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: Harry Wu Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Wu recalls his own experience in China’s prison labor camps. In 1957, a woman named Comrade Ma accused Wu of “anti-rightist” tendencies, leading him to be imprisoned in a detention center for nineteen years. Years later, when he met Comrade Ma in person years later, he found that he had nothing to say to her. He only wanted her to see that he had survived and had not given in to despair or suicide. She did not apologize or ask for forgiveness.
Wu’s experience also ends in a silence, as he finds that he has nothing to say to his jailer, because his survival is statement enough. This is true of Simon, too, as his survival and his writing of the book is a statement of both humanity and compassion, a remarkable thing considering what he had gone through.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Anti-Semitism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Silence, Guilt, and Resistance Theme Icon
Like Simon, Wu would not have forgiven Karl, but also would have understood that he was part of a horrible and vicious society. Karl is responsible for his own actions, but the society shares the responsibility as well.
Like others, Wu blames not only the individuals who carried out the crimes but also the silent society that allowed these atrocities to occur, and which therefore takes on some of the guilt as well.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Silence, Guilt, and Resistance Theme Icon