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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The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness: Christopher Hollis Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Hollis argues that Simon should have said “a word of compassion,” because the law of God is the law of love. Karl was frankly confessing his crime and was sincerely repentant. Had Karl lived, he should have tried to attempt some service to the Jews. But because he was on his deathbed, he could not.
Even though Simon did not say a word of compassion, there were many gestures that communicated Simon’s kindness, like swatting away the fly or holding Karl’s hand. Hollis also sees the best in Karl by believing that he would have repented and worked toward reconciliation if he had lived.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Hollis views the actions of Jesus at His crucifixion when he prayed for the forgiveness of His own murderers as the “absolute moral law,” and believes that Simon should have done the same.
Hollis uses a uniquely Christian argument in asserting that Simon should use Jesus as a model for his own actions.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Religion and Moral Truth Theme Icon
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 incident in a general campaign of genocide, and Simon was certainly a victim of that campaign. His forgiveness would not have been a casual word of someone who pardoned without understanding the magnitude of Karl’s crimes.
Hollis makes a good point in noting that Simon’s forgiveness would not have been casual, particularly as he decides to write a whole book dedicated to wondering whether he did the correct thing. Yet perhaps Hollis’s analysis has a slight misstep: he views Simon as a generic victim rather than an individual, just like Karl does.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Religion and Moral Truth Theme Icon
Anti-Semitism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
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 faith, God would surely have granted him mercy, Hollis believes. In his final words, Hollis addresses the “bitter sick joke” about God being on leave that the Jews in the camps made, because God must always be trusted and followed, as modeled in the story of Job.
Hollis’s final point implies that there are no extenuating circumstances for either forgiveness or a for a lack of faith. The thesis seems clear: if one believes in God, God will forgive. If one questions God or does not follow Him, one will not be forgiven or welcomed in Heaven.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Religion and Moral Truth Theme Icon
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The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness PDF