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You are a Jewish prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp You are sent on a work detail to a hospital A nurse brings you to a mortally wounded German soldier He tells you that he has committed terrible atrocities against your people and asks you to forgive him What do you do This was the question faced by renowned Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and is the focus of his autobiographical novel The Sunflower A harrowing brilliantly written classic of Holocaust and moral literature it tells the story of Wiesenthals encounter with the German SS soldier and the struggle with his conscience over his decision Wiesenthal holds the soldiers hand listens to his story and walks away in silence He cant forgive the man He also cant live in peace with his decision Liberated from the camps he seeks out the dead soldiers mother to ease his mind He finds a broken woman left with nothing but the good memory of her son In deciding not to tell her of her sons confessed atrocities his silence brings him peace of mind He couldnt forgive the soldier for the murder of others he can spare an old woman suffering Wiesenthal concludes The Sunflower by challenging the reader to consider what he or she would have done in his place This question is addressed by a 46-member symposium in the second part of the book While the symposium offers a wide range of religious and philosophical opinion too many responses smother Wiesenthals question with poorly written dogma and doctrine The best responses are from survivors of oppression whether they are Nazi or contemporary Contributors such as Chinas Harry Wu or the Dalai Lama respond from personal experience rather than doctrinal abstraction Perhaps most interesting is the very different way Christianity and Judaism approach forgiveness For the Christian forgiveness
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