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The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness (Newly Expanded Paperback Edition) Paperback – April 7, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Author Simon Weisenthal recalls his demoralizing life in a concentration camp and his envy of the dead Germans who have sunflowers marking their graves. At the time he assumed his grave would be a mass one, unmarked and forgotten. Then, one day, a dying Nazi soldier asks Weisenthal for forgiveness for his crimes against the Jews. What would you do? This important book and the provocative question it poses is birthing debates, symposiums, and college courses. The Dalai Lama, Harry Wu, Primo Levi, and others who have witnessed genocide and human tyranny answer Wiesenthal's ultimate question on forgiveness. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this 1976 volume, divided into two sections, Wiesenthal tackles the question of the possibilities and limits of forgiveness. The first part relates the story of how Wiesenthal, as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, was brought before a dying SS trooper, who explained his actions and asked for forgiveness, which Wiesenthal could not bring himself to bestow. In the second section, Wiesenthal presents the story to an array of leading intellectuals and asks, "What would you have done?" This edition contains all the original responses plus additional ones from Primo Levi, Cynthia Ozick, Albert Speer, and others. Heavy stuff.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; Rev Exp Su edition (May 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805210601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805210606
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (211 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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126 of 132 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on September 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
I am writing this review the day after Shimon Wiesenthal died. He was ninety- six years old. Thousands of words have been written about him and his life- task. Certainly one of the major contributions he made was to make people aware of the enormity of the crime which was the Holocaust. After the war many wished to forget, but he out of a strong sense of duty to those who had died, to those who had been murdered and suffered so much , made it his business to make the world remember. And he too made his business to bring to justice those who committed the crime. And as he said many times he did this not only for the victims, but for the future generations of mankind so that such an evil would never come again not only to Jews but to all of humanity.

He personally made a major contribution to bringing to justice more than one thousand war criminals, including Eichmann,Stangl , and the Nazi who took Anne Frank from her home and sent her to her death.

In this work he ponders the question of forgiveness . He is asked by a Nazi who repents of his crimes for forgiveness. And the question the book asks is whether such forgiveness should be given. It seems to me the answer to this question is given by something which Wiesenthal himself wrote. He wrote that while it might be possible to forgive someone for an injury done to oneself, one has no right to forgive for others. It is those who have been murdered who need to be requested forgiveness of. But one and one half - million Jewish children were not given the chance to answer. I think that no one has the right to answer in their name.

Wiesenthal was after the war urged by his wife to take up his profession as architect . He could not . He dedicated himself to the memory of the victims, and to having justice done.
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192 of 219 people found the following review helpful By "simondav14" on October 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
Faced with the choice between compassion and justice, silence and truth, Wiesenthal said nothing. But even years after the war had ended, he wondered: Had he done the right thing? What would you have done in his place?
The first time I read this book I struggled with the questions of what I would do in Wiesenthal's situation. Reading all of the views of the contributors did not resolve this matter in my mind. Subsequently to reading this book, I purchase a copy of the book An Encounter With A Prophet which favors forgiveness and gives a unique prayer to achieve forgiveness even when you do not want to forgive. This author made sense but I still could not answer the questions in Wiesenthal `s book.
Then one night walking home from work, I was attacked by a mugger. Coming up from behind me, out of the shadows, the mugger managed to hid me twice on the back of my head before I knew what was happening. Due to space limitations I will skip the details of what followed suffice it to say when the ambulance picked me up off the street , I was drenched in my own blood.
On the way to the hospital my mind started to race. Having grown up as a fighter, I vowed to find this man and evoke some Charles Bronson style justice. As I engaged in this type of thinking, in my mind's eye I could feel and see the mugger sneaking up behind me getting ready to hit me - something they call a flashback a frightening experience to say the least.
As this flash back phenomena continued, it occurred to me to pray the unique prayer suggested in that book An Encounter With A Prophet, I started saying this prayer repeatedly. The flashback dissolved. However, every time I stopped praying, my mind immediately started planning more Bronson style justice and the flashback phenomena would returned.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By George Schaefer on August 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is some powerful material. Wiesenthal presents the story of a Nazi begging for forgiveness on his deathbed. Should he as a Jew grant this forgiveness? He deals with all the emotional and spiritual ambivalence he feels over this situation. What would you do? is the ultimate question he asks. Don't read this late at night if you want to get some sleep. I found myself tormented by the issue of forgiveness after reading this tale. I can not answer what I would do because I have never been in any situation as horrible as that. But this is a book that should be read by would be philosophers and moralizers as it features Wiesenthal's heart rending tale and follows it with essays by numerous writers of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. They all must wrestle with this issue. This is a book that should be required reading in universities if not high schools. It might actually provoke students to think. And surely that would be a good thing.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By "fbruno777" on February 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
I was given this book to read for my Fundamental Ethics course last semester. At first I thought, "What a chore," but then as I immersed myself in the reading of this book, I began to get involved in the reading. I could see the sights, smell the air, hear the sounds, and touch the people that Simon was surrounded by, I felt I was one of them. Very few times in my life has a book had such a captivating effect on me. It also resembles the book Night, by Elie Weisel, in which they share some of the same experiences and captivate the reader to the such a profound extent.
While reading I found myself, not only captivated by the words, but also at the meaning behind the words. "I could easily be in his position, or something similar," I thought. Simon Weisenthal demonstrates a very real dilema and view of forgiveness which we often take for granted, or many times we don't think about. He is faced with a problem and does not know what to do about it.
He made an ethical decision that had consequences he had to answer for. Also, there arises the question of religion into the whole sphere of the dilema.
As a result, Simon Weisenthal ends the first part of the book with certain questions. The second part of the book are the replies by quite a number of religious and political leaders, theologians, philosophers, psychologists, holocaust survivors, lawyers, and many different professionals, giving witness to what they would have done, if confronted with the same situation as Simon.
The book is so profound that one can see it interacting in one's daily life. From the little things that we take for granted, to those that we make a "big deal" out of, we will see with new eyes, after having read this book.
It is a book that is for every reader and, I recommend be read several times in one's life. In other words, the book is living thought and helps tp renew not only one's knowledge, but also, experience.
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The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness (Newly Expanded Paperback Edition)
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