Can I Befriend the Son of a Nazi?
by Rabbi Aron Moss
I have an acquaintance who was born in Germany, but raised most of his life in the USA. His father was a member of the Nazi youth. I find this very difficult to ignore. My friend is not like his father. Yet he made a point to tell me of his father's past and his father's hatred of Jews. Can I truly befriend such a person??
There is a precedent for your question. It goes all the way back to the story of Purim.
Haman was the wicked Persian minister who plotted the annihilation of the Jewish people. Through a complex sequence of seeming coincidences that were only retrospectively recognized as miraculous, his plot was overturned, the Jews saved, and Haman executed on the very gallows he had prepared for the Jewish leader Mordechai.
We celebrate the festival of Purim to remember Haman's downfall and the victory of the Jewish people over their enemies. But there is a little known ironic addendum to the story. Haman's relationship with the Jewish people continued posthumously in a most curious way.
The Talmud relates that "Haman's grandchildren studied Torah in Bnei Brak." That means Haman had Jewish offspring. The very man who wanted to destroy the Jews had rabbis as his descendants.
When the Haman family came to convert to Judaism, their background was known, and yet they were embraced by the Jewish people as one of us. Indeed a the great Talmudic rabbi, Shmuel bar Shilas, was a member of that family.
We don't hold children culpable for the wrongs of their fathers. A child or grandchild of a monster who disassociates from the evils of the past should be accepted for who they are. Whether Persian or German or Amalekite, the gates of reconciliation are always open.
We should never exonerate unrepentant perpetrators of evil. But their innocent children who actively repudiate their ways, move to a new society and adopt different values, should not suffer for the moral failures of their forebears.
Haman was evil. His grandchildren weren't. They celebrated Purim too. What better expression of the triumph of good over evil can there be than that.