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: Jean Améry Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Améry 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 introduces two aspects to the argument: a psychological argument and a political argument.
Améry begins by explaining the relative authority in his answer as one of the few who can speak familiarly with Simon’s experience. However, Améry is also one of the few respondents who does not make an argument on religious grounds.
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The psychological argument for forgiving or not forgiving, Améry reasons, is only 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, and the psychological aspect becomes irrelevant.
Améry’s view contains the idea that forgiveness in Simon’s circumstance is largely arbitrary because it is not based on logic but rather on instinct. In this line of thinking, perhaps Simon’s compassion matters even more because the question of forgiveness seems so useless to Améry.
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The political argument is also irrelevant, Améry believes, because the problem is really a theological one. Améry is an atheist, and therefore asks what difference it makes whether someone forgives another person or not. It comes down to a matter of whether Simon wanted to ease Karl’s pain or not.
Even though Améry’s ideas are not founded on religion, they are remarkably close to some of the later statements made by Buddhists, who argue that the only factor to consider is whether an action produces suffering or lessens it.
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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 finds more important instead is that what he and Simon went through “must not happen again, never, nowhere.”
Like Alkalaj before him, Améry believes that the idea of remembrance must supersede any concerns over forgiveness so that these atrocities cannot recur.
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The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness PDF
Améry ends by refusing the idea of reconciliation with the criminals and believes that there should be no statute of limitations on the crimes of the Nazis. The world should make sure that justice reaches them, and thanks Simon for his work in doing so.
It also seems that Améry makes a distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation. He argues that no Nazi can escape the crimes that they have committed, even if they have been forgiven by an individual. This is referred to by others using the term “crimes against humanity.”
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