The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

by

Simon Wiesenthal

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Simon Character Analysis

Simon is the protagonist and author of The Sunflower. Simon’s story focuses primarily on one encounter he had with a dying Nazi soldier, Karl. Simon provides little to no background information about himself, apart from fact that he had studied to be an architect. Simon’s actions and thoughts show him to be both kind and logical. Where he had once been more optimistic, his experiences in concentration camps have diminished both his faith in humanity and his faith in God. When he is brought to Karl’s bedside and Karl asks for his forgiveness for the crimes he has committed, Simon walks out of the room in silence, and Karl dies the following night. When Simon tells the story to his friends Arthur, Josek, and Adam, they approve of his decision, but Simon is less sure, prompting him to discuss it later with a Catholic man he meets in the camp, and to visit Karl’s mother after the war. Though he learns more of Karl’s backstory, he is still uncertain whether he did the right thing and asks readers what they might have done in his place. Thus, even though Simon did not forgive Karl, he is concerned by the idea that there is no one correct answer, particularly because his faith in religion and God have been tested so greatly. Many of the respondents in the “Symposium” note that even if Simon did not forgive Karl, he still acted with an immense amount of compassion in hearing him out, and retained his humanity by debating the question of forgiveness at all.

Simon Quotes in The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

The The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness quotes below are all either spoken by Simon or refer to Simon. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Schocken Books edition of The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness published in 1969.
Book 1: The Sunflower Quotes

It is impossible to believe anything in a world that has ceased to regard man as man, which repeatedly “proves” that one is no longer a man.

Related Characters: Simon (speaker), Karl, Arthur
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

One really begins to think that God is on leave. Otherwise the present state of things wouldn’t be possible […] What the old woman had said in no way shocked me, she had simply stated what I had long felt to be true.

Related Characters: Simon (speaker), Arthur, Josek
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

For me there would be no sunflower. I would be buried in a mass grave, where corpses would be piled on top of me. No sunflower would ever bring light into my darkness, and no butterflies would dance above my dreadful tomb.

Related Characters: Simon (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sunflower
Page Number: 14-15
Explanation and Analysis:

Although the Radicals formed a mere 20 percent of the students, this minority reigned because of the cowardice and laziness of the majority.

Related Characters: Simon (speaker)
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

“Look,” he said, “those Jews died quickly, they did not suffer as I do—though they were not as guilty as I am.”

Related Characters: Karl (speaker), Simon
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

I asked myself if it was only the Nazis who had persecuted us. Was it not just as wicked for people to look on quietly and without protest at human beings enduring such shocking humiliation? But in their eyes were we human beings at all?

Related Characters: Simon (speaker)
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

“Why,” I asked, “is there no general law of guilt and expiation? Has every religion its own ethics, its own answers?”

“Probably, yes.”

Related Characters: Simon (speaker), Arthur (speaker), Karl, Josek
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

You, who have just read this sad and tragic episode in my life, can mentally change places with me and ask yourself the crucial question, “What would I have done?”

Related Characters: Simon (speaker), Karl, Arthur
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:
Sven Alkalaj Quotes

Forgetting the crimes would be worse than forgiving the criminal who seeks forgiveness, because forgetting the crimes devalues the humanity that perished in these atrocities.

Related Characters: Simon, Karl
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:
Smail Balić Quotes

Those who might appear uninvolved in the actual crimes, but who tolerate acts of torture, humiliation, and murder, are certainly also guilty.

Related Characters: Simon, Karl’s Mother, Karl’s father
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
Moshe Bejski Quotes

Even if Wiesenthal believed that he was empowered to grant a pardon in the name of the murdered masses, such an act of mercy would have been a kind of betrayal and repudiation of the memory of millions of innocent victims who were unjustly murdered, among them, the members of his family.

Related Characters: Simon, Karl
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:
Robert Coles Quotes

Let us […] take to heart what may be, finally, the author’s real intent for us: that we never, ever forget what happened to him and millions of others…

Related Characters: Simon
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:
Matthew Fox Quotes

By holding his hand Simon was being present and being human. Though holding his hand repulsed him after more of the horror story was revealed, still he stayed in the room and listened. Listening was his gift; listening was his act of compassion.

Related Characters: Simon, Karl
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

Willful ignorance is a sin. In this case, a catastrophic sin that made the Holocaust possible.

Related Characters: Simon, Karl, Karl’s Mother
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
Hans Habe Quotes

Forgiveness is the imitation of God. Punishment too is an imitation of God. God punishes and forgives, in that order. But God never hates. That is the moral value worth striving for, but perhaps unattainable.

Related Characters: Simon, Karl
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:
Theodore M. Hesburgh Quotes

Can we aspire to be as forgiving of each other as God is of us?

Of course, the sin here is monumental. It is still finite and God's mercy is infinite.

If asked to forgive, by anyone for anything, I would forgive because God would forgive.

Related Characters: Simon, Karl
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:
Abraham Joshua Heschel Quotes

No one can forgive crimes committed against other people […] According to Jewish tradition, even God Himself can only forgive sins committed against Himself, not against man.

Related Characters: Simon, Karl
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:
José Hobday Quotes

I would have forgiven, as much for my own peace as for Karl’s […] No one, no memory, should have the power to hold us down, to deny us peace. Forgiving is the real power.

Related Characters: Simon, Karl
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:
Roger Kamanetz Quotes

I cannot encounter another person’s humanity as a category, but only when I meet him or her as a particular individual.

Related Characters: Simon, Karl
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:
Cardinal Franz König Quotes

Nevertheless, you had an opportunity to put forward an act of almost superhuman goodness in the midst of a subhuman and bestial world of atrocities.

Related Characters: Simon, Karl
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:
Hubert G. Locke Quotes

By our silence, perhaps we acknowledge as much; we own up to our humanness. We concede that we are not gods and that we lack, as much as we might be loath to admit it, the capacity to provide understanding and assurance for every inexplicable moment in life.

Related Characters: Simon
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:
Matthieu Ricard Quotes

To grant forgiveness to someone who has truly changed is not a way of condoning or forgetting his or her past crimes, but of acknowledging whom he or she has become.

Related Characters: Simon, Karl
Page Number: 236
Explanation and Analysis:
Albert Speer Quotes

You helped me a great deal—as you helped the SS man when you did not withdraw your hand or reproach him. Every human being has his burden to bear.

Related Characters: Simon, Karl
Page Number: 246
Explanation and Analysis:
André Stein Quotes

We must not forget that millions were murdered by a nation of good sons. Every woman who doggedly holds on to a pristine moral image of her son is a collaborator in his crime.

Related Characters: Simon, Karl, Karl’s Mother
Page Number: 255
Explanation and Analysis:
Tzvetan Todorov Quotes

We are not contemplating an action in the present, but the place of a past action in our memory. What can we do with evil in the past, how can we put it to use in the service of our moral education?

Related Characters: Simon
Page Number: 266
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Sunflower LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness PDF

Simon Character Timeline in The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

The timeline below shows where the character Simon appears in The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1: The Sunflower
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Simon stands exhausted on the parade ground of the concentration camp, where prisoners are lining up... (full context)
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Simon explains that men from all walks of life have found themselves confined to this stable... (full context)
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...seemed entirely unaware of the bleak reality of life in the camp. On one occasion, Simon, Arthur, and Josek nearly got into an argument over this. They had been listening to... (full context)
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...each other—they were brothers—whereas the Germans were strangers to the people they tortured and murdered. Simon intervenes to break up the quarrel, reminding Arthur that “thousands of years of evolution” have... (full context)
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Simon returns to the memory of the previous night. Arthur had shaken him out of his... (full context)
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The next morning, Simon asks Arthur what he had been saying about God the night before. Simon explains to... (full context)
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Simon, on the other hand, is much more concerned about what will happen in the present;... (full context)
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Simon describes the system of labor camps into which he and other prisoners are forced to... (full context)
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The work there is not easy, but Simon had felt free to an extent, as he did not need to return to the... (full context)
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Simon lines up with the rest of the men from the stable to report for work.... (full context)
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Suddenly, a corporal comes over and counts off fifty men. Simon is one of the men selected; Arthur is left behind. These men are escorted by... (full context)
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...obscene songs, and attract a lot of attention. The prisoners sometimes join in the singing. Simon explains that, as they travel through Lemberg, people stare on the street and sometimes wave,... (full context)
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Simon notices a military cemetery as they pass it. He sees that on each grave, there... (full context)
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Simon and the others continue to walk through Lemberg. They still do not know where they... (full context)
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The prisoners turn onto Janowska Street, a street down which Simon had walked many times as a student and later as an architect. He contrasts that... (full context)
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Simon remembers that even when he had been in school, Sapiehy Street was a “street of... (full context)
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Simon wonders where those Polish “super-patriots” are now. He thinks that the day without Jews may... (full context)
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Simon and the other prisoners stop in front of the Technical High School, which has been... (full context)
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Other soldiers look at the group more sympathetically, but none dare to speak. Simon stares at the soldier, thinking that the monster would one day have a sunflower planted... (full context)
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...work. Their job is to carry cartons filled with garbage out of the building. As Simon stands off to the side to get a breath of fresh air, a nurse asks... (full context)
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Simon thinks that perhaps the nurse is sympathetic and is trying to slip him a piece... (full context)
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The nurse leads Simon into the building. She takes him to an upper hallway. He wonders if he should... (full context)
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The nurse signals that Simon should wait. He leans over the balustrade and sees a soldier on a stretcher looking... (full context)
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...known whether he was for or against the Jews, as he had always been aloof. Simon remarks how people had been divided into two groups: those that liked Jews and those... (full context)
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The nurse returns and leads Simon to the Dean’s room. She pushes him through the door, where he sees a motionless... (full context)
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Simon is bewildered by the figure, wondering whether he might be dreaming. Simon sits on the... (full context)
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Simon remembers an incident nearly two weeks earlier, where he saw a dying prisoner. When he... (full context)
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...says that he wants to talk about an experience that is torturing him. He tells Simon that he had asked a nurse, who had previously brought him a letter from his... (full context)
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A letter slips from the man’s hand, and Simon picks it up for him. The man thanks him, saying that it is a letter... (full context)
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The man tells Simon that his name is Karl, and that he joined the SS as a volunteer. Simon... (full context)
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Simon begins to worry that his absence will be noticed by one of the overseers, and... (full context)
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...murderer. Karl was born in Stuttgart, and is now twenty-one—too young to die, he says. Simon thinks to himself that the Nazis did not consider Jewish children too young to die.... (full context)
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...that he wanted to be a part of something exciting and grand. At that point, Simon tries to release his hand, but Karl holds tighter. (full context)
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...did; he supposes she remembers him as the happy, joke-making, high-spirited boy he once was. Simon thinks about his own childhood and the jokes he shared with friends, before questioning whether... (full context)
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Simon wonders why a Jew must listen to the confession of a dying Nazi, and why... (full context)
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...to describe his fighting in Russia, but trails off as he feels sorry for himself. Simon looks out the window, looking for a sign. He explains that, in the wake of... (full context)
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...army base in Poland, for whom he would leave food when they cleaned his quarters. Simon notes that Karl speaks about the Jews with a “warm undertone in his voice.” (full context)
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Simon knows how the story will end. He tries to leave, but Karl pleads with him... (full context)
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Simon remembers a boy he had not been able to forget as well: Eli, a six-year-old... (full context)
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Simon explains that Eli is a pet name for Elijah, or Eliyahu Hanavi, the prophet. At... (full context)
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...go up to the gate because German policemen would give him something to eat. Once Simon saw him standing by a window, collecting the crumbs which someone had put out for... (full context)
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...chambers. Eli had stayed home that day, however. He was the last Jewish child that Simon had seen. (full context)
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Simon’s sympathy for Karl evaporates, but he still does not leave. Karl says that he is... (full context)
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Simon hears footsteps in the corridor, and again attempts to leave. Karl tells him the nurse... (full context)
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...lasted for weeks and military cemeteries sprang up everywhere with flowers on all the graves. Simon is once again reminded of the sunflower, and how this murderer would own something even... (full context)
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...does, adding that the Jews had not been “as guilty” as he was. At this, Simon stands to go, but Karl holds his hand to stay. Karl says he wishes that... (full context)
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Karl asks Simon to forgive him for the crimes he has committed, saying that without his answer he... (full context)
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A fellow prisoner asks Simon where he has been, worried that if he did not return, they would have been... (full context)
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Simon recounts a story he had heard two days before in which three Jews had been... (full context)
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When they returned to the camp, Simon explains, they would be made to do exhausting exercises until the SS officer grew tired... (full context)
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When the prisoners arrive back at the camp, Simon sees Arthur and Josek, and joins them for dinner. Arthur notes that Simon looks depressed.... (full context)
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Simon begins to explain what had happened earlier that day, but worries that Arthur will judge... (full context)
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At the end of Simon’s story, Arthur exclaims, “One less!” Simon is slightly disturbed by the reaction. Another man who... (full context)
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Josek remains with Simon. He says he had worried that Simon might actually forgive Karl, because he could not... (full context)
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...Emes (which he defines as another world where humans will meet again after death). If Simon had forgiven Karl, Josek reasons, the dead people would ask who gave him the right... (full context)
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Simon asks what Josek thinks of Karl’s repentance and the fact that he was truly in... (full context)
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At that point, Arthur returns. He tells Simon that even if he had forgiven Karl with superhuman kindness, Simon could never have forgiven... (full context)
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Simon thinks to himself that the only universal law for the basis of judgement was the... (full context)
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Arthur shakes Simon awake to stop his screams. Simon says he does not want to return to the... (full context)
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The next morning, Simon and Arthur assemble for roll call. The prisoners are split up as they had been... (full context)
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...him as a “racial German,” though three years ago he had been a “fanatical Pole.” Simon explains that many people “tried to cover their imperfect knowledge of German by being particularly... (full context)
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The prisoners arrive at the hospital. Before Simon is assigned a task, the nurse from the prior day returns. She asks Simon to... (full context)
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To Simon’s surprise, the nurse does not take him to Karl’s room, but instead leads him to... (full context)
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Simon returns to work, and notes a hearse driving past. The rest of the day he... (full context)
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Arthur tells Simon to stop obsessing over what happened, particularly because he could be killed for shouting in... (full context)
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Two years pass, in which Simon witnesses a great deal of suffering and death. He says, “Once I myself was about... (full context)
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Eventually the Germans withdraw from Lemberg and the camp is evacuated. Simon moves through Plaszow, Gross-Rosen, and Buchenwald, and lands in Mauthausen. The gas chambers continue to... (full context)
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One night, when Simon is consumed by hunger, the memory of Karl resurfaces. Karl looks angrily at Simon for... (full context)
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During the same night, a man in Simon’s bunk dies. He and others try to conceal his death in order to have more... (full context)
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One morning, Simon hears Bolek murmuring prayers. Gradually, he learns that Bolek had been training to be a... (full context)
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Bolek continues, arguing that Karl died in peace because Simon heard his confession. However, he also believes that Simon should have forgiven him if he... (full context)
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Time jumps forward, after the war has ended. When Simon is finally freed, there is no home for him to return to: Poland is a... (full context)
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In the summer of 1946, Simon, his wife and a few friends have an afternoon picnic on a hillside in Linz.... (full context)
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Two weeks later, Simon is traveling to Munich and he stops in Stuttgart on the way so that he... (full context)
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...Nazi atrocities and finds them to be “so monstrous as to be incredible.” But quickly, Simon explains, priests, philanthropists, and philosophers ask the world to forgive the Nazis. They would be... (full context)
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Simon finds Stuttgart in ruins, with rubble everywhere. On walls he sees notices posted by families... (full context)
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Simon enters the house. Over the sideboard hangs a photo which Simon immediately understands is of... (full context)
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Simon stares at the photograph of Karl, and remarks at his uniform. Karl’s mother explains that... (full context)
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Simon understands Karl’s mother’s situation: he had spoken to many Germans and Austrians about the Nazis.... (full context)
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Simon wonders if he should reveal Karl’s crimes to his mother. But he realizes that she... (full context)
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Simon tells Karl’s mother that he is a Jew. She becomes embarrassed, and says that she... (full context)
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Karl’s mother tells Simon of a time in which a Gestapo official had come to inquire into a case... (full context)
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Karl’s mother’s stories give Simon a fuller picture of Karl, but do not help Simon in his predicament. Simon thinks... (full context)
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Simon makes a few final arguments: few Nazis had been born murderers, but they had become... (full context)
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Simon points out that he kept silent at Karl’s deathbed, and then again with Karl’s mother.... (full context)
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Finally, Simon brings up the question of forgiveness. He states that time takes care of forgetting, but... (full context)
Sven Alkalaj
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Alkalaj believes that there are very few who are able to answer Simon’s question accurately because they have not endured his suffering. He describes his own experience scavenging... (full context)
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...forgetting the crimes “devalues the humanity that perished in these atrocities.” He also argues that Simon had no right to forgive on behalf of Karl’s victims. (full context)
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Alkalaj does not definitively answer Simon’s question about whether he would forgive, but he ends by saying that “to forget is... (full context)
Jean Améry
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...introduces himself as a fellow Holocaust survivor. He says that if he had been in Simon’s situation, he might have been more forgiving than Simon—or he might not have been. He... (full context)
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...based on temperament or feeling. He supposes that only slightly different circumstances might have led Simon to forgive Karl. Thus, accepting Karl’s request means just as little as rejecting his request,... (full context)
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Améry, therefore, casts no judgment on Simon for not forgiving, and believes he had every right to forgive as well. What he... (full context)
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...crimes of the Nazis. The world should make sure that justice reaches them, and thanks Simon for his work in doing so. (full context)
Smail Balić
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Balić opens by saying that now that there have been thirty years to reflect on Simon’s question and the matter can be treated a little more dispassionately, he believes that he... (full context)
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There are those who argue that because Karl did not injure Simon himself, Simon could forgive him with more ease. These people miss the point of general... (full context)
Moshe Bejski
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...whether he is truly able to relate to these events given that he didn’t share Simon’s experience, and is only able to think about them fifty years after they took place.... (full context)
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Simon, on the other hand, is only an individual prisoner, a witness to these crimes whose... (full context)
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Bejski reveals that he and Simon had many common experiences: he endured labor camps, concentration camps, and extermination camps. He was... (full context)
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Bejski concludes by affirming that Simon’s silence in the face of Karl’s statement and his restraint when visiting Karl’s mother “goes... (full context)
Alan L. Berger
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...for many years, points out that silence is the main character in this morality tale. Simon’s first silence, in Karl’s room, is an instantaneous and confused decision. The second, in Karl’s... (full context)
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Berger speaks to Simon’s question, wondering if a person is entitled to forgive on behalf of the murdered. He... (full context)
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Berger believes that Simon could not and should not forgive Karl. Additionally, in asking for a Jew to hear... (full context)
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...the idea of “cheap grace” that would presumably allow Karl to go to heaven, while Simon and other Jews would not (based on Catholic tenets). Berger states that if Simon had... (full context)
Robert McAfee Brown
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In Simon’s shoes, Brown states that he would have told Karl to address his plea to God.... (full context)
Henry James Cargas
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...the Nazis have committed it. He himself would not be able to forgive Karl, as Simon could not. (full context)
Robert Coles
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Coles points out that in asking what the reader might have done, Simon is in fact interrogating himself, challenging his own moral life. He then asks that his... (full context)
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Coles points out one additional idea, which is to take to heart what might be Simon’s actual intent for the book: that society should never forget what happened to him and... (full context)
Eugene J. Fisher
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...Jewish behavior with regard to the Shoah.” He accepts the decisions of those who support Simon’s silence. Fisher also notes, however, that in almost all the responses, there is an uneasiness... (full context)
Edward H. Flannery
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...it is “permitted” to refuse forgiveness to someone who is sincerely repentant. He notes that Simon is uncertain and guilty following his silence, and that his feelings are even more evident... (full context)
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Flannery states that he can understand Simon’s refusal but cannot defend it. He believes that Judeo-Christian ethics mandate that forgiveness should be... (full context)
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Flannery equates the German bystanders during the Holocaust with Simon’s behavior, watching a dying man pleading for mercy. He believes that the question of whether... (full context)
Eva Fleischner
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Fleischner believes that Simon responds to Karl’s request for forgiveness nonverbally throughout their interaction, by holding Karl’s hand, by... (full context)
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...emerge: the Christian students rule in favor of forgiveness, while the Jewish students believe that Simon acted correctly. (full context)
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...this to argue that only the victims are in a position to forgive, and therefore Simon could not have granted Karl’s request. (full context)
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...out that Karl cannot atone for his crime, because the victims are dead, and that Simon cannot forgive Karl in their name. She thinks that Simon perhaps could have said to... (full context)
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However, Fleischner immediately qualifies this statement, believing that that asks a great deal of Simon in his situation. She also states that, rereading the story, she is struck by how... (full context)
Matthew Fox
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Fox looks first at the circumstances of Simon’s story: Simon does not know whether he is going to live through the day, while... (full context)
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...undergo penance and demonstrate contrition, and Karl was a lapsed Catholic. Thus, in remaining silent, Simon gave him the penance he could give: “the penance of Karl’s having to be alone... (full context)
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Fox also believes that Simon acted compassionately: he took Karl’s hand and held it; he swatted the fly away; he... (full context)
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Fox then considers Simon’s visit with Karl’s mother, where Simon let her believe that her son was innocent. He... (full context)
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Fox concludes by recognizing how Simon’s story is still relevant to society today, as people are complicit in destroying the planet... (full context)
Rebecca Goldstein
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Goldstein addresses her response directly to Simon. She wonders why Karl feels he has the right to die in peace. She notes... (full context)
Mary Gordon
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...as a narcissistic act, because it places his need to be purged of guilt over Simon’s need for restitution or recognition of having been harmed. (full context)
Hans Habe
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Habe views the answer to Simon’s question in this way: humans are not an appeal court from God. God’s punishment struck... (full context)
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...and forgives, in that order,” Habe writes. One thing God never does, however, is hate. Simon’s resistance to hatred is the most important aspect of the story, because life without hatred... (full context)
Yossi Klein Halevi
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Halevi criticizes those who judge Simon explicitly for his decision, saying that it risks repeating the mistake of those who condemn... (full context)
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Halevi’s essay thus begins not with Simon and Karl’s visit, but Simon’s visit with Karl’s mother. He sees that Simon rejects an... (full context)
Arthur Hertzberg
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But Hertzberg also agrees that Simon should not have told Karl’s mother about her son, because each person should die for... (full context)
Susannah Heschel
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...(the daughter of the previous respondent) opens by saying that she would have done as Simon did. In Judaism, two crimes are unforgivable: murder and destroying someone’s reputation. The Holocaust, she... (full context)
José Hobday
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...has listened to the stories of genocide committed against her own people. However, when reading Simon’s story, she is reminded her mother’s advice when she told Hobday that she should learn... (full context)
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...forget. She believes that forgiveness is necessary not for Karl’s peace of mind, but for Simon’s. No memory should have the power to hold someone down. (full context)
Christopher Hollis
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Hollis argues that Simon should have said “a word of compassion,” because the law of God is the law... (full context)
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...for the forgiveness of His own murderers as the “absolute moral law,” and believes that Simon should have done the same. (full context)
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Hollis addresses the arguments made by Arthur and Josek: that Simon could not forgive sins committed against someone else. Hollis argues that Karl’s crime was an... (full context)
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Hollis does see Karl’s actions as odd in that he asked for Simon at his deathbed and not a priest. If he had in fact returned to his... (full context)
Roger Kamanetz
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Kamanetz states that Simon’s response to Karl was the best possible response. He makes a simple point: Karl did... (full context)
Harold S. Kushner
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...Forgiving is most important for those who are granting forgiveness. Therefore, Kushner writes that, for Simon, forgiveness would mean refusing to let Karl define him as a victim. That would be... (full context)
Lawrence L. Langer
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Langer also brings up a unique point: how Simon’s language shapes the attitude towards the crimes in calling murder “a wrong” and “a misdeed.”... (full context)
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...volunteered for the SS, or why he pursued a career with a league of killers. Simon’s silence, on the other hand, makes him innocent of any wrong. (full context)
Primo Levi
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Levi believes that Simon’s actions were right because they were the “lesser evil;” for Simon, forgiving Karl would have... (full context)
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...would not have repented until much later. It was also exploitative, as he was using Simon as a tool to unload his anguish onto someone who had already experienced so much... (full context)
Hubert G. Locke
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...He writes that readers should learn from this silence and remain silent themselves, learning from Simon’s own choice. (full context)
Erich H. Loewy
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...who escaped from the Nazis in 1938, writes that not enough has been made of Simon’s exceptional compassion in the situation. He views this compassion as an acceptance of common humanity,... (full context)
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Loewy understands Simon’s refusal to forgive Karl, because he cannot forgive the murder of someone else, nor should... (full context)
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Loewy also agrees with Simon’s decision to lie to Karl’s mother, viewing it as a well-calculated and kind decision to... (full context)
Martin E. Marty
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As a Christian, Marty writes that he can only remain silent given Simon’s specific circumstance. He believes non-Jews and especially Christians should not give advice about the Holocaust... (full context)
Cynthia Ozick
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...person, but still sends children into the fire. She concludes by saying that the fly Simon swats away should sooner be with God than Karl. (full context)
John T. Pawlikowski
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Pawlikowski focuses on the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Even though Simon did not speak the words of forgiveness, his conversation in the camp and his unwillingness... (full context)
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...reconciliation. This process requires repentance, contrition, taking responsibility, healing, and reunion, for which Karl and Simon had too little time. Thus, Pawlikowski agrees with Simon’s decision, but notes that he might... (full context)
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Pawlikowski wonders whether Simon’s own uncertainty about God is truly what haunted him in his encounter with Karl, in... (full context)
Terence Prittie
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However, Prittie argues that if Simon were to forgive Karl, it would only be “mock-forgiveness,” purely because Karl is dying. Karl... (full context)
Joshua Rubenstein
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...common in a century filled with violence, citing Cambodia, Rwanda, and Latin America. For him, Simon’s encounter with Karl brings to mind an incident involving Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsführer SS and... (full context)
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...more by his approaching death than by the enormity of his crimes. Rubenstein concludes that Simon was merciful enough with Karl. To grant forgiveness as well would have been a betrayal... (full context)
Dorothee Soelle
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Soelle writes that she has two contradictory replies, which she finds that Simon also makes: “No, I cannot forgive you,” and “Yes, I can believe your remorse.” As... (full context)
Albert Speer
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Speer notes that Manès Sperber (who wrote the following essay) assumes that Simon would not condemn Karl if he had lived and remained faithful to his conviction of... (full context)
Manès Sperber
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Sperber is unsure how he might have reacted in Simon’s situation, but he establishes one principle: it is possible to forget even the worst crime... (full context)
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...but says that Karl differed from others because he brought the accusation against himself. Still, Simon was right in refusing to pardon him. Yet Sperber wonders whether Simon would still condemn... (full context)
André Stein
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Simon’s silence, Stein writes, is the “only authentic means of communication.” Simon listened with the ears... (full context)
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...participating in genocidal acts should include dying with a guilty conscience. He also wonders why Simon should be expected to act with superhuman goodness towards Karl—i.e., why the victim should be... (full context)
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Stein states that he is not at peace, however, with Simon’s decision to let Karl’s mother believe in her son’s goodness, stating that millions of people... (full context)
Nechama Tec
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Tec writes that she intuitively knew after reading Simon’s story that, for her, forgiveness would not be an option. Her initial certainty was followed... (full context)
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...not seem to include the Jews in general, nor did he show any compassion for Simon. His self-pity blinds him to the suffering of others. Karl himself states “I do not... (full context)
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On the other hand, Tec believes that Simon’s actions are remarkable. His silence not only shows an appropriate lack of forgiveness, but also... (full context)
Harry Wu
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Like Simon, Wu would not have forgiven Karl, but also would have understood that he was part... (full context)