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The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness Paperback – 1 Jan 1998

4.8 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken Books; Revised and Exp edition (1 Jan. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805210601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805210606
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 128,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Inside Flap

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.

About the Author

Simon Wiesenthal was born in 1908 in Buczacz, Galicia, at that time a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was incarcerated between 1941 and 1945 in Buchenwald and Mauthausen and other concentration camps. In 1946, together with 30 other survivors, he founded the Jewish Historical Documentation Center, which was instrumental in the identification of over 1,100 Nazi war criminals. He has been honored by the governments of Italy, the Netherlands, Israel, and the United States. Wiesenthal is the author of many books, including The Murderers Among Us, Justice Not Vengeance, Sails of Hope, and Every Day Remembrance Day. Wiesenthal lives in Austria.
Among the contributors:
Sven Alkalaj, Bosnian Ambassador to the U.S., Moshe Bejski, retired justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, Robert McAfee Brown, leading Protestant theologian, Robert Coles, Harvard professor of social ethics and author, The Dalai Lama, Eugene Fisher, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Matthew Fox, author and leading Episcopalian theologian, Yossi Klein Halevi, Israeli journalist and son of a Holocaust survivor, Arthur Hertzberg, rabbi and author, Theodore Hesburgh, President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, Hans Konig, Cardinal of Vienna, Harold Kushner, rabbi and best-selling author, Primo Levi, Italian Holocaust survivor and author, Cynthia Ozick, novelist and essayist, Dennis Prager, author and conservative radio commentator, Dith Pran, photographer and subject of the film "The Killing Fields" about the Cambodian genocide, Albert Speer, German Nazi war criminal and author, Tzvetan Todorov, French literary critic, Harry Wu, Chinese human rights activist.


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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Weisenthal, a Jew in a concentration camp in the Holocaust, is pulled out of work one day to listen to the confession of a dying SS man. The Nazi is truly repentant of his horrendous sins, and asks Weisenthal for forgivness. Even after Weisenthal makes his decision as to what to say, he spends the rest of his life wondering if he made the right choice. This book addresses such important questions as "can one man grant forgivness for another?" and "do even the Nazis deserve second chances?" Most importantly, Weisenthal (the writer of the true story) asks the reader "what would you have done?" This is the type of book that holds you in a horrified fascination so that you can't get it out of your hands until you've finished it, and you can't get it out of your mind until long after. *Everybody* should read this book.
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Simon Wiesenthal is best known as the man who had been indefatigable and single-minded in trying to bring Nazi criminals to justice as long as there was a single one of them left. For him this was an absolute moral imperative and something that he felt he owed to the memory of the murdered millions of Jews, of whom Wiesenthal could so easily have been one: he was the survivor of a succession of concentration camps: the Janowska camp outside Lvov, Plaszow (the camp of Schindler's List), Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen, and finally Mauthausen. It may come as a surprise to some readers that Wiesenthal was sensitive to the moral problems raised by the issue of forgiveness - yet this book is a moving meditation on that theme. According to his biographer, Hella Pick, Wiesenthal had `always considered it his most important book'.

Cruelty and casual murder were everyday occurrences in the Janowska camp, and are described in gut-wrenching detail in the first half of this episode from Wiesenthal's life. While doing slave labour at a military hospital near the camp, he was secretly brought to the death-bed of Karl, a gravely wounded 21-year old SS officer whose conscience was wracked - not just at death's door, but apparently immediately after the event - by his participation in a horrific massacre of Jews in Dnepropetrovsk. The officer got a nurse to find `a Jew', who happened to be Wiesenthal, to whom he could make his confession and from whom he could seek forgiveness. Wiesenthal wanted to get away; but something - apart from the dying man's grip - made him stay to hear him out. A Catholic priest later told him that that alone should have helped the man to die in peace, since confession and genuine repentance are more important than any absolution.
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This is a soul-searing book. I started reading it at 5pm on the day it arrived, read until I fell asleep at 10, woke up again at 2am and carried on reading until I finally finished it at 4am. It took possession of my mind as no other book has done, and ever since, I continued to work through its implications.
The fact that these events occurred 75 years ago is irrelevant. Evil is evil, however long ago it happened. The moral situation is unchanged.
My father was Jewish, and had Hitler's armies invaded, both he and I would have been sent away and murdered. I can therefore put myself to some extent in Wiesenthal's position: what would I have done if this man had been responsible for the horrific death of my beloved father?
There are some enormities before which only silence is possible, and I admire Wiesenthal beyond measure for his self-control and his life-time's dedication to the hunting down of these monsters.
This book is one which should be required reading for everyone. No moral position can be posited which does not in some measure take account of this situation.
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Format: Paperback
Simon Wiesenthal's book, The Sunflower, is a true life story of a Jew called to the bedside of a dying Nazi to hear the Nazi's life story. The Nazi then asks the Jew, Wiesenthal, to forgive him. Wiesenthal leaves in silence, but poses to you the same question: In his position, would you have forgiven the Nazi? A very thought-provoking book, The Sunflower makes the reader ponder for hours over the meaning of right and wrong, as well as giving a vivid picture of a Jew's life during the Holocaust. An excellent read.
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Wiesenthal's vignette of his experience in Nazi camps is a harrowing story. The dilemma he presents is haunting. Yet, more valuable still are the multifarious responses given by people from a range of different backgrounds and experiences, from the Dalai Lama to Albert Speer.
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This was not quite as absorbing as I had expected. I found the basic storyline difficult to believe as factual - it read more like a parable. The individual essays on the subject of forgiveness were a bit repetitive although the one which explained the Jewish dogma on forgiveness was interesting.
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This book made my head spin. It is a book which places the reader precisely in Weisenthal's situation.There are so many variations to the basic question which is asked that I needed to read to the last page and then have meditation time, before I could make my own personal answer,
A book which deals with a very deep, if not the deepest, moral dilemma.
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