Morals and Forgiveness in Simon Wiesenthal's The Sunflower Essay

Morals and Forgiveness in Simon Wiesenthal's The Sunflower Essay

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In Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower, he recounts his incidence of meeting a dying Nazi soldier who tells Simon that he was responsible for the death of his family. Upon telling Simon the details, Karl asks for his forgiveness for what he helped accomplish. Simon leaves Karl without giving him an answer. This paper will argue that, even though Karl admits to killing Simon’s family in the house, Simon is morally forbidden to forgive Karl because Karl does not seem to show genuine remorse for his committed crime and it is not up to Simon to be able to forgive Karl for his sins. This stand will be supported by the meaning of forgiveness, evidence from the memoir, quotes from the published responses to Simon’s moral question, and arguments from Thomas Brudholm, Charles Griswold, and Trudy Govier. The possibly raised objection, for this particular modified situation, of forgiveness being necessary to move on from Desmond Tutu will be countered with the logic of needing to eventually find an end somewhere.
Forgiveness is not an action that should be taken for granted. Nor should it be easily accepted without a second thought. It was strong of Simon to refuse to give Karl an answer to his request. “Possibly, there are circumstances in which forgiving is a temptation, a promise of relief that might be morally dubious. Indeed, the refusal to forgive may represent the more demanding moral accomplishment” (Brudholm 2). Simon did not give into the temptation to give a dying man the easy answer he sought and say that he forgave him without thinking it over. Karl assumed that he would be forgiven, even though he did not express much remorse about what he had done. Because he did not automatically tell Karl that he forgave him, Simon never had ...


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Brudholm, Thomas. Resentment's Virtue: Jean Améry and the Refusal to Forgive. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2008. Print.
Govier, Trudy. Forgiveness and Revenge. London: Routledge, 2002. Print.
Griswold, Charles L. Forgiveness: A Philosophical Exploration. New York: Cambridge UP, 2007. Print.
Levi, Primo. "The Symposium." Ed. Harry J. Cargas and Bonny V. Fetterman. The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. By Simon Wiesenthal. New York: Schocken, 1997. 191-92. Print.
Tutu, Desmond. "The Symposium." Ed. Harry J. Cargas and Bonny V. Fetterman. The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. By Simon Wiesenthal. New York: Schocken, 1997. 266-68. Print.
Wiesenthal, Simon. The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. Ed. Harry J. Cargas and Bonny V. Fetterman. New York: Schocken, 1997. Print.

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