden name is German so the family must be nazis!

      1. sparkle emoji*

        I’d have to assume that’s not the case? Because if German last name=family are Nazis, approximately half of the population in the Midwest state I’m from would be considered Nazi even when most families immigrated long before WWII. Maybe I’m assuming too much for these friends but still, that would be a leap.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          It could still be something like they found out her family immigrated from Germany after the war and they assume came from Germany = Nazis.

    6. Spencer Hastings*

      Yeah, I was curious about whether this would be national origin discrimination as well.

  13. bamcheeks*

    Focussing on the literal descendants of Nazis kind of seems like a cop-out when both their political descendants and the corporations who sponsored and profited from Nazi atrocities are still out there doing their thing.

            1. Andromeda*

              Hang on though, at that point you’re getting into the “you claim to hate society and yet you participate in it” fake logic. OP’s friends are very wrong to ask for financial harm to be done to Jane (firing her) by association, but it’s sadly not easy for everyone to just opt out of every product from every corporation associated with Nazis or atrocities, at least if their employer insists on it.

              1. bamcheeks*

                No, but we could as a society choose not to allow the corporations, families and individuals who profited from atrocities to keep the capital and power that they accumulated and pass them down over multiple generations. I’m not saying, “you can’t criticise someone for being the granddaughter of a Nazi unless you personally boycott Adidas”, because it still be a ridiculous position even if you did personally boycott Adidas. I just also think it’s ridiculous to have grand state and social positions that say, “slavery was bad”, “colonialism was bad”, “Nazism was bad” “… but the economic and political structures they created are fine and we shouldn’t do anything about them.”

                1. Andromeda*

                  Yes, but we also don’t know whether OP’s friends do actually personally boycott those companies or structures, and nor is it all that relevant to the question — the advice doesn’t change!

              2. Ace in the Hole*

                I think that’s the whole point.

                They can’t avoid participating entirely in associating with Nazi atrocities… and yet they still have more control over it than Jane has over her association with a Nazi ancestor.

              3. amoeba*

                Also, tbh, a Nazi history (which pretty much every German company that’s older than 1945 has, because, well…) is… certainly not the worst thing a company can have. Not saying they shouldn’t be held responsible (and a lot of them do quite openly talk about their role in that time!), but I do feel that the policies they have *now* are a bit more relevant…

    1. MapleLibrarian*

      Yes, I wonder if either of these concerned teachers drive, or have ever driven, a VW? Or use something made by IBM?

  14. redheadedscientist*

    I’m sure every single one of us is related to some terrible people but Jane didn’t choose to be descended from a Nazi anymore than I chose to be descended from a Confederate soldier. This kind of puritanical, black and white thinking is only going to backfire. None of us are responsible for how we’re born; we are responsible for what we do with our lives and how we grow and change.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      Oh my goodness, you’re descended from a Confederate soldier?! You ought to be fired! /s

      (me too — the non-Jewish side of my family had people on both sides of the Civil War)

    2. VaguelySpecific*


      (Side note: as a parent I’d be much more concerned about these coworkers teaching my child than Jane teaching them…)

  15. Stella70*

    Not to make light of this, but I am a direct descendent of moonshiners and I get so tired of people thinking I will bring all the beverages to get-togethers.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      I would actually prefer it if you bring the beer you seem to be named after….I’ll buy.

    2. Portia*

      I have moonshiners on one side, and the Irish side ran a blind pig (speakeasy) in Detroit during Prohibition. Maybe the children of alcoholics should refuse to work with us?

      Everybody has shady, alarming, and/or just plain evil people somewhere in the family tree. I’d be more concerned about the people who decided their co-worker’s bloodline was their business than about Jane. They should be shut down immediately and strongly discouraged from conducting or gossiping about any such “research” on the people they work with.

      1. Quill*

        When your elderly relatives start doing a family tree project you learn shit about your ancestors. You probably end up being fonder of great great uncle “hanged for horse thievery” than great grandpa slaveowner or cousin “I swear my wife is just clumsy, officer.” What your ancestors did doesn’t say anything about what you will do.

        Deciding to investigate Jane’s ancestry, on the other hand, says something about the investigators. Something about premeditated ill-will, given the depth of the search, and the fact that nobody googles their coworkers looking for GOOD things.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        There’s one branch of my family tree that has a series of deaths going back and forth on sub-branches over a course of years with the cause of death listed as “poisoned”. All we can think of was there was some kind of feud going between 2 different parts of the family one tit for tat poisoning after the other. In that case, who knows how many of those people were murderers. We’ve all got bad stuff in our family histories.

        It did, though, explain the family story of great-great-grandfather so and so who grew up in an orphanage. Because if you’re flinging poison back and forth like that eventually, there’s not going to be many people left standing and some kids are bound to wind up orphaned.

        Then again, that’s the same branch of my family with multiple people who fought as Patriots in Massachusetts during the Revolutionary War … does that cancel out the evil murderer blood?

    3. Juicebox Hero*

      You’d have to deliver them to a rendezvous spot at midnight in a black car with the lights off. You can’t just deliver them to a party in broad daylight.

      My paternal grandfather had mob ties. That’s how I was able to get a Cabbage Patch doll during the infamous Cabbage Patch Riots of 1982. He owned a general store that was a front for a gambling ring; the rules were, you never went in the back room when Grampa was with his “friends” and if he gave you a present you said “thank you” and didn’t ask questions.

      1. Stella70*

        Shame on you for telling that anecdote without the providing the name of your doll! Mine was a little boy named “Walt Duke”. Absolutely the cutest one! He was Black and I am White, so I felt the need to explain to everyone he was adopted. The 1ooth or so person I told said, “Duh. That’s the point. THEY ARE ALL ADOPTED.”
        I was 12 then, and not the brightest bulb on the tree.

        1. Juicebox Hero*

          You’re absolutely right! Her name is Stefi Garnet and she has blue eyes and loopy yellow yarn hair. I still have her in a storage bin somewhere.

          A year or two later when the frenzy was over and the dolls could be got without Connections, she got a baby sister named Donna Alice on my birthday.

          1. Stella70*

            You have TWO? Some people are born with a silver spoon (pacifer?) in their mouth, I guess. :)
            And yes, I still have Walt Duke.

        2. Puzzled2219*

          At least you made up a unique name for yours. I took the initials from CPK on the birth certificate and determined mine was a Calvin Patrick.

          1. Stella70*

            Yours only had initials, not a full name? Did they get him at Costco?! hahahahaha…
            Just teasing!

    4. Festively Dressed Earl*

      My mom dabbled in drug dealing and SAME. Hard pass. I’ll bring cupcakes.

  16. I'm A Little Teapot*

    I’ve done some genealogy. My mother has done a LOT of genealogy. There is one thing I can confidently state: every single person, ever, everywhere, has ancestors who did bad things. So, if you want the descendants of a Nazi to be fired because of what their ancestor did, then you need to be ok with being fired because of what your ancestor did.

    1. Lab Boss*

      I would also add… knowing, and understanding, that kind of family history can be very important. When my great-grandfather died and my father was helping to clean out the house, it became clear he had been very high in the local organization of the Klan, including various records and history of its operations in the area. While I’m not PROUD of this in my family history, I think it’s good the information was found to help us understand more about how their doings shaped local history and why he did the things he did.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        “How did five-greats-grandfather get to be so rich? … Oh.”

        The more I learn about some of my ancestors the worse it gets. There are some charming stories and then some where they were distinctly on the wrong side of history.

    2. anon_sighing*

      > There is one thing I can confidently state: every single person, ever, everywhere, has ancestors who did bad things.

      I really have to push back at this thinking. It’s only reaffirming the thought that brought them to this. People will only start playing the “well, my ancestor only did a felony! Yours was a Nazi!” game — just *stop.* This is getting SO exhausting. And this idea completely ignores the racism of the criminal justice system, people doing “bad” things because they needed to survive, prevalent ideas at the time, shifting notions of what “bad” is, etc.

      Jane didn’t do anything. That’s IT. Period. Fin. Done. This idea that we need to assign blame to everyone to absolve someone is so…I dunno, I could write a ten thousand or more words on how this is all part of the same problem LW’s friends have.

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        The type of person who wants someone fired because of what their grandparent did needs precisely this message. It has to hit them directly, or they won’t get it. Should it be that way? No. But it is. If you want to make a change then you have to influence people in the way that they can be reached. And for some of them, that’s the message “ok, but if that happens then we have to be fair so your job is on the line too.”

        You can be idealistic or you can be effective. I choose effective.

  17. ThatGirl*

    Yeesh. My maternal grandfather was a horrible bigot and racist as well as generally abusive. (Somehow my mom turned out pretty normal.) My paternal uncle (still alive!) is a rather notorious Holocaust denier, conspiracy nut and all-around bigot. I sincerely hope nobody would hold my relatives against me – I don’t even talk to my uncle any more, except to tell him how embarrassing he is to the family.

    1. Felicity Porter*

      Shoot, my maternal grandmother lost a boyfriend at D-Day, her husband (my grandfather) fought with the 106th Cavalry, which apparently saw some really serious action, and her neighbor while my mother was growing up was part of the force that liberated Bergen Belsen and she *still* thought the Holocaust “was exaggerated.” I’d hate for her sentiments to be used against me.

  18. I should really pick a name*

    I’d love to know what info could be dug up about the teachers’ ancestors.

      1. anon_sighing*

        Yeah, but *why* is more important. I’ve never felt compelled to do this in my life.

        1. ArchivesPony*

          I find genealogy fascinating (partly why I majored in history and wanted to have a minor in geography) so that’s why I do it (plus it’s also part of my job ;)) but sometimes people are just nosey

    1. Not-So-New Mom (of 1 8/9)*

      Reminds me of the Anderson Cooper episode of “Finding Your Roots” where he found out a slave-holding ancestor of his was killed by one of his slaves, and in so many words his reaction was “well, he deserved it!”

    1. Margaret Cavendish*

      I’d assume Jane was innocent, period. This isn’t a court of law, she isn’t charged with any crime, she doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone.

    2. Worldwalker*

      Proven guilty of what?

      We all have ancestors who did something bad. One of mine was a Cossack when they were the Czar’s leg-breakers. Another was a loan shark, bad cop, and general-purpose racist. And there were more I know less about.

      I confess to having such ancestors. So, what am I guilty of?

    3. anon_sighing*

      People are having a reaction to this statement but literally everyone is innocent until proven guilty. That’s how society works; we all have the capacity to do bad and it may or may never be realized (intentionally, I suppose — trust me, there’s someone who doesn’t like you somewhere for some reason). You trust your coworkers to not steal your bag from your desk or lunch, bringing it in every day, leaving it in the fridge — until, maybe, one lunch, someone does. It’s a real possibility and it happens. Then you deal and adjust.

      So I guess society is like an office kitchen. Lol.

  19. TeenieBopper*

    These people sound like peak middle class white liberals who put on a front of being tolerant and want to look like they’re progressive but in reality they’re just pieces of shit.

    1. Djs*

      But really- even the performative type of liberals- have you ever heard any of them espousing an argument like this? This really sounds more like someone making a fake argument to get people to react than an actual thing?

      1. Yeah...*

        Yes, it happens. Are you saying you have not witnessed it?

        Blaming, punishing or, in this case, saying someone should be fired based on what their relatives did is not new.

      2. Lab Boss*

        Even Alison, who I believe to be extremely professional and thoughtful, has said she’d feel uncomfortable with Jane until she had a direct reason not to be. It’s no stretch to think that a less professional, more reactive person wouldn’t get further than feeling the discomfort and just go to demanding action.

        1. Observer*

          Even Alison, who I believe to be extremely professional and thoughtful, has said she’d feel uncomfortable with Jane until she had a direct reason not to be

          And explicitly points out that this is NOT something any reasonable person should take action on! And also, who one earth goes looking for this stuff and then spreads it around?

          It’s no stretch to think that a less professional, more reactive person wouldn’t get further than feeling the discomfort and just go to demanding action.

          No. Any functional adult should understand that this is wildly out of line.

          1. Lab Boss*

            I think you misunderstood my post. I wasn’t saying it was good or reasonable to do, I was saying that I can absolutely believe there are real people who think and act like this, not just strawmen. They are in the wrong, they SHOULD know they are out of line, but that doesn’t make them fake.

        2. Worldwalker*

          Which I don’t get.

          Would she be uncomfortable around me, with a grandfather who was almost certainly KKK?

            1. er*

              Sent before I finished. It would make me worry about what values you grew up around and I am not obligated to feel safe around you until you prove yourself a danger.

              1. Worldwalker*

                You would feel uncomfortable around me — a person you would know, whose personality you know, whose values you know — because of someone who died (possibly, according to family legend, poisoned by his second wife) before I was born? Someone I never knew?

                For that matter, I’ve been posting on AAM for years; you “know” me at least slightly. And that’s outweighed by someone I never knew?

          1. Enai*

            Look, if a Jewish person is uncomfortable around people having the last name of some well known Nazi war criminal I completely understand. Being uncomfortable says absolutely nothing about them except that they experience discomfort. Acting on that discomfort by trying to get the person fired for things their grandparents did before they were even born would be the wrong thing to do, but feeling some kind of way in the privacy of one’s own mind? Can’t be helped and usually means nothing more than that generational trauma sure f!cks you up.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        Not necessarily people who claim to be liberals but given how often family members of criminals have been targetted for abuse, I can totally believe it happened.

      4. Plume*

        Yes sadly.

        These apple don’t fall far from the tree types are everywhere in liberal spaces. I’ve ran into them often as a socio-enconomic ladder climber. They’ll pat themselves on the back for being open minded and a Good person and absolutely be sexist, racist, classiest, etc. while defending whatever the narrow focus is at the time.

      5. anon_sighing*

        Yes, hiding behind “we’re only doing this because we care about our Jewish and BIPOC coworkers / student’s feelings! <3 We don't want them to be upset and uncomfortable so while Jane is a wonderful person, her family history just isn't gonna work if we want to protect them </3" without consulting the group of people they're trying to protect is a classic performative type of liberal move. Paternalism is the name of the game 1/3 of the time, 1/3 of the time is using marginalized people as a shield, and the last 1/3 is using /helping marginalized people as a means of making themselves feel or look better.

      6. Roland*

        Uh, yeah, I see suppsed liberals and leftists making arguments like this literally all of the time. Maybe this letter is fake, idk, but it’s 100% something that I’d see happening IRL.

    2. Resentful Oreos*

      “In this house, we believe…children *are* responsible for the sins of their fathers!”

  20. The Cosmic Avenger*

    This is not only does not reflect at all on Jane in and of itself, I am now very leery of this couple, who somehow “found out one of their recently-hired colleagues (“Jane”) is the direct descendant of a Nazi”. I would keep these “friends” at arms length both for their inference of guilt by association and the suspect nature of the info.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        I was coming here to say this as well. If Jane didn’t volunteer the information, then how exactly did they find out? Have they talked to her and confirmed it firsthand? Seems unlikely. My guess is something like Jane’s last name is Schmidt, in a town where most people are Smith, and these two went AHA! Nazis!

        I mean, critical thinking isn’t exactly their forte, even taking their argument at face value. But take it back even further, how did they arrive at this particular argument? I’m going to guess there wasn’t a lot of critical thinking involved there either.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I mean, I don’t want to assume malicious intent, but if I was saying someone should lose their job, I’d be explaining in detail both the offense AND my confidence level if it wasn’t something I had experienced first-hand. But at best they’re just careless and cavalier about other peoples’ livelihoods and reputations.

    1. Resentful Oreos*

      I’d be very uncomfortable at what they might try to dig up on me. I’m not worried about stuff like public Instagram posts of my cats or visits to the farmer’s market, but if someone decided to do a deep dive on Ancestry or something like that. That’s weird and creepy.

      And if this couple just assumed that Jane was the direct descendant of a Nazi based on flimsy evidence (her name? Had German ancestry? “Vibes?”) I’d think these people were stupid and untrustworthy. Are these the kinds of people who would run to tell a supervisor or principal that they saw me tagged in a Facebook post with a drink in my hand? Or that they saw me checking a very naughty book out of the library? Or they snooped around my Amazon wish list and found out I wanted a pagan calendar, or a memoir by an LGBT author, or various stuff they might think of as “sinful” and “will corrupt the dear precious innocent children?”

      I would not touch near this couple with the proverbial ten-foot pole. If I had to work with them, I’d be polite (because I have to work with them) but very, very distant. They are not to be trusted.

    2. anon_sighing*

      Yeeeep. What’s the worse thing you can call someone in the USA? “A racist” or “a Nazi.” (Note! I said “call” – whether they are or are not seems to be immaterial to people, it’s the label they take offense to, not actual beliefs *eye roll*). I bet they picked “Nazi” because racist probably wouldn’t be enough to get them fired considering the circumstances (also they couldn’t prove it, I suppose).

      Nothing about this sounds credible and if it is, looking up a coworker’s family tree is so beyond weird. There is NO reasonable excuse for this.

  21. The Other Sage*

    My grandmother used to be a Nazi, and I would be heartbroken if people refused to employ me because of her horrific views. I’m not her and I have had bad arguments with her because she was very racist and homophobic. While I do have thoughts to unpack and work on, I am doing the hard work and I would be very surprised if I was the only person on this planet like this.

    Please judge people for who they are, not for with whom they related too.

    P.S: I happen to know about two communists who are the only communists in a family of fascists.

      1. anon_sighing*

        Fascism gets thrown around without people really knowing what it is. There are some key differences between the two, but at this point both of them have become badges more than real political ideologies.

        1. The Other Sage*

          Both grew up in Spain, one during Francoist Spain the other after that period of time. Both their families where proponent of that regime, which is why I called them fascists.

          According to the internet, this regime had fascists elements, but was nevertheless different (bad in a different way than it was in Italy).

          What I wanted to do with my comments is to give an example about how people can be ideologically very different to their family of origin.

    1. ferrina*

      I’m LC/NC with certain family members because they are horrible people. They were horrible people before I was born, and I certainly had no say about being born into that family. Some of the family member enable the horrible people, but some argue and/or nope out of there. I had many heated debates as a kid but (surprise /s) horrible people don’t want to hear about how horrible they are from a (well-spoken, well-informed, logically-sound) teenager. They didn’t want a redemption arc.

      So I moved away as soon as I became an adult and never looked back. Most people have no idea that I have that side of the family, and anyone I’ve told is always shocked that someone like me could be related to someone like that.

    2. EngineeringFun*

      Agreed. This would basically prohibit hiring anyone from German decent. This is a much more nuanced issue. A great book to read is “stones from the river”.

  22. AE*

    This is bizarre, because (1) it implies that the teachers went unprompted on some kind of deep-dive family tree fact finding mission about Jane, and (2) if this were a policy you would have to fire or bar from employment a large proportion of people who had ancestors in Germany and other fascist-controlled countries in the first part of the twentieth century, who, even if they weren’t high-ranking party members (like Jane’s ancestors apparently were?) would have been members of the rank-and-file and/or were on board with the ideology. (Also, excluding people simply because of their ancestry is kind of an ironic desire in this case.)

    (If it matters, I’m also Jewish and would be uncomfortable if someone talked about having Nazi ancestors in a positive, neutral, or flippant way, but none of this seems to be the case with Jane.)

    1. amoeba*

      Yeah, thanks – as a German, this whole question is honestly pretty… weird to read! I mean, we mostly talk quite openly about the fact that yeah, probably most of our ancestors were, in fact, Nazis in one way or the other. Whether they actually embraced the ideology or “only” joined the party to keep their heads down and do what was expected, who knows, except for the ones where it was really blatant, obviously.

      Getting fired from a job because of that (or even getting judged for that) would certainly be… unexpected. Like, as was said before, it would probably go for a large majority of this country, as unfortunately the percentage of people who were in the resistance was pretty slim….

      1. Worldwalker*

        And most of the people in the resistance didn’t leave any descendants. The Nazis made sure of that.

      2. Tau*

        Fellow German who went ????

        I think it’s really part of the modern cultural make-up that we all know that, unless you’re lucky enough to have four grandparents who were all in the resistance and managed to survive to have kids, you are descended from people who were complicit in genocide. The grandma who baked you cookies or the grandpa who read you stories as a kid? Complicit. And you need to deal with that and what it means and figure out how to be *better* than they were. That’s the legacy all of us following generations have been left with.

        I… cannot even fathom what goes through the head of someone who thinks the logical response to this is to fire anyone of Nazi descent. I mean. For one, the whole point here is that I am not my grandparents? For another, most of the population of Germany has now been deemed unemployable and this doesn’t seem a particularly useful take.

    2. Lulu*

      I wonder if there’s something else they don’t like about Jane or if they feel threatened/jealous of her for some reason that led them to dig up this information.

  23. CV*

    The LW’s colleagues don’t even know if this allegation is true; it came from someone who isn’t Jane. It’s gossip/hearsay, and yet, they’re spreading it.

    1. pally*


      At my first job after college, there was one gal who worked in the data section that I had to touch base with at the start of every shift. She was a very quiet, shy woman. She spoke very little. The conversation we had was like 10 seconds- I had to make sure she got the data she needed before I could restart the equipment for the evening shift.

      I was always polite and friendly to her. I’d give her a smile and ask, “How are you today?” or make some other small talk. She’d kind of mutter, “Just fine, thank you.” No one else seemed to ever talk to her.

      Someone pulled me aside and explained that her father was a Nazi. That’s why she never talked much. I didn’t know what to make of this. Is this why folks treated her as they did? Should I follow suit? That didn’t sit well with me.

      I had no clue if this gossip was true or not. Either way, I continued to be friendly. What could it hurt?

      1. Resentful Oreos*

        That poor woman. She didn’t get to choose her father! Unless she openly shared his beliefs, your coworkers were not very nice people to ostracize her for something she could not help.

  24. MicroManagered*

    OP your friends are messed up people and I kinda wish they weren’t teaching. I really hope this letter is fake.

    1. OP*

      OP here; this letter is absolutely not fake. My husband is childhood friends with one of the teachers, and I see them only when we go visit my husband’s hometown (which, pre-Covid, was about once a year) and don’t talk to them otherwise. That said, they seem like mostly decent people but I was taken aback by this discussion with them.

      1. Resentful Oreos*

        They may *seem* like decent people but I would not trust them any farther than you could throw a cheesecake underwater. Who knows what they’d do if they decided not to like you. I’m glad you don’t live in their town or work with them.

      2. Worldwalker*

        They’re not decent people.

        Decent people do not stigmatize people because of their ancestors.

        1. OP*

          Touche. What I meant by “mostly decent” was that every other interaction has been normal.

  25. CzechMate*

    This actually came up at my workplace recently (sort of)–a speaker was invited to come in whose father may have been a Nazi (we work at a university) and a student was very uncomfortable about it. Two higher-up managers who also are Jewish told the student that the individual in question may have VERY different views than their Nazi parent–one specifically cited Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose father was a Nazi but who himself has publicly denounced him and the ideology. As uncomfortable as it is, you have to recognize that they may not necessarily be Nazis even though their parents are.

    If it helps–I am descended from slave owners on my mother’s side. I knew this growing up, and my grandparents and mother always stressed to me the importance of working toward anti-racism efforts and equality as a result of our family’s legacy. My grandparents especially gave a lot of money to civil rights causes and were involved in a lot of anti-segregationist work and anti-racist activism. It’s entirely possible that Jane’s family had a similar trajectory.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      My mother’s family lives in the Northeast and half of them fought for the Union in legions and I assure you they are mostly still racist as heck. Being on the “right” or “wrong” side of history doesn’t mean much.

      1. Liane*

        Yes. There were segregation laws in the South, but also de facto segregation (racial segregation not mandated by law), in most other parts of the US. Both are shameful, to put it mildly.

        Speaking of shameful, those teachers should be ashamed of themselves. I also advise LW to distance themself from this couple. (Lots of distance.) And hope the Ancestor Police don’t decide to research what sins were committed by LW’s relatives…

      2. Dust Bunny*

        They are also classist as heck: One of the things that keeps them from visiting me–I’m not complaining–is that the South is full of both POC *and* hillbillies. Ok. Sure. You go right ahead and stay where you are. Which is not to say that the NE corners the market on either of these failings, only to say that it’s not free of them, either.

        For the record, until my mother’s generation was well into adulthood they were as blue-collar as anyone.

    2. CityMouse*

      One of my great great grandparents was part of an extremely conservative religious sect that practiced polygamy. My great grandmother was forced into a marriage when she was just 14 and literally ran away from them in the middle of the night. So who am I judged by, my abusive polygamist great whatever grandparent or the great grandparent who fled?

    3. Smithy*

      Arnold’s recent sharing of his experience with his family history was really thoughtful and personal, and also something he didn’t do until he was considerably older. Not that he ever expressed sympathetic views, but that level of sharing certainly wasn’t part of his film press circuits during the 1980’s and 1990’s.

      I do think that it’s unfortunate that Jane’s coworkers put themselves in a position to find this information without the maturity to realize that how Jane has worked through this genuinely isn’t their right to know.

      1. Justin*

        He’s been pretty self-critical as a senior citizen. So, the “well older people can’t learn” thing is silly.

        1. Resentful Oreos*

          Contrary to the stereotype of the rigid, cranky and mean older person, many senior citizens grow thoughtful, philosophical and self-critical as they age. America, at least, is so addled with the worship of youth that many people can’t see past the stereotype of “older person – narrow minded and bigoted; young person – will save the world through their pure pureness.”

        2. Smithy*

          Arnold has also made lots of money and has had a lot of time to think about and research this. So now he’s in a place to share from a more vulnerable and personal place without risking his livelihood.

          I think what he’s shared remains really important – whether it’s said by a young or old person. But I also think there’s room for grace for reasons why people aren’t as comfortable sharing when they’re younger, but that it doesn’t invalidate opening up more when they’re older.

    4. AmberFox*

      Or they could have a trajectory like my family – also descended from slave owners on my mother’s side. Nobody really talked about it, aside from “we have this plantation land we’ve been trying to sell for 30 years,” and it was always clear that slavery was bad – but the ingrained segregation and racism of their youth, while often not overt, never really left my grandparents and mother until they passed away. Once I moved out, I had to relearn a lot of language, because I’m not OK with continuing that passive racism and I’m not going to be the next generation to insert the word “only” into the count of how many human beings the family owned as though that makes things better.

    5. Suburban Experience in the US*

      came her to stand for Arnold, among others!
      In High school in the 90s shortly after German Reunification my choir had an exchange program… with a school in Germany. We just assumed that everyone who was hosted was a descendant of Nazis. They were still nice! Probably they had never met Jewish people before, or seen our American suburban kind of diversity. Similarly, we were able to learn from them – we mostly avoided the topic of WW2 and its aftermath, as teenagers, and just interacted like normal people. Most people are normal! It’ll be OK (and I hate Nazis and Supremacism)

    6. MassMatt*

      Schwarzenegger posted a very powerful video after the Jan 6th riot where he talked about what it was like growing up descended from a generation of Nazis, they mostly wound up as unhappy, broken men, many of them alcoholics.

  26. ChurchOfDietCoke*

    Aside from the obvious lunacy of assuming children and grandchildren hold the same views as their parents, what kind of person is Jane that she’s digging up ancestor information on her coworkers?! If only she could weaponise that much free time and energy for something productive!

  27. Dust Bunny*

    I have some awkward news for you: Virtually all of us have someone/multiple someones in our family trees who have believed or done horrible things. Sometimes you have to go back a little further or hunt a little harder to find them, but if your criteria are “people who are related to [Nazis, Klansman, British colonialists, pedophiles, etc.] should lose their jobs” be prepared to quit first.

  28. ArchivesPony*

    I highly recommend this letter writer read “My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past by Jennifer Teege. It’s a fascinating look at Amon Goeth’s granddaughter and her not knowing she was Goeth’s granddaughter for a very long time (she was an adult when she found out). As someone of German descent (who’s grandmother WAS fired for just speaking German (!) in the US), it’s important to understand the past but descendants shouldn’t punished for what a relative did.

      1. ArchivesPony*

        It’s really good! I also recommend The Dressmakers of Auschwitz because it also touches on high ranking Party officials family members and the aftermath (the book in and of itself is absolutely fantastic as well). I give pages of good Holocaust books :D

      1. ArchivesPony*

        There are a couple of other documentaries and books out there on Nazi officials children and grandchild (It’s a fascination of mine; my area of interest is the Holocaust). Another book that I know off off the type of my head that mentions the after affects of it on party officials is The Dressmakers of Auschwitz (which in and of it’s self is a amazing book) which talks about the Hoss children But I know there are several documentaries free on youtube about Children of high ranking party officials.

  29. Garblesnark*

    I’ll just note that my parents are Nazis; meanwhile, I’m in the conversion process for Judaism.

    1. Too Many Birds*

      Hugs. I’m so sorry that you drew that number in the parent lottery. Welcome to the tribe. <3

  30. Smithy*

    This is genuinely such a wild and knee jerk take.

    It may be reflective of their broader experiences and exposure, but the reality is that there are many many people who have ancestors who were in the Nazi party, members of the KKK, and all sorts of other hate groups from the more or less recent past. I’m an American Jew who’s had the privilege over time to befriend a number of people from Germany, and the reality is that asking “what did your grandparents do during the war” is a question I’ve only ever asked one friend after knowing him close to ten years and during a time when he kind of opened the door. He was really frank and honest about the reality of that legacy, but that’s also not a question I’d ever ask a coworker or would feel a coworker would owe me.

    If we go back a few generations, it’s pretty likely lots of us have a relative or two we’re not 1000% proud of. And to be judged by that now is ridiculous.

    1. DyneinWalking*

      From what I know about other fellow Germans, most of us are pretty relaxed about that question, so long as it isn’t worded in an accusing way.

      The student revolutions of ’68 in Germany included the demand to talk openly about the Nazi past and not hide it and hush it up as was common in that time.
      Anyone from that generation and younger is probably sufficiently removed from that ancestry and accustomed to talking about it from history class and such.

    2. HBJ*

      And I expect for a lot of people, the answer to that question is “I have no idea.” While I know I have some German ancestry, I know my grandparents were born here, but beyond that I have no knowledge. No idea when anyone “came over.” Pretty sure my great grandparents were born here, just because I’ve never been told otherwise, but I really don’t know. My parents didn’t care, and I don’t really have much interest in or time to do genealogy research myself. It doesn’t matter.

  31. learnedthehardway*

    The attitudes of your friends are ridiculous and horrible. Jane is NOT responsible for her relatives/ancestors’ attitudes or beliefs. If she doesn’t subscribe to their beliefs, then they should absolutely not hold anything against her – any more than they would expect to be held responsible for their own ancestors’ or relatives’ questionable decisions, offensive beliefs, etc. etc. (And believe me, we all have skeletons in the family closet, somewhere.)

    Now, it’s a different thing if Jane DOES subscribe to those ideologies. I had a roommate in university whose boyfriend was VERY proud of being the legacy of Nazi genetic experimentation to produce the perfect human. Not only had his grandparents on both sides been part of those arranged breeding experiments, but his own parents met and married as a results of the various “families” staying in touch (long after WWII). I would not have found this offensive, per se – the guy was in no way responsible for his grandparents’ and parents’ actions/ideologies, and it was a very INTERESTING family history. To some extent, I could understand that he was dealing with the implications, but it was also quite clear that the guy embraced the vision, as it were, and THAT is the line that made it not acceptable. (My roommate was somewhat naive, and I ended up asking some pointed questions to get her to consider whether she wanted to be dating someone who believed in his own genetic superiority and the Nazi ideology.)

  32. woops*

    no, we shouldn’t hold the actions of an ancestor against anyone. but we should seriously consider holding it against anyone that they thing this would be okay. and we should definitely think long and hard about letting anyone educate our children who seriously thinks it’s okay to fire someone because of something their progenitor did.

  33. theletter*

    I dislike the nazi mentality as much as the next person, but a big part of that is judging people on their own merits and not the actions of their ancestors.

    Jane has never volunteered this information, nor expressed fascist viewpoints.

    And even if this rumor is true, Jane has other ancestors. It seems just as likely that subsequent generations would forcibly reject fascism, as the dysfunction is right on the dining room table.

  34. Ahnon4Thisss*

    Unless Jane is spouting similar horrid world views, what her ancestors did does not reflect on her or her employability. Someone who is married into my family has Nazi heritage and they are completely and utterly embarrassed/ashamed of it. They are one of the nicest people I know, and work HARD to try and make up for what their family did. It just is not fair to hold what one person did (however revoltingly horrible) from generations past against someone who was not complicit in that as well.

  35. DanniellaBee*

    Wouldn’t the employee be protected under federal law? You cannot discriminate based on genetic information.

    1. Phony Genius*

      If there were a Nazi gene, it would be. But this is based on the behavior of those whose genes were passed down; it doesn’t count the way the law is written.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      I don’t think people are genetically predisposed to be related to Nazis, though. This isn’t what that part of the law is about.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I think what DanniellaBee is getting at is that Jane is genetically related to a Nazi, so she technically these people are discriminating based on her genetics.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          That’s not what genetics, or genetic discrimination, is about though. Genetics is not about what your relatives have done (and which they thus have control over), it’s about carrying certain genes which make you genetically predispositioned to have certain diseases or conditions.

          Not hiring someone or firing someone because a certain disease or condition runs in their family is genetic discrimination. You have no control over whether or not sickle-cell anemia or Guillain-Barre syndrome run in your family.

          1. Devious Planner*

            Right, but I think the co-workers are assuming that it is somehow genetic. To me, it reminds me of how the ADA protects you from discrimination based on disability or *on the perception of a disability*. Obviously being a nazi is not genetic, but the coworkers are acting as if it is. I don’t know enough of the law to figure out whether that counts as “genetic discrimination” but you could maybe make an argument.

  36. Spillz*

    Hard to think of anything more in line with the core and wrong ideology of bigots than “boycott specific bloodlines for their immutably bad traits.” Your coworkers are terrible.

      1. MsM*

        I was just thinking, where have I heard “your grandparents were X, so that makes you X regardless of any other context” before?

  37. Yes Anastasia*

    For a really thoughtful book about this topic, I want to recommend Nora Krug’s graphic memoir Belonging. Krug is German and discovered that, contrary to family lore, her grandfather joined the Nazi party.

    I do think there are opportunities for people like Jane to do reparative truth and reconciliation work, but that doesn’t have any bearing on their employment status. The OP’s friends come off as incredibly ignorant.

    1. Call Me Dr. Dork*

      Also Silvia Foti’s “The Nazi’s Granddaughter”/”Storm in the Land of Rain” (same book) explores similar issues in the context of Lithuanian-Americans who have glorified anti-Soviet Lithuanian leaders…who also helped the Nazis. She’s delved into some dark places and is doing reparation.

      1. MsM*

        I guess these teachers have done something to promote history; I’m getting so many cool memoir recommendations out of this.

        1. ArchivesPony*

          Here’s another more: The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father’s Nazi Boyhood by Mark Kurzem
          As mentioned above: My Grandfather would have shot me by Nikola Sellmair
          On Hitler’s Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood by Irmgard A. Hunt

    2. spillz*

      sorry, but no — there is no extra work that anyone needs to do to atone for the sins of their ancestors. Yes to everyone, especially the most privileged, working to build more equitable communities around them. No to the work and responsibilities of citizenship being distributed by bloodlines. Full stop.

  38. Djs*

    Honestly, this reads more like a strawman outrage-bait argument than a real thing? What could possibly be their reasoning for having this person fired?

    1. Anecdata*

      I don’t agree with it, but I think maybe it’s an “impact over intent” argument – like, it’s not a person’s /fault/ who their parents are, but it might make students feel uncomfortable/unwelcome/like they have to be on their guard around this person – and that that impact on students from a historically marginalized group is more important than being just to the teacher.

      1. Djs*

        I can understand this, but I feel like its not a really solid argument unless the person’s last name is something instantly recognizable like Eichmann or Mengele?

      2. Katie A*

        I could see that. It’s another good example of why the “impact >>> intent” thing isn’t as much of a slam dunk as a lot of people online think it is.

      3. Someday We Won't Remember This*

        But nobody would know about Jane’s ancestor if her coworkers hadn’t dug around and then told people what they discovered. Any distress to students is their fault, not Jane’s.

      4. Observer*

        I think maybe it’s an “impact over intent” argument

        Ah, yes. That’s the *exact* reasoning that has been used for tons of extremely discriminatory behavior and rules.

        Like, we can’t allow people in wheelchairs / with facial disfiguration / of the “wrong” color / pick your other visible issue in the classroom. It’s a gross misuse of an argument that is already stretched too thin.

        that impact on students from a historically marginalized group is more important than being just to the teacher.

        Right. Because flagrant injustice to someone base on *who* they are is absolutely going to make those students feel really, really safe. Not.

        Deciding who gets to be treated justly based on people’s comfort is *scary* to anyone in a marginalized group (who is cognizant of history.) Because we know that that means that *our* access to justice is conditioned on the feelings of the population, and that can shift.

      5. musical chairs*

        This is not the case to anlayze impact over intent to determine a response. Jane has done nothing but exist. She has no “intent” here because she has taken no action here.

        I want to be clear: it’s sincerely so great that you want to bring in concepts/language from justice circles into your practical analysis of the world, but you may have a touch more work to do to understand this concept fully, to be able to take it and run with it.

        1. DyneinWalking*

          This!!! Intent applies to actions – as in, person A intended something that was perceived differently by person B.

          This woman, however, never intended anything except to exist and earn money with a job. What’s she supposed to do – never go near children and always ask people whether they’re Jews so she can avoid them if they are? That’s going to make the people around her feel really comfortable and at ease /s

          Also, if you ever are on the side of an argument asking people to adjust their lives based on who their ancestors were, you are definitely on the wrong side of history.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      Honestly, I don’t even think this mentality is all that uncommon. I’ve heard that the family members of horrific criminals often get targetted for harrassment, even if they knew nothing of the crime until the rest of society did, even if they disowned the criminal.

      I suspect their argument is that “if her ancestors were Nazis, then she probably is too.” Yes, any investigation of that thought should show it is not at all true that people share their parents’ viewpoints, but it’s not at all unusual for people to held in suspicion if they are related to a notorious criminal or something.

  39. Whomever*

    A friend of mine once dated a relative of David Duke who according to her was a laid back hippy who was extremely embarrassed by his relative. Or, see how the Kennedys are all disowning RFK Jr. you aren’t responsible for your relatives.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I’m (distantly) related to Richard Nixon. My mother bought her first television set because she loathed him and didn’t want to miss a moment of him going down in flames.

      An ex of mine is an indirect relative of George Custer. We used to joke-argue about whose family was more embarrassing.

  40. Whomever*

    Also see Arnold Schwarzenegge’s multiple videos where he uses the fact his father was a Nazi as a case study against right wing extremism.

  41. k*

    Just wanted to say thank you, Alison, for removing some of the previous comments expressing specific vicious beliefs held by people’s relatives. They were a lot to read and I appreciate the moderation.

  42. Grapes are my Jam*

    Alison, do you think it’s worth OP talking to the employees about how and why they found this information? That type of search sounds extremely shifty to me. I’d want to put a stop to it before they did the same kind of witch hunt on other coworkers, or even parents of the students.
    I’m sure the employees who conducted this search would not like those tables turned on them, considering EVERYONE has skeletons in the closet, whether we are aware of them or not.
    And could this be considered harassment?

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      Came here to ask this as well! This really seems like the co-workers are on some kind of witch hunt.

      And also wanted to say that one of my grandmothers was SO bigoted, we were all totally embarrassed by her. It was awful the things that would come out of her mouth. I’m so glad I’m not being judged on her being who she was!

    2. OP*

      OP here.

      > how and why they found this information?

      Thanks for this; I’ve seen some assumptions being made in other comments. I don’t know if my friends found out somehow, or if somebody else found out and told them. I don’t even know if it’s true, although for the purposes of my question to Allison I was assuming it was.

      That being said, I’m not inclined to talk to them about it again. For one thing, this happened a couple years ago. (In a part of my email that wasn’t reproduced here, I mentioned that.) I’m also truly only casual acquaintances with these people. My husband is childhood friends with one of the teachers, and I only see them when my husband and I visit his hometown, which is about once a year. Otherwise I don’t talk to them, so I can count on one hand the number of conversations I’ve had with them.

      1. Kimberly-Clark Progressional*

        “ For one thing, this happened a couple years ago. (In a part of my email that wasn’t reproduced here, I mentioned that.) I’m also truly only casual acquaintances with these people. My husband is childhood friends with one of the teachers, and I only see them when my husband and I visit his hometown, which is about once a year. Otherwise I don’t talk to them, so I can count on one hand the number of conversations I’ve had with them.”

        Then honestly why bother even writing in?
        Because none of this is helping the “this sounds like a ‘look at the intolerant left!’ straw man” type of argument. Between this and yesterday’s “here’s how to make life worse for a possible DV victim” it just seems like the blog is all rage bait all the time now

        1. Myrin*

          Because it’s an interesting question to think about and articulate an answer to, even if it’s not immediately applicable?
          And Alison chose to publish the letter and write an eloquent and reasonable answer, and she, as the site owner, gets to decide that.

          1. LWH*

            I think it’s the combo of “happened years ago” and “I have no real relationship to the events happening and am hearing this second or third hand”.

            I don’t blame you for writing in though so much as have an issue with it being published. I’m really tired of reading letters that are “something vague happened years ago to someone a few degrees removed from me”. I don’t even know who this letters advice would help. I’d rather see more actual useful work questions answered.

      2. Grapes are my Jam*

        Umm…ok… I assumed you all worked for the school and you were in a supervisory role, because otherwise, why would firing someone be in your line of site?
        None of my concerns matter anymore with this new information.
        This was nothing more than a gossipy coffee clatch and TBH, I feel kind of duped that I spent any of my energy thinking about this.

    3. Myrin*

      This is obviously pure speculation and OP herself says that she doesn’t know, but if the OP recounts the conversation truthfully in spirit or even in literal words, it feels like the ancestor was not some random guy you could find mentioned in one book about one town’s NSDAP past if you knew to look there but rather like some sort of big shot whose lineage you could relatively easily keep track of.

      As an obviously fictional example, if one of Goebbel’s children had survived, emigrated to the US, married the heiress to a canned goods empire, they had a daughter who herself had a child with a professional racecar driver with a relatively unique name, and that child is Jane. All of these steps aren’t things any one reasonably aware person would necessarily know from the top of their head but which could be found out easily enough by simply googling Jane’s unusual surname.

  43. BellyButton*

    what in the world? I am sure everyone of us is somehow connected to someone who did something awful in the past- humans have a tendency to do horrible things and reproduce.

    This really is one of the oddest things I think I’ve read here. I really want to know how they found this out about Jane or if it is even true.

    1. BellyButton*

      One more thing, unless she is a 75 yr old German immigrant, she is multiple generations for that lineage.

      1. Resentful Oreos*

        True – if Jane’s relative was literally a Nazi from the WWII era (and not a neo-Nazi from the present day), chances are Jane never knew him, or only knew him when she was little. And it could also be her parents kept that information from her, for obvious reasons.

  44. kiki*

    In every person’s family tree, there is someone who has done something deeply problematic, criminal, or otherwise unsavory. Choosing not to hire somebody due to the actions of somebody they are related to, especially generations before, is kind of wild! Should the children of serial killers have a hard time finding work? If one of my ancestors was a slaveholder, should that preclude me from finding work now? Does it complicate things that I am half-Black and that my ancestors on the other side were Freedom Riders?

    People are not forever tied to the legacy of their parents and ancestors.

    1. Worldwalker*

      I would venture a guess that there are more people today who espouse neo-Nazi ideals whose ancestors were not Nazis than there are people whose ancestors were Nazis who hold their ancestors’ views.

  45. Morning Reading*

    Ironically, singling out people for exclusion (or worse) based on who they are related to is what the Nazis were known for. (Understatement) Odd that these teachers don’t see the parallel.

  46. Archie Goodwin*

    I’ve known people like Jane’s colleagues, and frankly I look at them with a great deal of contempt. They’re the kind of people who have never bothered to poke around and look under a rock to see what their own ancestors did, and so are secure in the knowledge that they’re good people because none of their family ever did anything reprehensible. It’s really quite disgusting.

    A lot of my ancestors did things that would be widely regarded as reprehensible today…not all of them chose to do those things. I have ancestors who lived in the Soviet Union; I don’t THINK any of them were KGB informants, but I don’t know. Furthermore, my father’s family is Southern; I have Confederates, slaveholders, probably at least one KKK member in my family tree…it’s complicated enough for me to sort out my own feelings without people imposing their own judgments on me.

    Forgive my vehemence, but I hold attitudes like this in extremely low regard.

  47. Rage*

    I found out about 7 years ago that I have blood relation (cousin of my maternal grandfather) who was a Nazi spy. Came to the US from Germany before WWII (on the pretext of “visiting the family who emigrated”) and my grandfather gave him the grand tour: he visited the shipyards at Annapolis (Maryland) and some air force base near D.C. (We actually found the photo my grandfather took of him at the air field.)

    He was pretty high up in the regime too. None of the family knew at the time, here or back in Germany. He was a VP at Mercedes Benz and everyone was so proud of that. It came as quite the shock when the truth came out – the government came to question my grandfather and his father after cousin’s arrest. My mom just never told me about it, until she found the photo.

    I would really hate for somebody to assume that I should lose my job because of that; I can’t help who my ancestors were. There are so many people of German ancestry here in the US, there are probably hundreds of direct descendants floating around – most of whom, like me, consider the whole thing abhorrent and have zero association with Nazi ideals.

  48. AnonymousFormerTeacher*

    I’ve got Confederate soldiers, Nazi sympathizers, horse thieves, and people who owned enslaved people all in my ancestry. And that’s just the ones I know about.

    I can’t change what my ancestors did – I can only work to ensure that I stand against hate and use the privilege I hold to elevate others.

  49. Quill*

    This is probably not applicable to OP’s situation (In which the co-worker is a few generations removed, and from a historical time period rather than the modern branch of the group that is still doing damage) but one of the ways that bigoted systems keep their descendants in line is if people reject those descendants when they discover the association, rather than for anything they personally have actually done.

    1. Resentful Oreos*

      This is very true! For a milder and fictional example, remember how Lydia’s running off with Wickham without having first married him was going to render *all* of her sisters “unmarriageable” because of the honor culture of the day? Even though Lydia’s misbehavior was not their fault.

      I bet this was one of the reasons for people immigrating to the US, Australia, and other major immigration destinations – they *needed* to leave their family or a past association behind in order to have a life.

  50. MuseumChick*

    There is no family tree that doesn’t have have really awful people in it. It’s ridiculous to think someone should be punished for something their ancestors did. And, it should be noted that in the totalitarian dystopia that is North Korea, this is basis of their legal system. If one person committees a crime, at leas 3 generations of their family is punished for it. If you are the descendent of someone who was against the regime, you are barred from many jobs and privileges. I would mention that if your friends ever bring this up again.

    1. Resentful Oreos*

      North Korea was one of the first things I thought of. That should give the snoops pause.

  51. Sins of the father*

    Alison’s reply got me thinking about my own family’s past.

    I am the descendant of slave owners. Enslaved labor made my family wealthy. That generational wealth trickled down to my generation, and will continue to trickle down to my children.

    I have to recognize that the sins of my family’s past helped me pay for college and land a good job.

    Should the descendants of slave owners be fired because of their family’s moral failures? I hope not. But I have to recognize that my privilege is the consequence of someone else’s egregious sins.

    I hope Jane recognizes it, too. And I hope we both are doing enough to make up for our family’s sins.

  52. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

    Full agreement with Alison that Jane should not be made liable for the sins of her ancestors if she herself does not embrace them openly and with pride.

    But the thing that’s ringing alarm bells for me is that LW’s co-workers “found out”. Not that Jane herself seems to have told them; they “found out”. That smacks of doing some digging around where they weren’t invited, and behind people’s backs to boot. (I realize fully that I’m speculating here, but I do wonder if we can get clarification from LW exactly what “found out” means.)

    Given how Nazis are generally very interested in metaphorically digging up people’s ancestors to determine what happens to them, I find this all highly – almost absurdly – ironic.

    1. OP*

      OP here, and I wish I could give more details about that, but I genuinely don’t know. This was a very strange conversation and tbh at the time I just wanted to bow out of it.

      1. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

        Fair enough, and completely understandable. I appreciate you taking the time to respond!

  53. Lizzay*

    IIRC, some of Hitler’s nieces or nephews moved to America & changed their name and it wasn’t in the public record so they never have to worry about being harassed for this exact reason.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Reminds of the Happy Endings episode where Penny dated a guy named Hitler whose family refused to change their name.

  54. JTP*

    My father was a cop. My entire family is conservative, and some of the more distant ones are conspiracy theorists.

    I am the opposite. I *hate* it when people make assumptions about me or what I believe in or support because of my family. I would be outraged if I was fired from a job because they hate cops.

    If Jane hasn’t expressed ideas that she agrees with her ancestor’s actions or beliefs, there’s no reason to assume she does, and no reason to fire her.

    1. anon here*

      One small quibble: in a world where, statistics show, people are significantly more likely to share the politics of their family of origin than it is for them to reject those politics, multiplying that tendency appropriately over the number of generations may still result in someone more likely to support troubling beliefs or actions than a similarly-aged person descended from, e.g., the red-diaper babies of New York City in the 20s and 30s. So “no reason to assume she does” is perhaps a slight overstatement.

      1. Observer*

        So “no reason to assume she does” is perhaps a slight overstatement.

        That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of statistics. It’s also a fundamental misunderstanding of how family beliefs are transmitted.

        My kids and grandkids are statistically more likely to hold beliefs similar to mine that some random stranger does. That doesn’t make that a reason to *assume* anything about their beliefs. And if there were a cataclysmic event / history and or/ major moves (not just geographically) between us, then the statistics don’t apply at all. Because that totally messes up the chain of transmission.

        So no, there really is no reason to make any assumptions about Jane.

      2. JTP*

        I think, especially when it comes to whether a person keeps their job or not, it’s better to assume she doesn’t agree with her ancestors unless she gives you reason to think otherwise.

  55. Glazed Donut*

    The bigger picture here: teachers (who already have enough on their plates) are looking up genealogy of new hires and then using precious mental space to wonder if that should lead to someone’s termination? And seemingly suggesting it should?
    I have bigger questions about the culture of the school & district than I do about the actual question in this letter!

    1. NothappyinNY*

      I agree. Who looks up ancestors of new ancestors? Are they going to look up people whose ancestors owned slaves?

      I wonder if LW is fakety fake.

      1. OP*

        OP here, it’s not a fake letter.

        > looking up genealogy of new hires

        I don’t know if this is what happened. If it is, I would agree that’s an odd thing to do.

      2. metadata minion*

        We’re not supposed to question the validity of letters, and the LW has commented in this thread several times. This doesn’t seem like a particularly implausible kind of terrible for people to be, especially if they already disliked the new teacher for some reason.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        As others have said above, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they found out her parents were German immigrants or something like that and just assumed “her grandparents/great-grandparents must have been Nazis.”

  56. CatLadyEsq*

    I may just be incredibly cynical, but this letter struck me as a fabricated anti-semitic attempt to make Jews look ridiculous. (Sorry if this is against the commenting rules). It’s just so obvious that one should not hold the sins of the father against the child…

    1. Tobias Funke*

      Yup. On first reading I was appalled, on second reading I realized it was some fox news fever dream written by someone trying to “get” “liberals”.

    2. Juicebox Hero*


      Obvious and should do not factor into how people think. All my life I’ve been judged against a version of myself that people have made up based on what they know of my family, or what my job is, and my appearance, and my hobbies. They fly even further out the window where bigots and shit-stirrers are concerned.

      And even if that idea were true, far from making Jews look ridiculous, Alison and the many Jewish posters have been absolutely calm and reasonable. They’ve made it clear that while the nazis are reprehensible, so is targeting a person who’s never done anything hateful or harmful just on the basis of her ancestry.

    3. OP*

      OP here, and it is 1000% not the intent of the letter. My question wasn’t whether Jane should be responsible for her ancestor’s sins; of course she couldn’t. My question was about the legality of the situation, and whether the school could legally fire Jane for this reason if they wanted to.

    4. me here long time*

      I don’t know. I hear things like this a lot. Not just race but “his dad was an alcoholic, you probably don’t want to hire him and deal with the same thing”, “you know his grandmother had an affair, I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him”. I mean, my own dad has so many horrible traits that have (thankfully) influenced me in the exact opposite direction.

      I also have a group of friends that has very strong opinions against descendants of slave owners and how they don’t do enough (or only do what they do out of guilt). I don’t think they have taken the time to realize they are white, and southern, and part of a generational wealth system that was likely built on the backs of slave labor.

      1. Observer*

        very strong opinions against descendants of slave owners and how they don’t do enough (or only do what they do out of guilt).

        OK, these people are just weird! Like why is it a problem that someone is trying to fix a problem because they feel guilty about it? For one thing, as long as they are doing the right thing, it’s a bit much to poke to hard on the *why* (unless the reason was truly nefarious). And why is it “wrong” to try to right a wrong out of guilt? What *is* an “acceptable” reason, anyway?

        1. me here long time*

          All I can say is YES! It’s just weird! I think people just have to have something to gossip about, honestly.

      2. Resentful Oreos*

        This is why so many people flee their hometowns as soon as they can, for the Big Bad City: they don’t want to be painted with the same brush as their parents or grandparents or associated with a family name. Cities have always offered fresh starts and comparative anonymity.

        I recall Scout Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird musing about families in Maycomb and their characteristics. There was one family where you didn’t take a check from them without calling the bank first. Imagine wanting to be an honest business person and having that family name. I bet they headed for Atlanta first thing they could.

    5. Saturday*

      It didn’t even occur to me that the teachers were Jewish. In fact, I bet they’re not. Often the people who talk the loudest about past injustices aren’t the people who were affected by them. That can be fine, but not when people assume they’re speaking for the affected group.

    6. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      That’s an absurd leap into conspiracy theories.

      People at both far ends of the political spectrum do indeed hold the sins of ancestors, not just fathers, against people, e.g. N Korea punishing people for a grandparent’s political “crimes”.

      Also, why do you even assume the teachers are Jewish?

    7. Myrin*

      Literally nothing in the letter mentions any one person in this scenario being Jewish, so that alone seems like a bit of a leap. But also, I’ve seen some MUCH stranger takes IRL so I have absolutely no reason to believe it’s real. (Nevermind that we aren’t supposed to speculate like that and that even advice to fake letters can be useful to someone who’s reading.)

  57. ferrina*

    Alison, could this violate G.I.N.A. (Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act)?
    Since this would be based purely on Jane’s biologic family and not any sort of action/statement on Jane’s part, are they discriminating based on her ancestry/genetic line?

    1. DrSalty*

      No. Genetic discrimination is about genetic traits (like being a carrier for specific diseases), not about who your family is.

    2. Springtime*

      In my state, the Illinois Human Rights Act specifically prohibits discrimination in employment (and some other areas) because of ancestry. I assume that that inclusion is more about ethnicity (it comes directly after national origin), but it does say ancestry. In this state, maybe Jane would hypothetically have a legal case?

  58. Not Australian*

    My father was accused of being a Nazi. In the 1960s. *Because he wore wire-rimmed spectacles and had radio equipment.* (He was a radio ham for many years.) I can’t tell you how painful it was for me as a child to have these accusations levelled at him absolutely without foundation: in short, it was just another ‘reason’ for people to bully his children. (As if having a different accent and being from a different background were not already ‘reasons’ enough.) Whatever the parent, grandparent, or more distant ancestor may have done, or is perceived to have done, it is in no way reflected in the conduct or intentions of the descendant. We are all individuals with free will and should be treated as such, and should be considered at the very least harmless or neutral unless and until we prove otherwise. In other words, let’s just give everybody the benefit of the doubt, shall we, and not label them by what we think their ancestors potentially did? Otherwise, we’re just as bad as the people we accuse them of being.

    1. Lab Boss*

      I’m not laughing at your family’s pain at the accusations, but I’ll be honest- that line of logic to level an accusation of Nazism is so absurd it’s practically funny.

      1. Not Australian*

        Agreed, with hindsight – but at the time it was tough going! (And stereotyping ftw!)

        1. Observer*

          I can imagine.

          But what was the stereotype involved? Maybe I’m ignorant, but I simply can’t figure out how they got from here to there.

  59. Bronze Betty*

    Count me among those who have a Nazi ancestor. My grandfather emigrated from Germany to the US roughly 20 years before WWII. I’ve not heard a peep that he ever had any Nazi sympathies at all. I did learn that one of his brothers, still in Germany, was a pilot during WWII–so, yup, a Nazi. It’s highly likely I have other Nazi ancestors.

    And that’s it. I (and the rest of my family–not that it matters) have zero association with Nazi ideals. And that’s all that should matter.

  60. Metadata Janktress*

    Oof, no, holding someone responsible for a horrific relative when they have not evinced any agreement with the position is not the way. I’m thinking of friends who grew up in hateful religious sects (think along the lines of fundamentalist Christian/Westboro Baptist Church alignment) and escaped from their families. Often this is because they are queer. Do we hold them responsible for the parents they actively left behind and went no contact with? That would be a bizarre move.

  61. Shelly*

    Geez, who you are related to should have zero bearing here. If she were to support Nazi ideology, that would be HER independent thoughts and beliefs, not something she inherited from her ancestor. But there’s no indication here that she does! These friends are lacking in critical thinking.

  62. Observer*

    But “I feel a little uneasy around this person” isn’t anywhere near “and thus they should lose their job.”

    This. A million times. And, yes, I *would* be uncomfortable. But part of being an adult is understanding when it’s necessary to sit with your discomfort and when it’s necessary to listen to it and possibly take action.

    This is one of the former.

  63. Adereterial*

    For a start, we do not hold children responsible for the sins of their parents (or vice versa, for that matter). I can’t believe that’s even up for debate, and by adults responsible for the education of children, no less.

    Secondly, whilst many people who joined the Nazi party did so for ideological reasons, significant numbers did because they had no realistic choice in order to protect their families from scrutiny – for example, from 1936 it was mandatory for all German (Aryan) children aged 10 or over to join and participate in the Hitler Youth and even before it was made mandatory, those that didn’t found themselves and their families under intense scrutiny. Once in they were subject to over 10 years effective indoctrination. Others joined for selfish reasons – because it made life easier, they could make more money, or a whole host of other factors – Oskar Schindler was a Nazi party member for economic/financial reasons, for example. Many joined because it was the only way to be able to to to university or in many cases, get a job at all.

    These two teachers shouldn’t be teaching if they can’t separate the child from the actions of the parents, or do even the tiniest bit of research before deciding their colleague isn’t fit to be employed just because she has a (potential) monster of a parent.

    1. Lab Boss*

      I think many people want to disregard your second point, because they know Nazis are bad and they don’t want to face the uncomfortable idea that good people can make compromises with evil for any number of reasons. They want to hold onto the belief “well, if that ever happened here, *I* would never sign up with the bad guys at all, even for financial reasons, even to keep my family safe, *I* would know better and tell them no!”

      1. Adereterial*

        And that’s the point really – the vast majority of the German and Austrian populations did make a compromise with evil – or at the least turned a blind eye, or kept quiet and said nothing. Not because they were fundamentally bad people, but because they’re human with human instincts – self preservation, a desire to fit in, to protect their families, or for a whole host of other reasons. Very few took a stand – those that did and were caught were made examples of and suffered greatly. Doing a deal with the devil was a way to keep themselves, and their children, alive.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I’m German and an archivist (meaning I deal with this topic in some form or another at least once a week) and this is just par for the course, but it’s a simple fact of life and humanity that is strangely hard to convey to non-Germans.

          My great-grandfather was an early SPD member (current chancellor Scholz’s social and working class party) and he despised Hitler. He was a lifelong advocate for women’s rights (and somebody who lived like that, too), an outspoken fighter for better working conditions for the working class, a union-member, critical of the church, and absolutely refused to join the NSDAP. This was well-known among his family and friends and as such basically the entire small town he was from. And yet the only reason he didn’t actively fight in the war was because he worked in mining which was a “war-necessary industry” and needed to be maintained through it all.
          He once told my mum, in a rare show of honest vulnerability, that he had been a coward and did not stand up enough against the regime when it would have mattered, a stance that he, interestingly, apparently regretted but also wasn’t sure if he wouldn’t do it again in the exact same way.

          I also feel like people don’t really think about the fact that beyond the inhumane atrocities committed during that time, beyond ideologies and brutalities and violence, for most regular people who weren’t purposefully involved in those – and heck, even for those, actually – there were several years where an at first underlying, then immediately pressing thought was “we are in an active state of war right now and that is going to have consequences”. My grandma often told me that in May 1945, her mother – wife of the aforementioned great-grandfather, who definitely shared his sentiments – once said to her, while listening to the radio, in a desperate tone: “But Hitler said we were winning!”
          It wasn’t about ideologies or believes or anything like that but about their country and their home and what was going to happen to them. They didn’t think of all the other people and peoples who had lost their homes and families before that and I don’t think that’s a huge moral failing but a very human response.

          I honestly can’t say that I wouldn’t have reacted the same way – in fact, I’m positive that I would – but I feel like a lot of people either can’t grasp that or are lying to themselves because they want to think that they would be selfless and moral and “good”.

    2. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      I was hoping someone would bring up this point!

      A very close friend of mine is German – born and raised, as were many many generations of her ancestors. Her maternal grandfather was, unfortunately, a Nazi. Because he was informed that if he did not join the party, his wife and daughters would be taken from their home and put into camps or be used as, er, entertainment for soldiers.

      I think we’d all love to be able to say “Absolutely under no circumstance would I ever do ‘objectively bad thing’ ” but I can’t blame a man for doing what he had to do to protect his family.

      Now, a Nazi in PRESENT day? Absolutely, 100% piece of filth.

    3. HonorBox*

      “These two teachers shouldn’t be teaching if they can’t separate the child from the actions of the parents, or do even the tiniest bit of research before deciding their colleague isn’t fit to be employed just because she has a (potential) monster of a parent.”

      I think it is especially concerning that this is occurring in a school setting. While teachers can have their own feelings and opinions, vote particular ways, etc. they absolutely need to be MORE mindful that they’re going to teach people who have different backgrounds, life situations, and ideologies. I don’t mean that they need to accept the Nazi ideology if a student is spouting that off in class. But I do mean that generally speaking, they’re going to have to be able to work with/for people whose lives are not their lives, and it concerns me that they’re unable to see that.

  64. sal*

    While *without more*, Jane of course shouldn’t lose her job, it is an interesting question given an internet wormhole I found myself down last week.

    The family depicted in The Zone of Interest and their descendants have been interviewed over the past 70 years and the good takes are grossly outnumbered by the bad ones. One grandson, Rainer, (who has been arrested for fraud himself, so hardly a beacon of truth writ large) has the correct take on his grandparents; his aunt (a daughter of the main couple depicted) Inge-Brigitt, in comparison, gave an interview in 2021 which I found hair-raising.

    But more relevantly to the question of further descendants, Inge-Brigitt’s older brother married a German woman, moved to Australia, and had a child; that child’s child (a second-generation native-born Australian) has expressed extremely bad takes on certain events of the 1940s (if you know what I mean and I think you do) *in writing* and *on the internet* as recently as 2014. I would not imagine that the regular Australian people who know this great-grandchild of a particularly notorious war criminal from a casual or a professional context would imagine she would hold these extremely bad views, but here we are.

    There are a whole lot of people in the world who are perfectly civil in normal contexts. Accordingly, you never have cause to ask them their opinions about the 1940s and therefore what they think about certain issues simply never comes up. But in a world where people overwhelmingly reflect the political attitudes of their families, simply as a matter of statistics and probabilities, perhaps it might be fair to refrain from assuming as a default that a descendant abhors the positions of the forebears just because the positions are objective abhorrent–it may well be giving people too much credit.

    1. Observer*

      But in a world where people overwhelmingly reflect the political attitudes of their families, simply as a matter of statistics and probabilities, perhaps it might be fair to refrain from assuming as a default that a descendant abhors the positions of the forebears just because the positions are objective abhorrent–it may well be giving people too much credit.

      Where to even start with this?

      There is ONE family that shows a really bad streak, That does not *remotely* translate into “overwhelming” consistency about family views.

      Your talk about statistics betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what one can infer about a particular person absent any other information.

      The question is not whether one should *assume* that someone “abhors” some stand or other. The question is whether there is any basis to *assume* ~~anything~~ about the beliefs of a person based on ancestry, especially given the additional factors at play here which do have a tendency to break the chain of transmission.

      1. Wintermute*

        It also ignores that a monumental campaign of education and preservation has been ongoing the last 80 years to ensure that the complete destruction of that ideology. Assuming that this education all failed because… of reasons? seems to be motivated reasoning.

      2. UKDancer*

        I think it’s really variable what the children of Nazis think about their family and the situation of grand children who usually didn’t know them is even further removed. It can depend on the relationship they had with them as individuals and their upbringing. empirical evidence aside, it’s a lot easier to believe your father is a bad person when he’s also a bad, neglectful or absent father than when he’s a very close, supportive and loving one.

        Eichman’s son Ricardo was a professor of archaeology who had rejected Nazism and his father’s views but it was probably easier because he was barely 6 years old when Eichman was captured so doesn’t have a lot of memories. Himmler’s daughter grew up as the golden child of an adoring father and always defended him. Interestingly his great niece who never knew him married an Israeli and has written books trying to come to terms with what her grandfather and great uncle did.

        Interestingly Hans Frank’s daughter (the oldest one who knew him best) remained a committed Nazi all her life, whereas the youngest son Niklas who was 6 when he died really repudiated him and wrote a book absolutely trashing him.

        From what I can see the reactions of the descendants are really varied and divergent so it’s hard to draw any strong conclusions.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      I wouldn’t assume somebody abhors the positions of their forefathers, unless it is a position most people abhor. I would assume most people abhor Nazis unless they say or do something that implies otherwise and the fact that somebody was related to a Nazi would not affect my thinking on that.

      The views held by people’s relatives shouldn’t make us assume anything about a person’s own view.

      For one thing, I don’t even think people do necessarily “overwhelmingly reflect the political attitudes of their families”. Looking back at the Irish Civil War, families were commonly split. The then Minister for Defence had a son on the “rebel” side who was killed by soldiers under his father’s command. And I don’t think that family was even estranged. They just had different views on the Treaty. That’s a rather melodramatic example, but it’s a war where the two sides were based entirely on belief (rather than race or religion or area of the country or anything like that) and families split right down the middle. I think our current president’s father and uncle (father’s brother) were on the opposite sides.

      And on a less melodramatic level, our previous taoiseach’s (prime minister’s) parents were interviewed when he became taoiseach and basically joked about how they were proud of him even if he was a Fine Gaeler. UK readers were understand the joke if I say that his parents met in England where his father was a staunch Labour man, whereas he has been dubbed a “Tory boy”. His mother was Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael’s arch-rivals. And yeah, those are just parties…well, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are; the difference between a staunch UK Labour supporter who considers himself a socialist and somebody dubbed a “Tory boy” by their detractors and who interned with the US Republican party is…fairly stark.

      Situations like that aren’t unusual.

      But even if most people did share the views of their families, which I don’t think is as overwhelming as you appear to, well, even if it’s 90%, you’d still be wrong about 1 in every 10 people and wrong both ways. You’d be giving some of that one in ten too much credit, assuming them to be good people just because their family were and you would be judging others too harshly. So it strikes me as far more sensible to judge people by their own behaviour and words.

      Yes, there are people who hold abhorrent views and you would never know it, but those people could as easily be related to the nicest people possible as to others with abhorrent views.

    3. Roland*

      Lots of people are antisemitic, white supremacists racists without any German ancestors at all. This “statistics” reasoning that’s been brought up in the comments more than once is awful. If a certain racial group is statistically more likely to suffer from some mental illness, should you be on the lookout for signs when you meet someone from that group? We could come up with plenty of examples like this. “More likely” doesn’t mean “likely”. It’s not ok.

  65. WorkingRachel*

    Jane should not be fired (obviously), and I’m very much side eyeing these “friends.” How on earth did they find this out? Presumably by snooping, or by extrapolating from something Jane said, like that her grandfather emigrated from Germany in the 50s. Passing it on is mean-spirited gossip.

    Other options: Jane brought this up in a normal, matter-of-fact way–like during a discussion of the Holocaust, she mentioned that her family was on the wrong side of that conflict; Jane confided in someone that her ancestors were Nazis; or (the only option that should result in actual discipline) she’s bringing it up in a way that seems like bragging or that she’s proud of it.

    1. amoeba*

      Yeah, and as a German I’d like to add that the people who are honest about what their ancestors did during the Holocaust are most of the time not the ones you need to be worried about!

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes, I mean I know what my German godfather did during WW2 because he was fairly open about being a German private soldier first and then a POW in England. He wasn’t a Nazi party member and felt fairly guilty all the days of his life despite that. He and most his generation are dead now. Their descendants aren’t responsible for what was done.

        I found it uncomfortable having to go to Serbia where the conflict was a lot more recent and I was pretty clear a lot of the people I was dealing with were around during the Yugoslav war and the Kosovo invasion and a fair number are ex-military. They didn’t want to talk about what they did so I always had a slight worry what they might have done and it felt rather like treading on a minefield.

        There’s a real difference between speaking to people who may have been involved in war and people descended from people who may have been involved in war.

  66. anon today*

    I have a sibling who is a violent creep.
    Since we share a last name and work in related industries, I get asked about them frequently.
    We are completely out of contact, and I say so.
    I am a totally different person than them, and show that to employers and the world. That’s all I can do – thankfully, people get it it and don’t hold it against me.

    1. pally*

      I have a sibling who is violently creepy as well.
      He’s behind bars (federal) and will be for the rest of my life. Probably his too.

      Googling him brings up a list of news articles about him. And of course, a list of his relatives, one of whom is me. Sigh.

      Folks seem to be able to separate him/his actions from me/my actions. Sometimes I think folks expect me to know something about what made him so messed up. I don’t.

      1. anon today*

        pally, I won’t high five you, but I do know what you’re going through with your sibling.
        I think these people are simply born that way, much like sociopaths are (not a diagnosis, just a comparison). It isn’t genetic or passed down in the family. Thank God.

        1. pally*

          Agree with your assessment -born that way.
          I can’t locate any ancestors who exhibited the behaviors he did (Mom did an extensive family tree -like back to 1500’s, and, included lots of recent relatives as well). Hence, not genetic.

  67. Genealogist Hat On*

    I’m descended from slaveholders. I have sub-Saharan African DNA that likely comes from a free woman of color who, given this was South Carolina in the early 1800s, was either a freed slave or the descendant of slaves. I have ancestors who fought for the Union and ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. I have close relatives who don’t bother to dog-whistle their racism. I have close relatives who said “this civic organization I’m in is all white when our community is 30% Black” and worked to get Black people not only into the organization but into leadership positions in the organization. I have ancestors who were rapists. I have ancestors who abused their children, even in a context where corporal punishment was acceptable.

    If we get judged by our ancestors, then everybody gets to fire me.

  68. Former Red and Khaki*

    WOOF. My ancestry is German (Prussian, to be more specific), and even though the bulk of my family line was in America pre-Civil War, the chance that some distant relatives were Nazis or at least sympathetic to the Nazi party is … pretty high. Plus, my family is from Missouri/Kansas (and Kentucky/West Virginia before that), AND I’m related to the James brothers, so I have a good amount of Confederates in my family tree. All of this despite the fact that I try my best to be progressive and informed and curious about other people. I would be WILDLY upset if any of that cost me my livelihood. Social justice and accountability are great things, but this is a good instance when it goes too far in the wrong direction.

    1. Bird Lady*

      I feel the same about my German heritage. Two waves of the family came here from Germany – one as Hessian soldiers during the American Revolution and the other in a religious schism in the 1850/60s. The second wave volunteered to join the Union Army at the start of the Civil War and are buried at Gettysburg. They were real war heroes. Can I say for certain that no distant x-number cousin was a Nazi? I can’t. But if I were to be held accountable for that, I’d be furious. And a little weirded out considering half my family is Jewish!

    2. Observer*

      Social justice and accountability are great things, but this is a good instance when it goes too far in the wrong direction.

      I don’t think that this is the correct framing. Social justice and accountability are good things. Full stop. What is being described here is *not* either of those things. What it may be is perversion of an important concept to cover up bigotry. Very different thing.

  69. anonymous professor*

    I am a historian who works on (among other things) the Spanish Inquisition. This kind of geneaological logic is precisely the kind of reasoning that was used against conversos (that is, the descendents of Jews who converted to Christianity). Conversos were members of the Christian community, but because of their ancestery they were subject to certain social disabilites, such as being banned from attending university, holding government jobs, and more. They were also considered to be very likely to be stray from Christian orthodoxy due to their Jewish heritage –even if it had been many generations since their ancestors converted. Does OP really want to think like an inquisitor?

  70. TinkerTailor*

    Honestly, LW, it may be worth showing these two this submission and comments; as others have said above, no human is free of the shadows their forebears cast. But the truly wonderful descendents are those who choose to shine brighter. My family had a few Nazis as well, and though we were not Jewish, many in the family had darker Eastern European appearances and were persecuted accordingly; the other part of my family line traces back to some horrific human trafficking with First Nations girls. I don’t have much, but I do what I can, where I can, to help others, as a way to make amends. Just firing someone for their ancestry is a vile, immature response, and I hope those two see this whole post.

    1. OP*

      OP here.

      > it may be worth showing these two this submission and comments

      If it comes up again, I think I might!

  71. History Nerd*

    Being a huge fan of history, I’ve done a ton of genealogy and often ask people about it. The only time someone’s terrible ancestor is relevant is when the descendant is terrible too, and in the same way. As I often tell people, what matters is what you do with that knowledge of the past. We can’t go back in time and change things but we can decide to change the way things are now and do better from here on.

    1. Worldwalker*

      Even then, the terrible ancestor is not relevant. There are plenty of people who are terrible despite being descended from good people. I have a cousin by marriage who will probably (hopefully!) die in prison for murdering his own child, and it’s a mercy that his grandmother died before he did so, because she was just the sweetest person.

  72. Andromeda*

    This whole situation screams “pretext” to me. Is there another reason why they might want their colleague fired? Or, if they can’t get her fired, to smear her name in the organisation, or even just to broadcast to her that they don’t like her?

    Pretty much everyone has evil in their family tree — people who owned slaves, people who participated in other historical atrocities… Have the folks doing this investigated their own ancestors?

    1. Mmm.*

      I’m curious about what Jane teaches. Maybe she’s a history or English teacher, which means the subject of WWII could come up, and they assume she’s going to be like “Yay Nazis!” Or maybe she (correctly) taught that Nazi youth weren’t Nazis by choice, as some people don’t like that things weren’t black and white.

      1. Andromeda*

        I don’t even think it necessarily has to do with anything Jane teaches, if it’s just an excuse to bully her or push her out.

        (That said, there are a few commenters who seem like they’re using the whole situation to sneak in “but not all Nazis were bad!!” pet talking points. Which I don’t think includes you, but it reminds me of when there was a question from someone whose recruiter was a Qanon believer and suddenly there were a lot of concern trolls going “I don’t know anything about this Qanon stuff, but can’t we all just get along??? Politics shouldn’t divide us!!! Don’t be so quick to dismiss *opposing opinions*!!”)

  73. cxxxb*

    Everyone has pointed out how WILDLY inappropriate it would be to terminate someone because of their great grandparents actions so I won’t dogpile on that because OBVIOUSLY that would be such a bad move. Instead I am curious how OP’s friends GOT this info in the first place. Jane never mentioned it, so how do they know for absolute certain about Jane’s relative? That I think is suspect-OP’s friends did some serious strange deep dives for seemingly no reason.
    Additionally-we are all reading news stories about teacher shortages nationwide…people are leaving the profession en mass. So why would we let go another teacher for something not at all teaching related.

  74. Raul Pudd*

    I’m Jewish and I find Nazism disgusting. That said, unless your coworker is actually a Nazi herself, there’s no reason for her to be fired.

    It’s almost the same as assuming every German is still a Nazi sympathizer – yes, there are probably still some especially with rising anti-Semitism, but that’s not reflective of all Germans.

    1. Coffee Protein Drink*

      I’ve spent some time in Germany and while anti-Semitism is on the rise all over, there are plenty of people there who strongly believe, “Never again!” when it comes to Nazis.

      1. amoeba*

        Yup – the stance of the government, most political parties, and the mainstream media is very, very clearly pro-Jewish here. Which of course doesn’t mean that antisemitism doesn’t exist, unfortunately! But looking at the rest of the world, unfortunately that’s not a uniquely German thing…

  75. AnonForThis#151515*

    In addition to all the other great comments here about why it’s a bad idea, it all assumes the conclusion is accurate and reliable information that has been both correctly interpreted and substantiated. In other words, no one’s been adopted, confused with another unique-seeming name, wasn’t the genetic byproduct of an affair, etc.

    I’d be concerned about informal exclusion or reputational damage (minimum) if the uncomfortable folks decide to spread this info – which it sounds like they are, since OP wrote in.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Yes, my first thought was “And they know this how exactly?” It did seem plausible to me that it could be a case of Grandpa So and so isn’t actually the same person as Nazi So and so. I could even see a situation where it was something like her family had lived in Germany in the time period in question, and someone just assumed they shared the ideology based on that. And yes, the adoption and affair possibilities also exist.

    2. AnonForThis#151515*

      Just to be clear, I hate Nazis. I’m only concerned about any reputational damage to Jane, who according to available info has shown no such inclination.

    3. HonorBox*

      Your last sentence does make me wonder if Jane would have a slam-dunk lawsuit for slander or defamation. She has people spreading information about her that, while conceivably true, is damaging to her reputation and income.

  76. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*

    I asked them if they thought that no one should ever hire Jane because of this, and they said, “I’m not saying that nobody should ever hire her, it just shouldn’t be here.”

    Yes, they ARE saying that nobody should ever hire Jane. If they’re willing to fire her simply because of one ancestor’s actions (something not specified in ANY job description), then they clearly DO support subjecting her to an Absolute Blacklist.

    1. Nea*

      I don’t know, they’d probably say she could “go back to her kind” and yes, I hated typing eveyr word of that. But “not here” and “their kind” are two phrases that so often go hand in ugly hand.

  77. tabloidtained*

    No to guilt by association. Judge people by their actions and behaviors, not by the actions of their relatives.

  78. HonorBox*

    It is one thing if a person is promoting horrible or ugly ideologies or doing something that is awful. They should be accountable for their own actions, for sure. It is completely different if a relative or someone a generation or two passed is doing something like that. In this situation, it is someone that Jane may not have even met. This is the slipperiest of slopes. Because what’s next? Someone being fired because their cousin was in the Capitol on January 6? We cannot start to make leaps like this and have some sort of moral judgement on someone just because their relative did something that we all consider to be heinous.

  79. F P*

    Four years ago my father died. As I was going through his stuff I discovered he was charged with grand larceny. He was loaning people money from the company. I swear I didn’t know anything until. then. He served fourteen months in prison. So should I not be hired because of my dad? Nope!

  80. sofar*

    You should never fire / refuse to hire anyone who has no control over the reason.

    I was also getting leery when folks started floating the “don’t hire people from red states” ideas to punish those states’ governments, because where someone lives is not always something a person can control, due to finances, family caretaker obligations, etc.

    1. Justin*

      Even the most red of states, the GOP candidate for president gets, what, 70%? 30% is a lot of people to punish for that.

      And in lots of places (like, MS/LA/etc.), there’s a ton of POC who are suffering the very most because of this.

      1. sofar*

        Yep. And a lot of those people of color in red states are doing a TON of work to put in reasonable candidates and champion issues that folks in blue states benefit from and lift the tide to boost progressive issues. AND! Putting on ballot measures that get a lot of attention and encourage people to show up to the polls and vote for less-evil state and U.S. reps.

    2. Worldwalker*

      Exactly. I live in a red state. I don’t want to, but I do. I vote against the people who keep getting elected, but I can’t stop them; that’s why it’s a red state.

  81. el l*

    Friends’ attitudes are proof that purity thinking and unthinking mob justice are alive and well.

    If only they had a teacher who would assign them The Oxbow Incident.

  82. Jiminy Cricket*

    My usual attitude toward questions of all stripes is, “Good for you for asking!” But this one, for me, is such a “Good lawd almighty absolutely not, no way” that I’m disturbed someone even thought this.

    But, um, good for the OP for asking! I wish the teacher friends had thought twice.

    1. Observer*

      I think that the OP had a valid question – they weren’t asking if the acquaintances are morally acceptable, but whether it’s legal. Which, it probably is…. Let’s face it a lot og very bad behavior is legal.

  83. Modesty Poncho*

    Wow…I flashed to a memory of my (Jewish) mother telling me she wouldn’t feel comfortable owning a German-made car when I was a kid, and even that struck me as bizarre and racist. This is…on another level. Jane has done nothing wrong.

    1. Yes Anastasia*

      The German car thing is different – the objection is that those companies directly profited from Nazi policies and continued to do business afterward with minimal consequences. A continuous corporate entity is different from a child or grandchild. You can argue that the statute of limitations is up on their moral culpability, but I don’t think it’s bizarre or racist to avoid those brands.

      1. VaguelySpecific*

        My grandfather fought in the pacific during WWII. He also made offhand remarks when my dad purchased a Japanese car and when I named my cat after a character in a Japanese video game. Nothing overtly rude (that wasn’t how he was) but enough to know he didn’t approve. I was kind of taken aback by it until my grandmother pointed out “well, they did try to kill him” and that put it into perspective for me. He never told us to not support Japanese companies, but you can at least understand why he personally wouldn’t want to.

        1. Worldwalker*

          The difference is that Mitsubishi, for instance, built warplanes, and it’s still the same company; Jane did not do anything.

      2. UKDancer*

        I think you have to decide for yourself what you’ll buy. I mean my grandmother wouldn’t buy Chanel because she thought Gabrielle Chanel was a bad person for having relationships with Nazi officers and had bad morals. I don’t think you can equate discriminating against a person with not buying products from company X. I mean you’re not trying to stop the company from existing usually, you just don’t want to support them yourself.

      3. Modesty Poncho*

        Honestly, fair. That was definitely not how it was explained to me, although it’s probably closer to the truth. I just thought she was saying she didn’t want to buy from Germans.

        1. Enai*

          At least one German car manufacturer was also straight up founded by Nazi Germany to provide cars to the people (Volkswagen). All of them used the labor of concentration camp victims and had no qualms about the atrocities committed at the work sites.

          So, as a German I say: honestly, your mothers stance as you described it seems fair. Refusing to employ Germans in general or calling for a boycott of all German made products would be different, but these particular companies? Actually have directly profited from the Holocaust. See also BASF, Bayer, Hoechst and so on.

    2. Box of Kittens*

      That makes more sense to me, honestly, because it’s a choice she’s making for herself about how to use her own money and which companies she wants to support. The teacher in this letter is talking about someone else’s livelihood.

    3. Going Anon and On*

      It reminds me of a somewhat-related story from my grandmother. During the 1990’s, a representative of a travel tour company came to her retirement community to sell them a group tour of Europe. This community had many Jewish retirees among its members, though I don’t know if any were actual Holocaust survivors. The representative starts going through the destinations that they would visit on one of the tour packages. One of the countries was Germany. He didn’t last 30 seconds after mentioning it before they chased him out of there. Apparently it was too much for some who lived through that era.

  84. I'm just here for the cats!*

    My great grandmother forced her eldest daughters to be sex workers during the great depression to make money so the family could survive. My father (who I never knew) groomed his ex wifes little sister and got her pregnant at 17. Does that mean I can’t be around kids?

    these people are bannana pants, and I think OP needs to stand up to them and put them in their place. And I would let Jane know. Someone says she’s descendent of a famous Nazi and then the next thing you know someone else is saying that she is a Nazi. This is how gossip ruins peoples careers, especially teachers!

  85. Lady Knittington*

    How far back would you have to go to decide that someone is ‘clean’ from the previous generations? Grandparents’ wrongdoing is bad, but great grandparents’ is OK? Great grandparents’ wrongdoing is still something I’m judged for, but only if I have the same name?
    If the screening process is up to scratch then it should uncover any bigotry, dangerous political or criminal affiliations etc. If it’s not, then you’ve bigger things to worry about than who somebody’s grandfather is.

    (Also as a side note, the BBC broadcast a very good documentary years ago about direct descendents of famous Nazis, called Hitler’s children. Worth watching if you can find it).

  86. Sarah H*

    This is a genuine question (I truly have no idea if this interpretation would hold up): is it possible here that GINA should prevent discrimination on the basis of genetics? I know that “descended from” doesn’t always mean a direct genetic relationship (speaking as someone who took 23&Me and found out my grandfather likely wasn’t my dad’s biological father). But the implication here seems to be “you are genetically descended from a Nazi, so I believe you shouldn’t work here,” and I think that could be seen as genetic information.

      1. Sarah H*

        Great point of clarification, thank you! I did not mean to imply “Nazi” is genetic. I was thinking about a previous AAM letter-writer who found out the CEO at her company was her half-brother, and then faced discrimination on the basis of that genetic information. But it looks like the federal info page on GINA clearly mentions genetic information in the context of “genetic tests,” so that wasn’t anything anyway.

  87. Mmm.*

    This is bonkers. If everyone was fired because of something terrible a relative did, no one would be employed.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Exactly. I think Alison misunderstands their reaction. They don’t feel uncomfortable working with the descendent of a Nazi. They feel vindictive. They feel that punishing this person will punish their ancestor. “Look at what you did! Are you proud of yourself? Feel über now?”
      I’ve referenced before the people who’ve gone on record stating they will not interview Penn State graduates to protest how the school protected Jerry Sandusky and I think this is the same thing. Just wrong.

  88. Anon for this one*

    If my Jewish father had chosen not to date a woman with German ancestry, who was related to a Nazi general in WWII, then I wouldn’t exist. He didn’t hold mom responsible for what a distant cousin she never knew did.
    If Jane is espousing Nazi philosophy, then I’d worry. But I’m not going to blame someone because a relative is a horrible person, unless they are too.

  89. Irish Teacher.*

    This is a tangential point but, as a teacher, I am very concerned about these people working as teachers. Given that they want Jane fired because she is supposedly descended from Nazis, I wonder how they treat the younger siblings of “difficult” students or the children of criminals or from problematic backgrounds.

    Now, perhaps it is simply the word “Nazi” that has them horrified and they would not judge a teenager because his older sister threatened another kid with a knife, dropped out of school at 16 and ended up in prison for serious crimes afterwards, but…well, teachers should definitely be aware that you can’t judge people by their families.

    I’ve known the most lovely kids who’ve come from horrific backgrounds. I currently have two students who are connected to a fairly high-profile murder and they are two of the sweetest kids you can imagine. Another lovely student, who makes a point of calling in to my class the day before to tell me if he is playing in a match, so I won’t be wondering why he isn’t in class (yes, we are usually informed officially but he probably doesn’t know that) mentioned he was a distant relative of somebody involved in a high profile gangland murder. I have also had students who were really poorly behaved, one of them downright dangerous and the other kids were terrified of him, whose parents seemed like lovely people and who were regularly in tears because everything they tried to do didn’t work. The mother of that kid apparently came in to the parent-teacher meeting and went around to the teachers apologising for her son’s behaviour.

    1. Petty Betty*

      I’d be concerned how they treat MY own child, or his half-siblings, for being the child of a self-subscribed Nazi (deceased). My kid didn’t know his father. I was unaware of his beliefs until after I got pregnant and married to him (and was quick to remove myself from the situation as soon as it was safe to do so). However, the last name is uncommon and searching it online would easily bring up his history and his beliefs.

  90. Hiring Mgr*

    As was common among Jews in his generation, my dad would never buy a German car. I guess that counts as discriminatory

    1. HonorBox*

      I think that’s more along the lines of a personal choice. The same as someone choosing not to buy sneakers because they are manufactured overseas in sweatshops. I don’t think it is discrimination to choose not to do business with a company for a reason. Your dad wasn’t harming someone directly by choosing to buy a Chevy.

      1. AnonORama*

        Whereas I have relatives (Jewish) who made a point of buying fancy German cars as an F-you to the people who tried to take us out. I and others in the family have pointed out that the companies still get the money that way, but they didn’t care. Apparently making a point — even to themselves/each other — was what mattered.

        1. metadata minion*

          My job involves working with Nazi materials periodically, and while it’s deeply creepy, there’s also this weirdly gleeful vengeful feeling — you’re dead, and now a queer autistic Jew is cataloging your stuff so THBBBT.

    2. Observer*

      As was common among Jews in his generation, my dad would never buy a German car. I guess that counts as discriminatory

      That’s a very different thing.

      Please don’t try to make people who won’t buy goods from companies that did evil into a caricature.

      I’m honestly wondering if you are even posting this in good faith, to be honest.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        “I’m honestly wondering if you are even posting this in good faith, to be honest.”

        Not sure what you mean by that, but it was pretty common in my father’s day (born in 1934), for Jews not to buy German cars, even many years later.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            ok? I wasn’t making a comparison – just that there are lots of other ways to “get back” at Nazis if someone feels a compulsion to do so.

    3. GrumpyPenguin*

      That’s a completely different thing. You can’t discriminate a company, only boycott them.

  91. B*

    I have absolutely zero idea what beliefs or affiliations my great-grandfathers subscribed to, and I am flabbergasted by the idea anyone would even think to punish me for them.

  92. Petty Betty*

    I’m half-Jewish (father’s side). I’m also descended from Nazis, proud slave owners, incestuous child molesters, brothel owners, paid whores, wife beaters, child beaters, murderers, federal criminals whose crimes I won’t even discuss, and extremely proud racists.

    You know what I’m not? Them. And neither are my kids. We are not our ancestors. To be honest, many of us aren’t even aware of what sins our ancestors have committed. I wasn’t aware of a fraction of what I know now until I got to know some of my distant relations who kept the family histories of the families. By then, I was already a queer activist and well established in my career. I can make some really bad, distasteful jokes at my own expense that would horrify a lot of people, but none of that means that I’m uncomfortable with having the descendants of other bad people working with me, or being friends with me. Because I, too, understand that they are not their ancestors.

  93. Spencer Hastings*

    Gee, I hope “Mitochondrial Eve” wasn’t a terrible person…otherwise, we’d have to fire everyone!

    1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      and Biblical Eve sinned and ate the fruit, so technically that also makes her a terrible person, so…. no jobs for anyone!

      1. Petty Betty*

        Don’t forget Cain and Abel! Anyone descended from Cain is now retroactively guilty of fratricide? AND tarred with the original sin (thanks, Eve!). How will we ever manage?!

      2. Resentful Oreos*

        That *was* a belief that was used to oppress women in the medieval Catholic Church. *All* women were “daughters of Eve” and tainted with her moral weakness because of what she did. Guilt by association with someone who wasn’t even an ancestor (though at the time they did believe Adam and Eve were everyone’s real ancestors).

  94. Box of Kittens*

    “I’m not saying that nobody should ever hire her, it just shouldn’t be here.”

    This is some dangerous, lazy NIMBY-ism. Not only should we not judge people because of what our ancestors did, we really need to be thinking critically beyond “I’m fine with it; it just shouldn’t happen here/near me/in my city/in my state/etc”. Because if everyone says that, where do you draw the line? This is how folks prevent the development of/access to a lot of public programs that people need, because saying you’re not against it “absolves” you of any moral wrongdoing, but still denies people the programs.

    An organization near me is trying to block the development of some new housing for homeless folks because it’s near their facility. I attended a city council meeting where a LOT of people from the organization used this type of language when speaking about why they were against the housing, and it’s total BS.

    1. Boof*

      I generally agree NIMBY is a yellow flag, buuuut gonna say zoning regs can be super important (Totally ok not to put a stadium in the middle of a residential lot, for example – traffic flows, nearby commercial vendors, etc, are all important considerations!)
      I know homeless housing can be pretty controversial but it is still worth considering what best serves everyone involved in any housing project.
      … it’s not really worth factoring their possible ancestry into it as far as I can imagine, however XP

      1. Box of Kittens*

        Zoning was not an issue in this situation, and the organization against it was a church.

    2. anon_sighing*

      Thank you for this comment because sooo many people are saying this “what the people they’re criticizing did” or “bigotry thinking” and that language was really grating me because it’s not remotely the same. People NEED to develop nuanced language because comparing everything to THE WORST THING YOU CAN THINK OF right off the bat is not helpful.

      This is absolutely NIMBY thinking. People who are so into an idea (LW’s friends probably would agree, “You shouldn’t be punished for something your relative did” and “Forgiveness is a good thing) but not if *they* have to practice it. It’s a lazy mindset that refuses to actually engage with the complexity of society. It’s refusing to confront your own discomfort; your own biases; your worldview. It’s refusing to accept solutions unless *your* comfort is prioritized above all else, logic included. This mindset is awful because these folks often think they are good people — until they have to put their beliefs where their house is.

  95. H.Regalis*

    LW, your friends are ridiculous. There are a lot of bad hot takes on every conceivable subject, but this one is definitely up there. I would go so far as to say every single person walking the earth is related, however distantly, to someone who has done something terrible.

    Why were they digging into this new teacher’s background so much? Did one of them want the job this person got so they went looking for dirt to discredit them, and this is the best thing they could come up with?

  96. Boof*

    My first impulse on seeing this letter “oh great, teachers, who are already woefully underpaid and over scrutinized, have yet another thing to be paranoid about” (presuming the high school is US based, I know some countries treat and respect their primary education teachers a lot more)
    Seriously, I hate nazies as much as anyone but no one picks their relatives and every child begins the world again – let teachers teach regardless of their ancestry FFS

  97. GladImNotThereAnymore*

    Many of Alison’s responses to questions of how to handle a problem revolve around work-related impact, and what exactly is the impact of having a problematic ancestor? If you, say, show up to the job on time, competently complete tasks assigned, and otherwise are a productive employee, then why should someone be fired? I’d like to know how the coworkers would respond if asked that specifically.

    Would be interesting, too, that if they say “yes, the person should be fired” and then something is found in their own ancestry… Well, need to treat everyone equally.

    1. anon_sighing*

      Yes, absolutely – this emotional reaction (which is normal – I really wish people would give that much grace, finding out someone’s family was part of a notoriously unrepentant group of bigots is uncomfortable…even hearing co-workers complain about having to interact with their “racist” relatives over the holidays is uncomfortable) breaks down at the question, “What impact does who her grandpa was have on her job? What are your concerns? You have no reason to believe she shares the same beliefs and just like we all got the opportunity and benefit of the doubt, she should get it, too. If she shows signs otherwise, we’ll deal with it as we would deal with it if it was anyone else.”

      I’m also really curious on why they decided to dig into this. :\ Feels…petty and catty somehow. Like they were out to find something…because who the hell knows about a coworker’s genealogy?

  98. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    I’m Jewish, and this whole thing is BATCRACKERS to me. We are all, ALL OF US, descended from rapists and murderers. Tons of us in the States are descended from slave owners. We penalize people for what they do, not for what their relatives do.
    And besides that, you don’t even know if it’s true.
    This -reeks- of the kind of snide, backstabbing nastiness I’ve seen all over public schools, from learning in them to working admin and teaching. Considering the importance of your job I certainly hope you rise above it.

    1. H.Regalis*

      The back-stabby, gossipy angle on this stuck out to me too. These people sound awful to be around. It really sounds like they went looking for dirt on this person, and “distant relative was a Nazi” was the most they could come up with.

      1. AnonORama*

        Yeah, they had to go back at least 2, probably 3 generations to find something to gossip/bully this person about. I see lots of pettiness, maybe envy of a rockstar or more popular coworker, and a maaaaaaajor reach to find something bad about Jane. What I don’t see…are swastikas.

  99. Justin*

    Not only am I Black but I write about racism and I think it’s definitely a bad idea to assume, especially more than one generation removed, that the person holds the same views. Most of the white people I’ve taught in my classes about racism told me about how much they don’t want to be like/expose their kids to racist relatives. Now, those are the type of people who sign up for such classes, but still.

    People can be better than their ancestors (or worse)!

  100. Elizabeth West*

    the state where they live which is a bit of a hot spot for white supremacy

    When I saw this, it made me wonder how many kids in that school have relatives who went You-Know-Where on a certain day during a past January. Are these teachers going to refuse to teach those students? I’ll argue they are probably very much in need of a good education.

    Administrators of this school really need to shut this crap down.

    1. Ally McBeal*

      I commented below that a genealogy project to figure out which employees’ ancestors supported the Confederacy (and/or enslaved people) would be highly interesting. I mean, it’s certainly possible this is happening in Idaho but it’s equally likely that it’s Alabama or another Deep South state.

  101. Email (Optional)*

    My parents were vocal and proud racists (I mean, I’m sure they still are but I haven’t spoken to them in more than a decade and doubt they’ve experienced much personal growth in the ensuing years). I’m a screaming leftist who learned what kind of person I don’t want to be based on my parents’ two terrible examples. Plenty of us have defied the bad luck of lousy lineage to be less hateful humans!

    But mostly, I’m just here to say that “we’re not a monolith” is some mighty fine insight that always needs to be bolded, italicized and underlined so hard it bleeds through the next 10 sheets of proverbial paper because no one person owns and dictates their group’s multifaceted identity and unique lived experiences.

  102. Texas Teacher*

    Dollars to donuts that when dealing with older family members these two teachers flip the script and pull out the “they are from a different time” excuse. (BS because they aren’t time travelers).

    People would pull this on friends of German ancestry. Their families came to Texas during Stephen F Austin’s Land Grant between 1823 and 1825.

  103. raincoaster*

    Many years ago Vanity Fair did a fascinating article on the children of Nazis. I highly recommend reading it for perspective. Most of them became fiercely antifa.

    And, of course, marginalizing people because of who their ancestors were is exactly what the Nazis did. Let’s not do that.

  104. Dropping In*

    I’m technically a direct descendant of a Nazi. I’m also Jewish. It makes me happy to know how upset he’d be about that.

    1. Ally McBeal*

      My biological father is creepily obsessed with his “heritage” and “bloodline” as a German-American. He’s a card-carrying member of a supremacist organization, which I learned when I randomly googled his name and found Daily Stormer articles protesting his arrest (he was conceal-carrying on school grounds while distributing his org’s flyers; speech is legal but bringing a gun to a school campus is not). I was already on my anti-racism journey when I learned all this, but the knowledge has given me extra passion & fuel for the journey. Spite is a powerful motivator :)

    1. Resentful Oreos*

      I was thinking about that letter when I read this one and couldn’t remember the link. Thank you!

  105. Nea*

    “I’m not saying that nobody should ever hire her, it just shouldn’t be here.”

    That sentence made my blood run cold. You can find it all throughout history as the excuse for acts of bigotry – acts that often stand at the top of a well-worn slippery slope.

    I wonder what cosmic justice the other teachers feel will be served by ousting Jane. She’s not a nazi herself, so it’s not repudiating that mindset or those actions. It doesn’t retroactively help anyone harmed by her ancestors. All firing her would do would put the preservation of some ideal of purity as more important than the needs of a person whose ancestry has been deemed impure somehow… there’s a word for that, I’m sure there’s a word for that…

  106. anon_sighing*

    I’m baffled. Would these people be okay with Black descendants of slaves demanding anyone with a slave owning ancestor be fired, too? Or would they not like that because it’d hit too close to home and they’d understand it’s not right to punish someone who someone else’s crimes?

    These conversations can get infinitely complex. The only time this actually annoys me and is grounds for a talk is when they insist that, “Well, they were a [Nazi, slave owner, complicit in war crimes, a massive and unrepentant supporter of a dictator, etc] but they were a good person.” Objectively (looking at a population level), they were not. Just say you loved your grandpa and they were good to you (and even then, have some tact) and move on. It’s the white-washing and lack of awareness that bugs me in these cases.

    1. GrumpyPenguin*

      Yes, that is a dangerous trap. Criticizing your parents is easy, but criticizing your grandparents is really hard. Especially having to accept that someone who was good to you and loved you was a bad person to others can breake your brain.

  107. Lady_Lessa*

    For those who think that Nazi=evil incarnate, may I suggest the book “FATHERLAND: A Memoir of War, Conscience, and Family Secrets”, by Burkhard Bilger

    It is a hard book to read because of the topic, but well worth the time. The family involved is from Alsace Lorraine, which depending upon the current victors is either French or German.

    I think that a person should only be judged on their own behavior.

    1. VaguelySpecific*

      My great grandparents emigrated from Alsace Lorraine to the Midwest in the late 1800s.

  108. Worldwalker*

    “I don’t know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.” — Abraham Lincoln

    Firing someone because of something about themselves they have absolutely no control over — such as what their grandparents did before they were even born — is vile. It’s exactly the same thing as firing someone because of the color of their skin: a characteristic which is completely out of their control, which has no bearing on who they are or how they do their jobs.

  109. Once upon a time*

    I worked with an author who was drafted into the German Army during WWII at the age of 15. He met Hitler. As a Jewish person this was an interesting moment for me. Because he also went on a national tour with a Jewish survivor. Because while he was too young to be held accountable, and had also educated himself about the horrors of that war. He did not take pride in his participation, but was honest and forthright about the realities. I learned a lot from him. But to this day it both amazes and terrifies me that I have two degrees of separation from Hitler.

  110. plumerai*

    I am horrified by this idea. My sibling committed a horrific crime that is very easily findable through our shared last name, and I know people who have googled me have found information on that crime. The thought that someone wouldn’t hire me based on something a relative of mine did is literally one of my worst nightmares.

  111. Former Retail Lifer*

    Two people in my family have committed some serious crimes, but I had nothing to do with them and I absolutely do NOT support what they did. I’ve distanced myself from them as much as possible. How is that fair to fire me for something I didn’t do?

  112. ReallyBadPerson*

    My elderly mother is married to a man who was raised by literal Nazis. He fled Germany at 18 and has spent his entire adult life trying to do some good and atone for his hideous grandparents. I hope no one would fire or refuse to hire his children (or grandchildren, if they existed) because they had hateful ancestors.

  113. AnotherSarah*

    I teach the history of the Holocaust, and MANY (a number that surprised me, let’s just say) of my students have told me that they have Nazi ancestors. That’s why they’re in the class, often. Or they come from traditions that haven’t adequately dealt with their past (various German churches, etc.). They tend to tell me this in private, because they’re ashamed, and don’t want their classmates to treat them differently. I’d hate to hear that they were the “Jane” in this workplace–they’ve all been some of my most dedicated students.

  114. Suburban Experience in the US*

    I know we don’t get into hypotheticals here… but most of the commenters are assuming the Nazi in question was in Germany or Europe during the 1930s or 1940s. Would this be different if the Nazi relative was in America during that time period – a supporter of Charles Lindbergh or Henry Ford, for example? Or in Great Britain, perhaps, a supporter of King Edward VIII? Or yes, a more recent Nazi, perhaps, that has marched in Skokie Illinois during the 80s or Stone Mountain Georgia during the 90s?

    I still don’t think it should make much of a difference, especially given the commenters saying, Don’t hate me because my parent did X.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      No, it wouldn’t. In any case, Jane is not her ancestor and is not responsible for whatever they might have done.

    2. Not-So-New Mom (of 1 8/9)*

      Uh, no, it wouldn’t, in any of those circumstances, up to and including the present day, unless you had evidence they shared their parents’ views.

  115. Academic glass half full*

    I am surrounded by anti- semitism and anti-semitic remarks are made on a daily bases in a supposed liberal academic environment. Casual slights include scheduling the first day of school on Rosh Hashanah and the biggest conference in my academic specialty on Erev Yom Kippur and the day of. I am saying this because no one’s livelihood should be threatened by their speech unless they deliver a direct violent threat.
    No relative should be held responsible for someone else’s actions.

  116. GrumpyPenguin*

    A little late to the debate, but anyway. I’m a descendant of Nazis, but that made me the exact opposite.
    All Germans, Italians and Japanese are descendants of fascists. All white people in Australia, New Zealand, Africa and America are descendants of criminals (land robbers, slave owners, or whatever). You just have to dig deep enough to find someone terrible in the family history. Just being related to someone doesn’t mean much.

    1. Anon for this one*

      All white people in America are descended from criminals? I’m not sure if this was sarcastic or not.

      There are many in the US who are descendants of immigrants who came to the US after the Civil War and simply came to make a better life for themselves/their family. They had nothing to do with criminal activity in their home country nor anything to do with enslaving people in the south.

      1. GrumpyPenguin*

        I was referring to stealing land from Native Americans, fighting for the confederate army, owning slaves and actively participating in segregation. But you’re right, people after a certain time don’t have that background, I was generalizing too much.

        1. Anon for this one*

          My relatives came to the US from Canada in the 1930s and from Germany pre-World War I. They were in urban areas and did factory work. Calling them criminals doesn’t work. At all.

          I have friends of Irish background whose ancestors left Ireland in the 1840s due to the Great Potato Famine. The Irish were not wanted in the US.

    2. anon_sighing*

      I am fully willing to believe that there are spotless families, who’s only crimes were they were annoying sometimes or just bystanders (with good reason).

      That is NOT the point here.

      This idea that “we’re all terrible somewhere down the line” is harmful in it’s own way. You should be looking at the present, the person in front of you. If they come from a line of bad seeds and they turn out “bad,” then all you have is context for their behavior because 100% I’ve seen siblings from the same family who turn out so radically different from each other that I’m convinced it’s your environment more than your genetics or even family that dictate these things.

  117. Anon for this one*

    My last name is German. I’ve been called a Nazi many times over the years. I usually stop the person cold when I tell them my ancestors were all in the US well before World War I. But some like to paint with a very broad brush.

  118. nnn*

    I feel like if they’re in a state that’s a hot spot for white supremacy, there’s a stronger likelihood that Jane would have some kind of forum or opportunity or cover to express any white supremacist sentiments that she herself might hold. And, therefore, you’d be able to see evidence in her actual words and actions, not just in the actions of her grandfather before she was even born.

  119. Sneaky Squirrel*

    I’m curious if they would have been more accepting of Jane’s history if Jane had also directly immigrated from Germany where the odds of having a familial tie would have been much higher.
    Firing someone for their family lineage would open up a giant can of worms and while not directly discriminatory, could get discriminatory really quickly.

  120. Student*

    Please don’t do this.

    My parents are both modern-day Nazis. They are awful people. The thing about awful people is this: they are often awful to a LOT of people. My parents were awful to a lot of people. That includes me. I was abused – I won’t recount the full details, but physically with scars that will last all my life, and emotionally.

    I have been estranged from them for decades. Once I figured out what they were and how wrong they were, I repudiated all that they were. I sterilized myself specifically because I wanted to make sure their noxious views on races and genetics died out with me – there will be no grandchild for them to ever try to share their views with. I have tried to stand up for oppressed minority groups that my parents target. I donate regularly to organizations that oppose the work of my parents and people like them. I gave away money that I inherited from my grandarents, who had similar beliefs, to avoid profiting from their malevolence.

    I’ve done everything I can to try to break the tie. I’ve done everything I can afford to do to try to counteract my parent’s foul legacy. I hate them in a way that few others could.

    So, please. I know I was borne of monsters. I’ve spent my whole life trying to outrun their shadow. Please don’t cut me off from the light. Please don’t shun me. I don’t want to be a monster, with all of my heart. I’ve tried so hard. I would trade out my blood and genes in an instant if I could.

    1. anon24*

      I’m so sorry for what you’ve gone through. Treating you like a monster is only furthering the abuse and trauma that you went through.

      I was not raised by nazis, but I have a parent who sheltered me, taught me extremely homophobic views, casual racism, to look down on the poor, and certainly to hate trans people. Thankfully I don’t remember ever being very open or outwardly hateful with my views, so I don’t think I ever hurt anyone, but they were ingrained in me. I grew up and got out into the real world and got a chance to be around all these people I had been taught to look down on and realized that people are people, some are good, some are bad, some are freaking awesome, but you can’t fit them into a box or a stereotype, and hating someone because of “category” (except something hateful you choose like nazi, or supremacist, I’ll hate you for that) is stupid and shows personal insecurity. I’m now a flaming liberal who staunchly defends equal rights for everyone, no matter their race, skin color, gender identity or sexual preference. Don’t judge me for my parent, how I was raised or even what I believed as a kid/young teenager please, I’m not that person and it disgusts me.

  121. CommanderBanana*

    ………what on earth.

    I am Jewish. I grew up in Germany, literally surrounded by the descendants of Nazis. I would highly recommend that these employees focus their energies on combating active anti-Semitism and Nazism in the U.S. that is happening now, versus advocating that someone be fired because their great-grandfather or grandfather was a member of the NSDAP.

    FWIW, I personally didn’t encounter overt anti-Semitism until after I moved back to the United States.

    1. GrumpyPenguin*

      I always felt that Germany was still pretty anti-Semitic, but I guess that depends on the specific area you live in.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I’m not saying it’s not, I’m saying I didn’t encounter it. I returned in 2007 and did see instances of anti-Semitism/attacks on Jewish people in the news, but I was in Berlin, and when I lived there before I was living in much smaller cities/towns in the south. Berlin was also having an issue with non-German immigrants attacking Jewish people, cemeteries and synagogues at the time.

  122. James*

    Alison is, as usual, right. Once we head down the path of judging someone for what their ancestors did, we’re getting into a whole heap of problems as the where to draw the line.

    A direct ancestor of mine was transported from the UK to Van Diemen’s Land (modern day Tasmania in Australia) for “interfering with a horse”. I have no way of knowing exactly what that means, but my diseased mind immediately leaps towards a whole heap of nope.

    Do we let his sins from the 1700s echo down to his g-g-g-something-grandson and forbid me from working with animals? If we draw a line there and say “obviously not,” then what if it was my grandfather? I’d still say “obviously not,” but perhaps others would differ… and the can is open and the worms are everywhere.

    Which to me would be a reason to not go down the path in the first place and not have the sins of the (grand) father be used to punish the current generation at all.

    1. nnn*

      Something I read once (haven’t independently researched and have no idea if it would apply to your ancestor):

      At some points in British history, stealing livestock was punishable by death. So if people were caught stealing livestock, they would claim “I wasn’t stealing it, I was just [interfering with] it”

      1. UKDancer*

        Wouldn’t surprise me. Interfering with animals wasn’t very heavily punished but theft of anything over 12 pence was a capital offence in and in parts of the 18th and 19th century there were over 200 offences with a capital sentence. I can well believe people might prefer to be done for the interfering offence rather than being executed.

  123. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    OP – reconsider the friendship. These are people who are advocating for discrimination due to bloodlines.

  124. Momma Bear*

    Jane should be judged on her own merit. If she has not shown herself to be problematic, then don’t punish her for the crimes of someone she did not control and may not have even known.

    Similarly, these other teachers should be judged on their own merits, and right now they don’t look great trashing someone who has not shown herself to be a problem in any way other than having a not so great person as an ancestor. They need to leave Jane alone.

  125. Fikly*

    You should point out to your friends that judging, condemning, and punishing people based solely on their ancestry is pretty much a core tenant of being a Nazi and bigotry and racism and all kinds of hate.

    Have them chew on that for a bit. Should they be working at this school?

  126. Dawn*

    I teach middle-school humanities, which includes the Atlantic slave trade (African and American perspectives), U.S. slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction and beginnings of Jim Crow.

    My maternal grandmother was the daughter of (white) Alabama sharecroppers. I often use that in my teaching to point out views that they very likely would have held or racist activities they at least supported, if not participated in. I think it’s important for my students to see me model that, 1) I am not guilty of the actions of my ancestors and nor should they feel that they are, but 2) it’s important that we learn about and reflect on the past in order to evolve beyond what our ancestors believed and do better at making our society a more just place for everyone. Right now, unfortunately, a lot of traction is gained against teaching accurate if uncomfortable history by making the claim that this teaching is intended to make students feel guilty. This is not true … or it should not be.

    So what would be accomplished by firing Jane? What would students learn about what a just society looks like? How would they apply this to their own pasts and how would they understand their own role in society? And if they took the actions of their ancestors to mean that they were doomed to live a life of economic disadvantage, do we really believe this would encourage them to work toward equity and justice, or would it become the soil in which still more hate grows?

  127. Ally McBeal*

    Oh, the area where this school is located is a bit of a hotbed for white supremacy, you say? Sounds like it’s time for a genealogy project where we learn exactly how many employees’ ancestors supported the Confederacy.

  128. RVA Cat*

    I mean FFS Lee Harvey Oswald’s daughters aren’t old enough to fully retire yet. Give people grace.

  129. Lils*

    I can’t stop thinking about this letter. I would love to read more about how in the world these teachers came to the conclusion that Jane should be fired. Because, frankly, that’s just bizarre.

    I do think it’s important for descendants of people who committed historical atrocities (like me) to think about what they ought to do to combat modern-day revival of racist, genocidal philosophies. Particularly if you live in a place where such philosophies remain entrenched or have become re-popularized. For example, I’ve spoken out publicly, because the message is especially powerful coming from a descendent. But at work? Jeez, just leave her alone!

    1. RVA Cat*

      This! (Are you also from the South? I am so glad those traitor statues finally came down.)

      There’s also the sobering truth that all of us have DNA from rapists somewhere along the way.

      1. Lils*

        Yes! And the statue issue is something I am very vocal about. I can’t stand hearing bigots talk about “my heritage”–dude, I am a member of your same group and I am not proud! I am rightly ashamed of what theses a**holes did before passing on their name to me. Take down these monuments and let’s get to work trying to fix what our ancestors did.

        For me, speaking out publicly is the right thing to do, but there are lots of ways to make reparations for the harms your ancestors did. Getting fired is not necessary!

  130. Project Maniac-ger*

    Ah, academia. (Not that this couldn’t happen anywhere!)

    Actual laws aside, we as a culture have decided that it’s not right to fire people based on things they cannot change. What genocidal ideology a grandparent subscribed to is something a person cannot change, therefore they should not be fired for it.

    Where did these people get this information if not from the person in question? This is incredibly problematic.

  131. L'étrangère*

    Some of the most fiercely anti-Nazi people I have met have been relatives of Nazis. In fact let me pay a quick hommage here to Michael, who as a child was forced into Hitler Youth to prevent his family’s hardware store from being seized. He fled as soon as possible, went on to a distinguished career as a lawyer for the European Union, married a French woman, took great pleasure in parading his incredibly diverse cast of friends and family under his former bullies’ noses for the rest of his life. I still feel it was a great privilege to participate in my small way, jaywalking with my French sister, holding hands with my American girlfriend etc

  132. Veryanon*

    Like many other Americans, my ancestors were a mixed bag at best. Some came here to flee the English oppression of the Irish. Others came here to be landowners and may very well have owned enslaved people in some form (I don’t know that for sure, but it’s possible). I can’t be responsible for what my ancestors did, all I can do is try to be and do better. I feel badly for Jane that her ancestors were literal Nazis, but she is not responsible for what they did and frankly I’m confused that anyone would think she should be fired for that.

    1. AggroTurkey*

      It’s not unusual to get harsh reactions from people when they find out you’re German (at least, true in the 90s, not as bad today). I have family members who survived World War II in Nazi Germany; one of my friends in high school decided that the appropriate response to learning this was to leave an anti-Semitic joke on our home answering machine, which almost led my dad to call the police. This is the most extreme story- mostly it was just side-eyes and snarky comments, and some horrifically cringey arguments during Social Studies class.

  133. Snoozing not schmoozing*

    I’d recommend buying a copy of the book “Hitler’s Children: Sons and Daughters of Third Reich Leaders,” by Gerald Posner, and giving it to those weirdly judgmental friends. The book, which was published almost 25 years ago, has interviews with the adult children of some top Nazis, and the feelings of shame just leap off the page. I think there was one person who still defended their father, and another who was proud of theirs – but that was a child of von Stauffenberg or one of the others who plotted to kill Hitler. Anyone judging a person on their, what?, grandparent or great-grandparent? That’s seriously weird, unless Jane is going around bragging about her Nazi family, then there are very obvious reasons to not want her teaching.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes it’s a very good book. A lot of them were feeling very guilty and ashamed despite not doing anything to be ashamed about. I think Himmler’s daughter was very proud of him but the rest were very conflicted and had a lot of issues. I don’t think we can blame people for what their grandparents did.

  134. Weaver of Dreams*

    There’s a reason why the Constitution specifically forbids bills of attainder – it’s all too easy to lump together a whole group of people and decide to deprive them of their rights. In this case, however, the person who wants to fire Jane is taking it to a whole other level; she wants to fire someone for being the descendant of Nazis…as if Jane could control her ancestry!

    Some thirty years ago, my husband found out that his late father was instrumental in giving atomic secrets to Stalin. (The government at that time found out about it but decided not to prosecute him; they zeroed in on the Rosenbergs instead.) By the thinking of this OP’s colleague, my husband – as good a citizen as you could find in this country – should be rendered unemployable because of something that someone else did before he himself was born.

    As others have pointed out, go far enough back in your own ancestry and you will definitely find SOMEONE who did SOMETHING that you find abhorrent. If you wouldn’t think it fair to penalize you for what that person did (and spoiler alert: you WOULDN’T think it fair because it WOULDN’T be!), don’t apply that nutty way to thinking to others!

    1. Adric*

      I’m pretty sure this comes under “corruption of the blood” not “bill of attainder”, but either way the US Constitution says, “No.”

  135. Last name not Earp*

    Holding people responsible for the crimes or class origin of their ancestors is a hallmark of many if not most totalitarian ideologies. There are thousands of people in prison camps in North Korea right now being starved and tortured for things their parents or grandparents did.

    That sort of thinking leads to terrible atrocities.

    In an interesting aside, I am distantly related to (in?)famous gunfighter Wyatt Earp. I used to get a kick out of the fact that I had a relative that actually participated in the shootout at the OK corral. I mentioned to someone that it was never clear whether the Earps were stopping a stagecoach robbery or robbing the stagecoach.

    The guy I was talking to had just researched this for a master’s degree and said “no, Wyatt was definitely robbing the stagecoach”. It turns out that Wyatt later moved from Tombstone AZ and his next residence was a huge mansion—on a U.S. marshall’s salary? Yeah, my great-great uncle robbed a stagecoach. And killed for it, too.

    It’s far enough removed that for me it’s just an interesting anecdote, if it turned out my grandfather had been a Nazi I would probably feel differently but it still not my fault.

  136. Current events*

    I’ll say it
    I wonder if “Nazi” here is code for an ethnic or religious member of a more current conflict.
    “We heard Jane has a cousin in the Israeli army”
    “Jane’s parents emigrated from Russia.”
    “Jane has the same last name as a Taliban leader.”

    … could all much more plausibly lead to “we feel uncomfortable and wish she could be fired”

    Doesn’t make it right, or legal

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. I think it’s terrible that the Virginia Tech shooter’s family had to move back to South Korea because of this kind of backlash.

  137. noncommittally anonymous*

    I’m the descendant of innumerable slave owners (I probably could count, but I’ve never gotten the guts to do it), starting from 1619. I’m also the descendant of someone who is listed as black in a census in 1870 in SC and white in 1890 in Ohio. Those conflicts are in my blood.

    Oddly enough, I have met actual Nazis. My father, now 87, was lifetime Air Force in Aeronautics. They had several people from Operation Paperclip working at Wright-Patterson when he was there. They’d come to dinner parties at my parents’ house. I just remember them as these old guys who thought it was *hilarious* to teach little 5 or 6-year-old me various phrases in German. It took me until I was an adult to figure out who they were and what had happened.

  138. Eric Blair is disappointed*

    Every person who advocated Jane be fired needs to understand this attitude means THEY are one misstep away from being the center of another 2 minutes of hate and having their life ruined.

    “Do it to Julia” is a warning…

  139. Jaybeetee*

    So, fun fact: The current Deputy Prime Minister of Canada is *allegedly* the granddaughter of a Nazi (I have no idea if this is true or not, I’ve just heard the talking point repeatedly). And like, I’m not here to stump for any particular politician or party. But… I don’t think anyone should be penalized for what their parents, grandparents, or any other family members have or haven’t done. It gives Game of Thrones, medieval, “punish this person for their bloodline” vibes when none of us choose the family we’re born into.

    Your friends kinda suck.

  140. MeepMeep123*

    I kinda wonder whose family history would actually withstand this level of scrutiny. I’m of Russian/Jewish ancestry, so I’m pretty sure that at some point in my past, 25% of my ancestors were trying to exterminate the other 75% – so do I only get 25% fired?

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Maybe you’re expected to punch yourself in the face before going into the synagogue.

      Illustrates the idiocy of penalising people for the crimes of their ancestors. It’s rather like how we are all a mix of good & bad qualities; if we look far enough back at our family history, we are also probably all a mix of good & bad ancestors.

    2. pope suburban*

      I mean in the grander scheme of history, I feel fairly safe, since both sides of my family had left Ireland, Italy, and Germany right around WWI, so they ducked the pre-Civil-War era US and to the best of my knowledge did not hold sympathy with any fascist elements from the old country during WWII (Got a fair few US veterans in the mix, even), but still. I wouldn’t place any bets. Someone, somewhere, back in the dim mists of time, was quite probably awful. I’ve got one living grandparent who’s straight-up racist and I’d be horrified to be lumped in with him. People ought to be judged on their own choices because they can’t change the distant past and they didn’t get to pick their living relatives.

    3. EchoGirl*

      I have a similar thing. My great-grandfather was a racist; I don’t know if he was part of any specific group, but according to my dad, he definitely had some pretty strong opinions about groups of people (my dad described him as “Archie Bunker”). His daughter married a Jewish man whose family lived through pogroms. (My great-grandfather reconciled it by deciding his son-in-law was “one of the good ones”, a concept that of course has its own problematic history.)

  141. Prgrmmngr*

    I wonder how these people respond to those who drive German cars brands, because while my history is rusty, I believe all the major ones have some connections to the Nazis, and the brand of car you buy is a choice.

    (I’m not judging anyone who owns a German car, nor am I averse to buying one, though I’m frugal, so I probably won’t any time soon, but I grew up with families who bought British luxury cars, stating they weren’t interested in supporting brands linked to Nazi activity, and I respect that as well).

    1. Transmascjourno*

      Actually, there are a number of Jews who do think about this a lot, and avoid purchasing those products as much as possible. I’m one of them.

      That being said, Jews are not monolith, and I’d never judge someone else for doing so—it’s my personal code.

  142. Jaybeetee*

    Oh, and follow-up questions (sorry, I’m sure this has been brought up, but I don’t have time to go through 500+ comments today to check): But how did your friends even find this out about her, if she’s never said anything? What proof have they found? And for that matter, why were they looking?

    This honestly sounds like some kind of childish drama where they dislike Jane for other reasons and are looking for reasons to push her out.

  143. Ladybugger*

    An absolutely wild take from people who live in a country where, if you’ve been ‘American’ for several generations, you are quite likely to be descended from at least one person who ran the family farm using enslaved people as labour.

    1. Anon for this one*

      A generation is considered to be 20 years. Several generations would only be 60 years. As I mentioned in another comment, there are many many immigrants who came to the US after the Civil War (ended in 1865) who had absolutely nothing to do with slavery in the south. Many went to the northeast, Midwest to work in factories or farm, or the plains to farm.

      My ancestors came to the US from Germany before World War I (so before 1914) and from Canada in the 1930s. They settled in the Midwest.

      1. Addison DeWitt*

        Yes, assuming your ancestors never married out of the Serbian community, or Amish or Hasidic or whatever . The reality is most of us have so many ancestors the further you go back that that’s true of almost anyone who doesn’t belong to a very insular ethnic community.

  144. korangeen*

    I thought this letter would at least be about someone directly related to a *current* Nazi, and maybe having an active relationship with this Nazi. It’s so bizarre to even suggest the idea of firing someone just for having an ancestor who was a Nazi.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. There are laws about financial dealings with people related to foreign government officials, plus sanctions and OFAC if say they’re related to Vladimir Putin or the leaders of Iran.

      Plus we should think of all the ex-spouses and children of the January 6th rioters who not only didn’t support their relative storming the Capitol, but helped get them caught!

  145. Empress Ki*

    Maybe tell them to read Katrin Himmler’s book. She’s a great-niece of Heinrich Himmler. She’s not a Nazi, and even married an Israeli whose ancestors were persecuted during WWII. They have a son. I am curious to know what these teachers would think of the kid, who is both a descendant of Nazis and a descendant of the victims of the Nazis.
    Katrin doesn’t hide because she understands it’s not the bloodline that matters. If we say that bloodline matters, we fall in the Nazi ideology.

    1. Boof*

      “ If we say that bloodline matters, we fall in the Nazi ideology.” I didn’t even think about it that far and you are so right – the idea that really complex psychosocial behaviors are physically inherited is one of the more redic/debunked/destructive elements of nazi-type eugenics

  146. Laura*

    This is absolutely wild. You don’t fire people because their relatives were Nazis. You only fire them if they’re neo-Nazis/Nazi sympathizers/go around talking about how their ancestors were right/etc.

  147. I Study WWII*

    Obligatory reminder that nobody chooses their ancestors and many, many women who had children with Nazis had no choice in that matter either.

  148. AggroTurkey*

    My father grew up in Nazi Germany. He was a little kid, not a Nazi, and nobody in his family was affiliated with the party. However, growing up I often received sidelong looks, snide comments, and once even a nasty joke left on our answering machine. Despite losing his father in the war, experiencing malnutrition, surviving bombings and shootings and facing severely interrupted schooling, he arrived in the United States at age 12 and was able to build a new life here. He was proud to join the U.S. military as an adult. Being from Nazi Germany isn’t synonymous with being an actual Nazi, unlike what a lot of people (still) seem to think. In fact, my knee-jerk response would be to steer far clear of someone like Jane, whose relative joined forces with a political group that caused my father to suffer things no child should ever experience.

    That said… it’s not fair or just to hold someone responsible for their ancestors’ actions. If a person is descended from a Nazi, they have to be honest about it, but it doesn’t make them a perpetrator. And it sounds like Jane HAS been honest. I’d be concerned if she tried to hide this relative’s history, if she came up with excuses for their behavior, or if she continually brought up them up during completely unrelated conversations. If she’s not doing any of those things, then there’s no reason to worry, and definitely no reason to discriminate against her based on her heritage. Judge her by own her present, not somebody else’s past. We do much of the latter already.

  149. The Gnome*

    My paternal grandfather was part of the US Air Force squadrons that bombed Dresden during WW2 and went to jail for embezzlement later in life. By those teachers’ logic, none of my family should have been employed.

    Neener neener neener, yo.


    I worked in a science building which was funded by an initiative by then California governor, Grey Davis. When the building finally opened, the regents invited then Governor Schwarzenneger to the opening. The faculty, staff, and students jointly asked the regents to disinvite him (this was during his sexual harassment, fathering a child with family servant, opposing funding to the university phase) so he didn’t come. This was a consequence of being a crappy governor and not his family history; it is good that he is less unpleasant than he was. Likewise, the only important thing is how the employee is as an individual.

  151. Office Plant Queen*

    You don’t have to look far to find people who vehemently disagree with their parents’ worldview. The more generations removed, the more chances you have of moving far, far away from that. The fact that the employee in question didn’t even disclose it herself I think says a lot. It’d be one thing if she was talking about it with pride, or even with the intention of getting attention (because “I’m using people’s discomfort for my own gain” is…ew).

    I had a grandfather who abused/assaulted children, and it was found out and stopped before I was even born. I am not accountable for his crimes, nor are any of my siblings or cousins. Not should we be. I didn’t even *know* until he was dead.

  152. Addison DeWitt*

    If you search my real name plus “Nazi,” you get a guy who reported his brother for being an American Nazi– who worked for the government. No relation to me (we’re a small, self-contained branch of the family from Switzerland), but I have wondered sometimes if someone would find that and think of me.

    I knew a kid in grade school whose dad had been a soldier in WWII… and not on our side. I don’t think he posed any danger as food and beverage manager for a country club in the 60s and 70s, though.

  153. Tiger Snake*

    This line of thought is inherently racist though.
    If you have relatives in Germany during that time period who weren’t being proactively persecuted, then yes; they will have been affiliated with the Nazi party. It was literal indoctrination, and even for those who hadn’t been fully brainwashed it was the only way to be sure to protect yourself. If you want your family to live a good life, you had to fall in line. Similar story in China or Russia in the same time period – you want you and your loved ones to be safe? Then you be a good Communist, whether you like it or not.

    If we say “We’re going to start persecuting people because of what their family has done in the past”, we are saying “We’re going to persecute people because of race instead of their own actions.” And that sure seems like the rhetoric that got used to persecute Jewish people in the first place.

    1. Pam Poovey*

      Yeah, my grandfather was Italian, and was in the Balilla before coming to the US. There was no choice, it was tied in with school. He wasn’t a fascist, he was a kid.

  154. DJ*

    Jane has never mentioned her nazi ancestor nor has made any pro nazi comments. It would be highly unfair to fire her simply because someone has found this out and others feel “uncomfortable”. This could be managed in other ways especially now with WFH, limited contact with those not comfortable and perhaps the affected talk mainly to an appropriate person about this and not to everyone!

  155. Cheesehead*

    This is not something I admit to often, but well it is an anonymous online forum, so if ever there was a time… My great uncle was a Nazi. He fled Germany and wasn’t captured until much later, when I was alive and was appropriately tried for war crimes. It is a deep family secret that we don’t talk about with anyone, my partner didn’t even know until after we had been together for a year and most certainly nobody from my work knows. My family changed the spelling of the last name that we shared with him as to not be connected, and I don’t even have that last name either. That is all to say, please don’t judge people based on past relatives, I am not the same as someone that I share 12.5% of my DNA and never met. I am certainly not a denier of anything, and he deserved the death penalty.

    Now, if the person is in anyway boasting about the relation, expressing any neo-Nazi sentiment, that is an entirely different thing.

  156. ElliottRook*

    I hope that I am never judged or held accountable for the actions or beliefs of any of my family, including my parents whose roof I lived under for the first 20 years of my life, much less relatives further in the past that I never met. Of course, to that end, I moved 1400 miles away from all of them and cut contact…and Jane might have done similar, if she ever knew her ancestor at all. Of course it would be crazy (and illegal??) to fire her just because of the relation with no indication of her own beliefs.

  157. Michelle Smith*

    “And I’m quite confident that if we looked into everyone’s ancestors, we’d find a whole lot of problems.”

    This is an excellent point that I think should be emphasized. I’m African American. My cousin and I did some work on our ancestry and learned that I am the descendant of both slaves and slave owners. Ancestry can be complicated. As long as the person themselves is not exhibiting problematic beliefs and behaviors, they should not be fired in my opinion. I’d hate for someone to fire me because of how my ancestors were conceived.

  158. Ned*

    No. You can’t choose your relatives.

    In fact, you should fire the person who said you should. Clear proof of poor judgement.


  159. TheBunny*

    I think I applaud the intent of not wanting to glorify past bad behaviors, or support them.

    But this only works if it’s the person who committed the sin, or if the person directly supported the person who committed the sin. Otherwise it’s blaming people for things they can’t control and likely don’t condone.

  160. Zip2*

    I can’t believe this is even a question. Whether it’s legal or not, you don’t fire someone for something their ancestors did or believed. Period. It sounds like the person at issue has given no reason, based on her speech or behavior, that she shares her ancestors’ views. It’s her behavior and hers alone that she should be judged by.

  161. Professor Dog*

    My grandmother was a Nazi. She shook Hitler’s hand and was engaged to an SS officer before he was killed. Me? I’m someone who the Nazis would have killed if I’d been alive during my grandmother’s time.

    Sure feels great to hear there’s yet another thing about me outside of my control that someone might not want to hire me over. Love that. Sure is some kind of justice, not wanting a queer, trans, autistic person to have a job in a school district because one of his ancestors was a piece of shit.

    1. Transmascjourno*

      Hey, please remember that your family history in this case is not something that would actually marginalize you. I’m also queer, also trans, and also neurodivergent. I’m also Jewish—and the rise of antisemitism in the US at this point is unparalleled. So please, I’m begging you, reconsider the idea that “descendant of a white supremacist entity” is another form of marginalization.

      (Caveats: I lost a lot of people I knew who were killed in the biggest antisemitic massacre in US history, I am not in any way linking this to the horrible events happening in Palestine and Israel, and again, I’m sorry, but please remember that while your family history is undeniable something that’s deeply impactful to you in many ways, it’s a lot more likely that “being a removed descendant from a Nazi” is not something that you’d be persecuted for.)

        1. Transmascjourno*

          The point of this comment is obvious: the original commenter is a member of a number of marginalized communities, but being a descendant of an ancestor who was a Nazi is not one of them.

          1. Transmascjourno*

            I also want to stress that Jane should obviously NOT be fired for being a descendant of a Nazi, unless she in some way has publicly espoused those views! That’s an obvious given.

      1. Professor Dog*

        I think there’s been a miscommunication somewhere here.

        This is a letter about a pair of people who want someone fired because of her ancestry. Do I think I’m likely to run into an identical situation? No, though based on what some folks in the comments are describing, the odds are higher than I would have expected. Am I still justified in feeling some measure of discouragement? I’d say so, yes.

        More importantly, what I wanted to draw attention to was how much distance there can be between a person and their violent relatives. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the OP’s friends that Jane, like me, may not only not be a Nazi, but be someone they would have executed if she’d been alive during the Holocaust. I think it bears emphasizing how many of us descendants would have been victims of our own families.

        Does that make sense?

  162. Have you had enough water today?*

    People who think she should miss out on employment opportunities because of something a long dead ancestor did well before she was born should have a long hard look at their own family tree before they start throwing stones. I wonder if those people who are uncomfortable working with a Nazi might have, say, slave owners in their family tree they should be disclosing before they are allowed to make life hard for this woman.

  163. Pyjamas*

    Dollars to doughnuts, OP’s friends don’t like Jane for some reason and are using this possible connection as an excuse to trash talk Jane behind her back

  164. Rob aka Mediancat*

    — my great-great uncle was literally a convicted traitor to the US. He worked with the Nazis during WWII. (He’s on Wikipedia.)

    He was a family pariah even then and my ancestors and the US disowned him at about the same time. I sure as hell wouldn’t want his actions held against me, or any member of my family.

  165. Jordan*

    I work in a job that has adults from many countries. There are several whose countries are actively at war with each other.
    At first I worried about this, but the truth and the point is that these people Left their country and gave up a lot to not agree with their country.
    The fact that they came here means they don’t hold those views

    1. Jordan*

      Also, if I recall correctly, there is a section in the naturalization/citizenship process that specifically asks “have you ever been a member of the Nazi party” defined as the party in Germany and Europe during World War Two.

    2. Old Admin*

      Word. I agree fully.
      I’ve also seen Greek and Turkish people (who were at war with each other) get along just fine in the US.

  166. Darry*

    I would argue that those judgemental “teachers” who express prejudice and ill will about a person regarding things that said person cannot change and is not responsible for are actually displaying a kind of abhorrent bigotry that makes me question their fitness to be teaching (especially to children).

  167. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    they found out one of their recently-hired colleagues (“Jane”) is the direct descendant of a Nazi. I don’t know which Nazi, I don’t know how they found out

    So, in other words, you have absolutely no proof that this is true or that they found this information purely by chance in a legal fashion.

    I would have pointed out the IRONY of them wishing to have Jane fired based on her ANCESTRY, something she has no control over, something that the original Nazis were known for doing! Jane can’t help her family history, she can only control her actions and even these snoopers have admitted she’s a lovely person, yet they still want her gone. Gross.

  168. Nope!*

    My grandfather was a Nazi. There were more than 17 million Nazi soldiers. There are many German and Austrian descendants of people who were Nazi soldiers, members of the party, etc. My father is extremely sensitive to this. We have another family member (not related to Nazis) who is disgustingly antisemitic and my father has banned him from visiting his home and refuses to be around him. My grandfather had extreme PTSD and eventually committed suicide — I do not feel sorry for him, he committed horrible sins, but I do feel bad for my father who grew up in the aftermath.

  169. LlamaLibrarian*

    I’m a white woman from the South, with a family history of being tobacco farmers. I’ve never really looked into it, and we generally weren’t ever all that wealthy, but. . .probably there were some enslavers in my family history, even though it wasn’t the majority of my ancestors. My grandfather was on the school board in my county when the schools desegregated, and was a proponent of integration, for which he got a lot of flak. He also, as a child/teen, got invited to a picnic that he later realized was a Klan gathering (he hightailed it out of there once he realized what it was).
    I unfortunately do not control where I came from. I try to pull the lessons I can from my grandfather– he learned better, he did better, and he took concrete civic action to create meaningful change once he learned better. I will also screw up and the best I can ask of myself is to learn to do better each time. I think there’s room in the conversation for varying levels of nuance. Even someone who seems purely evil may have had moments in their life where they learned better, and those who came after them may choose to follow that path instead of the original evil. And, while we may have benefitted from those evils perpetuated by our forebears, we aren’t responsible for them, only for how we respond to our own benefitting (do we feel responsible to pay it forward/back/fight for a more just society? Or do we just shrug our shoulders and say “that’s the way it is?”)

  170. That Jewish Girl*

    Hi Jew who Embraced Judaism here!

    Just because a relative was a Nazi, doesn’t mean that person is. I converted to Judaism. If you research my last name, you will find a few people with the same last name who did horrible things in WWII. I’m embarassed by it, but do I think I should be fired from a job or judged because some of my family members were awful people? No. They are not me. I hate what they did. I have nothing to do with what happened before I was born. I am my own person. Judaism called to me and I embraced it.

    You can’t judge someone by their family unless they blatantly show they are like their awful relatives. So many of us have run screaming from shitty families. Your colleague might have done the same.

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