Based on his experiences as a concentration camp prisoner brought before a dying Nazi soldier who asked for his forgiveness, "The Sunflower" is a collection of essays in which a host of intellectuals considers the question: Can evil be forgiven? This revised edition features contributions by Robert Coles, Cynthia Ozick, Primo Levi, Albert Speer, ...
Based on his experiences as a concentration camp prisoner brought before a dying Nazi soldier who asked for his forgiveness, "The Sunflower" is a collection of essays in which a host of intellectuals considers the question: Can evil be forgiven? This revised edition features contributions by Robert Coles, Cynthia Ozick, Primo Levi, Albert Speer, Harry Wu, and a host of others, including 33 respondents not featured in the earlier edition.
The first 1/3 of the book is what happened in the life of Simon Wiesenthal, the author, during WWII. It is presented in such a way that the reader has the feeling of being there but "filtered"so as not to receive the full horror of that time.
Wiesenthal invited a variety of notables to give their opinions of his quandry. It was impossible for me to skip even one.
It is a good study in what is forgiveness and how are we to forgive.
Jul 5, 2007
This book has a small book by Simon Wiesenthal, the Nazi Hunter, about a visit with a dying Nazi SS soldier during his imprisonment in a concentration camp. Following the story are four score commentaries on the book by living and nonliving writers. Even though Mr. Wiesenthal had no idea at the time of the conversation that 89 of his relatives died in the camps he surely was a person to confess to. And even if the soldier couldn' t directly face his victims he did face Wiesenthal who would go on to find many of the Nazi perpetrators after the war. I personally feel that Wiesenthal did the right thing by listening to the soldier, walking away in silence, and then visiting the soldier's mother after the war. There are some things that cannot under any circumstances be forgiven. If all people go to heaven, Hitler, as a budding artist, should spend the rest of eternity painting the portraits of the victims of his mass genocide. However, I believe in hell and that's where this soldier and Hitler are. The fact that Simon Wiesenthal spent 96 years on this earth was God's plan and the fact that he listened to murderer's confession was also quite fitting. This book brings up many questions that are hard to answer with any authority. How would I understand the concentration camp Jew if I did not undergo it as he or she did. There is just not any way to rationalize forgiveness. And don't blame God. God gave us people like Wiesenthal and Frankl to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust. Let us be content in that.
Publishers Weekly, 1997-04-28 In 1976, Schocken published the first edition of this book. In it, Wiesenthal (The Murderers Among Us) related an autobiographical incident and invited responses from a number of prominent thinkers. For this revised version, responses were solicited from 31 new personages; in addition, 11 of the old responses were retained and three included from the 1981 German edition. Among the new respondents, including intellectuals, writers, theologians, political dissidents and religious leaders from around the world, are the Dalai Lama, Robert Coles, Harold S. Kushner and Albert Speer. The book raises questions of ethics, responsibility, guilt, repentance and forgiveness as Wiesenthal recounts how, as a concentration camp prisoner, he was one day called to the bedside of a dying SS soldier. The terribly wounded young man had requested a Jew to hear his final confession, because of his guilt over vicious crimes against Jewish civilians. The SS man claimed that he was not anti-Semitic and had only followed the orders and lead of his officers and peers. In a few hours, the solider retold the story of his life, without rationalizations or excuses. Now repentant, he described his crime and asked Wiesenthal for forgiveness. The author has pondered his own responseŠsilenceŠfor more than five decades, and he asks his readers what they might have done in his place. In simple yet elegant prose, Wiesenthal recreates the grim reality of a time when Eastern Europe was hell. Never lapsing into the maudlin or self-pitying, his matter-of-fact realism makes the images all the more horrifying. The responses to the author's question are as varied as their authors. The mystery of evil and atonement remain, and the reader is left challenged on these most basic issues of meaning in human life. (May)
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