German law sources of the Middle Ages and especially German proverbs often are taken for "early German law", without respect to the Roman and canon law. According to the proverb "The son shall not answer for the father" this article exemplarly demonstrates this difficulty.
The exact meaning of the proverb first comes out in context with the sources, from which it is taken: the "Sachsenspiegel" and similar law books of the high Middle Ages. But the so won meaning corresponds exactly with the sources of Roman and canon law about hereditary liability. Opposite of that, however, is the doctrine of the "tribe liability" in "early German law". Therefore, this liability is to be precisely examined. The examination showes that the doctrine is not really proved. The sources of "early German law" which are named for the doctrine of "tribe liability" in wide parts corresponds with the Roman and canon law.
In conclusion the development untill the modern German law shows that in the Sixties and Seventies of the last century the proverb first is carried out with regard to final judgements. The transmission of the "Schmerzensgeld" to the heirs now is a last systemless exeption which the legislator should clarify.