"The Sunflower" essay
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The Sunflower is a book written by Simon Wiesenthal that reconstructs his moves to an individual question of forgiveness. The book recites what he went through in Lemberg Concentration camp and talks of the lesson of the matter. The title comes from the author’s view of a military cemetery of German: he sees a flower on each grave and dreads that he will have his body placed in a mass grave without a mark. The book’s second part constitutes a symposium of responses from several people, including the survivors of Holocaust and former Nazis. At the camp, Wiesenthal is called to the side of the dying Karl Seidl, a soldier of the Nazi.
Karl Seidl tells him that he seeks his forgiveness for an offence that has haunted him in his lifetime. The dying soldier admits to destroying a house with 300 Jews in occupancy. The soldier used fire and other weapons to execute the murder. The Nazi soldier confesses that as the Jews tried to save their lives by jumping out through the window, he shot them down. After Seidl narrates his story, he requests Wiesenthal to forgive him. Wiesenthal takes account of his response and poses a challenge to the reader.
The Wiesenthal’s dilemma has currently 53 responses. The responses are from various professionals, among who are theologians, human rights activists, former Karl’s colleagues and survivors. Some claim that forgiveness ought to be granted on behalf of the victims, while others say that forgiveness should be denied to Karl in this matter. In the responses, many seem not to criticize Wiesenthal because they believe he went through too much torture. The author himself is haunted by the fact that he denied a man his last wish. Forgiving and forgetting seems easy to speak about but difficult to perform; the decision to forgive or not should be based on Simon Wiesenthal’s faith, because he represents the Jews and knows the pain and agony they faced.