The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

by

Simon Wiesenthal

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Sunflower can help.

The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness: Sidney Shachnow Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Shachnow speaks to the experience of a soldier, having spent forty years in the army and thirty-two as a Green Beret. He has undergone the military training devoted to breaking down the aversion to killing. The times that he had killed enemy soldiers continue to disturb him, though he notes he never killed anyone who was not also trying to kill him.
Shachnow speaks as someone who has also killed, but the differences between him and Karl are crucial: he did not kill innocent civilians, he did not kill people based on prejudice, and it appears that he did not ask for forgiveness of someone who could not grant it.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Anti-Semitism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Yet at the same time, Shachnow states Karl does not deserve forgiveness. Shachnow is also a Holocaust survivor. He understands that the misery Karl inflicted on innocent men, women, and children defies any extenuating circumstance. Karl did not deserve forgiveness or mercy, and Shachnow believes that God will send him to hell instead.
Of the differences between himself and Karl, Shachnow highlights the dehumanization of innocent people as Karl’s largest crime, perhaps because he also endured this dehumanization as a Holocaust survivor himself.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Religion and Moral Truth Theme Icon
Anti-Semitism and Dehumanization Theme Icon