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: Susannah Heschel Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Susannah Heschel (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 writes, included both: murder and the defamation of the Jewish people. No restitution is possible, and no forgiveness can follow.
Many of the other respondents focus on murder, but Heschel views the anti-Semitic stereotyping of the Jews to be an equally horrible crime, particularly because this defamation and dehumanization led to the ability to treat them as less than human.
Themes
Anti-Semitism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Heschel continues that the Germans have not even fully repented, as they largely minimized or concealed the crimes of the Nazis. Many people who created the Third Reich remained in positions of power after the war by denying their Nazi involvement. The secretary of state after the war was Hans Globke, the author of legislation that gave Hitler unlimited power, and of the Nuremburg Laws that disenfranchised German Jews.
The offenses continued after the war, Heschel argues, because Nazis were able to quickly convince the world to forget their crimes by denying their Nazi involvement. This “forgetting” is an extension of the willful ignorance and silence that occurred during the war, when the crimes went on unhindered simply because no one wanted to risk their own life to address the wrongdoing directly.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Remembrance Theme Icon
Silence, Guilt, and Resistance Theme Icon
Heschel finishes with the thought that the issue is not forgiveness, but how the victims and descendants can live without bitterness or vengeance, and without losing humanity. The descendants of the Nazis should continue to acknowledge the Holocaust in order to preserve their own humanity.
Drawing from Heschel’s first point, the way she believes that the Germans can atone for this dehumanization is to remember and recognize the humanity of the Jews that were murdered.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Remembrance Theme Icon
Anti-Semitism and Dehumanization Theme Icon