The Sunflower: Compassion and Forgiveness
A fact which we all have to emit is that humanity existence always creates conflicts and fighting which we call "WAR". In war, people kill each others for many reasons ---- resources, personal benefits, territories, powers, revenge, etc. In war, one becomes a hero for killing human lives and eventually he gets honored and well-known in people's heart. The Holocaust, according to Germans, was the war between Germans and Jews. Approximately six million Jews included 960,000 innocent children died during Hitler's regime called Nazism. Unlike the "hero(s)" whom people honor, the Holocaust was a hideous crime and the participants were bloody murderers. Today people are taught about the Holocaust and learn how to avoid it. Many books written about the Holocaust have published and people read and respond. Written by Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor, The Sunflower has challenged many readers throughout the world about human responsibility, compassion, and justice with the question about forgiveness, "You are a prisoner in a concentration camp. A dying Nazi soldier asks for your forgiveness. What would you do?" I have thought about the question and seek for the answer for a long time. Finally I find myself in the position that compassion is more important than justice under such a circumstance. I would forgive the dying SS soldier because I feel like nothing is more important than his repentance. There are two other major factors that help me to decide to forgive the dying SS soldier which are peer pressure and his naiveness.
I am just a normal person who does not believe in any superhuman being. However I have learned about different religions and they share the same common lesson about compassion---mercy is sometimes more important than justice. They forgive sinners who genuinely repent. I would forgive Karl because he finally showed repentance before he died. "In our religion repentance is the most important element in seeking forgiveness...And he certainly repented..." said priest Bolek to Simon Wiesenthal (The Sunflower 83). Karl was a good person; he was not born a murderer. According to his mom, he was always a good man who never done anything wrong. And that was basically what Karl said before his death---"I was not born a murderer..." (The Sunflower 31). Facing the death, a person would never tell a lie because there is nothing to lie about and there is no need to lie. Karl recognized his crime while he was in hospital and he knew that he was guilty. "...His dilemma comes not only because the dying SS man asks for forgiveness, but also because he genuinely seems to recognize his crime and guilt. This recognition, if nothing else, is an important first step." says Sven Alkalaj (The Sunflower 103). Everyone makes mistake but not all recognizes his/her guilt. For me, Karl is deserved to be forgiven because he makes mistake and he repents (for some people Karl's mistake was unforgivable).
Simon Wiesenthal did not full believe that the dying soldier was confessing. "...Was he better than others---or did the voices of SS men change when they were dying?" he wondered. As I mentioned earlier, a dying person can only tell the true and Karl was truely confessing as he said "Look, those Jews died quickly, they did not suffer as I do---though they were not as guilty as I am." Karl believed that God was punishing him because he was so much guilty. That was why "GOD" did not let him die (as quick as the Jews) but made him suffered. Simon Wiesenthal left the room without saying a single word because part of his heart was not certain how to answer the dying SS man. I sense that Mr. Wiesenthal's silence meant to forgive Karl. Cardinal Franz Konig, a responder in The Sunflower, also states, "Even though you went away without formally uttering a word of forgiveness, the dying man somehow felt accepted from you; otherwise he would not have bequeathed you his personal belongings." Mr....
Cited: Wiesenthal, Simon. The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. Ed. Harry James and Bonny V. Fetterman. New York: Schocken Books, 1998. Print.
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