The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness (Newly Expanded Paperback Edition)
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While imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, Simon Wiesenthal was taken one day from his work detail to the bedside of a dying member of the SS. Haunted by the crimes in which he had participated, the soldier wanted to confess to--and obtain absolution from--a Jew. Faced with the choice between compassion and justice, silence and truth, Wiesenthal said nothing. But even years after the way had ended, he wondered: Had he done the right thing? What would you have done in his place?
In this important book, fifty-three distinguished men and women respond to Wiesenthal's questions. They are theologians, political leaders, writers, jurists, psychiatrists, human rights activists, Holocaust survivors, and victims of attempted genocides in Bosnia, Cambodia, China and Tibet. Their responses, as varied as their experiences of the world, remind us that Wiesenthal's questions are not limited to events of the past. Often surprising and always thought provoking, The Sunflower will challenge you to define your beliefs about justice, compassion, and human responsibility.
listen to the confession of a dying Nazi soldier. If he had really rediscovered his faith in Christianity, then a priest should have been sent for, a priest who could help him die in peace. If I were dying to whom should I make my confession if indeed I had anything to confess? And anyway I would not have as much time as this man had. My end would be violent, as had happened to millions before me. Perhaps it would be an unexpected surprise, perhaps I would have no time to prepare for the bullet.
based on a single and exceptional encounter between two individuals whose paths strangely and tragically crossed. BONNY V. FETTERMAN October 1996 PREFACE TO THE PAPERBACK EDITION The revised and expanded edition of The Sunflower sparked a new round of public forums and symposia in high schools, colleges, seminaries, and educational institutions across the country. This first paperback edition of the revised and expanded Sunflower includes additional responses by Rebecca Goldstein, Mary
she must get her medicines prescribed by a different doctor, he was not allowed to make up the prescriptions of a Jewish doctor. My mother was furious but my father just looked at me and held his tongue. “I need not tell you what the newspapers said about the Jews. Later in Poland I saw Jews who were quite different from ours in Stuttgart. At the army base at Debicka some Jews were still working and I often gave them something to eat. But I stopped when the platoon leader caught me doing it. The
you're hurting yourself.” Forgiving is not something we do for another person, as the Nazi asked Wiesenthal to do for him. Forgiving happens inside us. It represents a letting go of the sense of grievance, and perhaps most importantly a letting go of the role of victim. For a Jew to forgive the Nazis would not mean, God forbid, saying to them “What you did was understandable, I can understand what led you to do it and I don't hate you for it.” It would mean saying “What you did was thoroughly
forgive. This magnanimity, this nobility of spirit, is quite breathtakingly unbelievable. I have often felt I should say, “Let us take off our shoes,” because at this moment we were standing on holy ground. So, what would I have done? I answer by pointing to the fact that people who have been tortured, whose loved ones were abducted, killed, and buried secretly—a young widow whose husband's brains were blown out by a booby-trapped tape recorder, a father whose son was killed in a Wimpy Bar bomb