To err is human, to forgive divine. 
The horrors of the Holocaust were crimes against not only the
Jewish population, but of humanity. Millions of innocents 
were slaughtered, all for the cruel vision of a fanatical mastermind.
Although the days of Hitler and his evil regime are long gone,
many questions still remain. Are the executors 
to be forgiven? And if so, by whom? Do I, as a non-Jew
who wasnt 
alive during that time have the right to debate the topic of forgiveness?
Although I did not (and hopefully never will) experience the pain
and torture of genocide, I can begin to form my own opinions on
what I might have done in a similar situation. The ability to
forgive is a human virtue possessed by each person, though only
practiced by the strongest of individuals. In order to grow, we
should try to nurture the qualities of compassion and loving-kindness,
which is why forgiveness should be granted, even in the most heinous
crimes committed during the Holocaust.
Simon Wiesenthal, 
the author of The Sunflower has had to wrestle with the
question of forgiveness for decades. As a student in a Polish
technical school before World War II, Wiesenthal was harassed
and humiliated daily because he was Jewish. As frightening and
irritating as these events were, nothing could prepare Simon 
for the torture that he would undergo in a Nazi death camp. For
years, he was contained 
in different concentration camps, performing disgusting and backbreaking
labor under the nonstop scrutiny of the guards. In 1945, Wiesenthal's
camp was liberated by allied troops and he was finally reunited
with the remaining members of his family. After he had recovered
his health, Wiesenthal embarked on a mission to see that the officers
and collaborators of the Nazis were brought to justice. He became
a self-proclaimed Nazi hunter, and for the next several
decades he worked non stop to seek out the perpetrators of the
The purpose of The Sunflower is to stir
in the minds of readers the question of when, and if, forgiveness
should be granted to the participants of the Holocaust. The book
is comprised of two halves; one tells Wiesenthals story,
and the other is a collection of reactions to the book and to
the actions performed by 
Wiesenthal himself. These reactions illustrate the varying points
of view that people of different religious groups, races, and
backgrounds have when it comes to the issue of forgiveness.
In the first half of the book, Wiesenthal recounts
his own story of being faced with a dying SS soldier who confesses
to him his darkest crimes and then asks for forgiveness. Wiesenthal
is horrified by the story, but still does not leave. He shows
kindness to the soldier by simple actions like swatting a fly
away from the soldiers head. Although he shows compassion
for the soldier, in the end he does not grant him his last wish
of being forgiven by a Jew. The idea of forgiveness is not a black
and white issue, as is expressed in the second half of the book.
The second half is a collection of responses from 53 different
people who give their opinion on what they would have done in
Wiesenthals position. The reactions were all very different;
some refused to make a decision either way, most would not forgive,
and only a handful would. 
Buddhist spiritual leader, the 14th Dalai Lama,
and Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard, hold the belief that forgiveness
should be granted in any case.
 The Dalai Lama cites a story in which an acquaintance
of his was held in a Chinese prison for 18 years but never lost
compassion for his captors. To Buddhists, compassion is the ultimate
and final answer to crimes committed against oneself 
and others. Matthieu Ricard 
goes further in his explanation of forgiveness based on
Buddhist beliefs. He believes that forgiveness benefits both parties
because it acknowledges the inner changes that have occurred in
the one who has committed the crime, if they are truly repentant,
and it also helps the wronged party rid themselves of negative
feelings. If these feelings are never resolved, then only hatred,
fear, and bad karma will be fostered. Ricard also states the idea
that no matter what evil is done by a person, their inner nature
is pure and good. A piece of gold, after all, is still gold,
even if buried in the ground. Once the dirt is removed, the true
nature of the gold will be revealed (Wiesenthal 235).
 Once the crimes are admitted and forgiven, the
true, untainted inner nature of the person and of the victim can
be discovered. Forgiveness, to the Dalai Lama and Ricard is the
only answer that will bring about happiness and tranquility to
the individual, and on a larger level, to the world. 
Theodore M. Hesburgh, a Catholic priest, holds
a somewhat similar view. He also believes that forgiveness should
be granted in any case. Again, his religious beliefs influence
his decision. He states, If asked to forgive, by anyone
for anything, I would forgive because God would forgive
(Wiesenthal 169). Christians believe that we were made in Gods
image, and therefore have the ability to forgive.
 If given the chance, why shouldnt we do
so? He also realizes that because we are not perfect, and are
sinful by nature, forgiveness in such extreme conditions as the
Holocaust might by difficult, but in the end, possible. Gods
kindness has no limits, and we also should strive to become more
compassionate in this way.
I agree with these views because I, too, believe
that forgiveness should be granted under any circumstances, although
the extremity of Wiesenthals situation would make it difficult
to say if I would still be able to hold to this belief. 
Compassion should be shown to every person, regardless of past
deeds.  Some
say that forgiveness is a weakness, but in truth, to forgive someone
who has committed such extreme crimes against oneself and humanity
is the greatest strength of all. If we truly are made from the
perfect image of a creator/God/source, then our inherent, flawless
inner nature needs only to be uncovered and utilized. The dying
SS soldier also has this inner nature, though he was not able
to realize it fully. No one, no matter how many atrocities they
might cause, is evil by nature. Their actions may bring about
untold suffering, but they, too, deserve as much compassion (forgiveness)
as anyone else. This is not to say that the offense should be
forgotten. Because we have not yet achieved perfection, we also
have the ability to make mistakes and cause others to suffer.
The wrongdoing should be remembered in order to prevent it from
happening again in the future. We should never forget the horrors
of the Holocaust, but to continue hating the Nazi officers, the
people that stood back and did nothing, and the dying SS soldier,
we are only hurting ourselves. The hate needs to be released in
order for compassion and growth to take place.
Wiesenthals first half of the novel, The
Sunflower illustrates a specific instance in which a persecuted
Jew is faced with the opportunity to forgive someone who has caused
him, and countless others, great misery. In the end, he refuses.
The second section is made of responses to the question, If
put in Wiesenthals position, what would you do? The
responses ranged widely, the decisions being based largely on
religious and cultural backgrounds.
 Forgiveness is a personal issue that each person
needs to resolve in their own minds and hearts. I believe that
forgiveness is an element of compassion and should be extended
to everyone, as difficult as that may be in some situations. 
Hate is a crippling emotion that causes pain to everyone. Holding
back mercy does not only punish the offender, but the offended.
1. Possibly insert an exclamation
point or quote the proverb.
2. Add more historical background-
(Europes Jewish population, millions of innocent
Jews and non-Jews, etc.)
3. Executioners, not executors
4. Avoid using contractions in
5. Birth and death dates can help
to provide more background and a sense of chronology (for Adolf
Hitler and Simon Wiesenthal).
6. Use only last name after introducing
7. Contained- (awkward)
8. Performed by- (awkward)
9. Watch tenses in this paragraph
10. In any case? Is this conditionally
or unconditionally? (not clear)
11. Crimes committed against oneself-
12. More information on Matthieu
13. In history, footnoting is
used, not in text citing.
14. Is this paragraph describing
the idea of forgiveness for the wronged party? What about someone
who is speaking for another person or a larger group, as in Wiesenthals
15. The Catholics believe that
God forgives, and we forgive only individually. A priest is only
a vehicle for Gods mercy- he can only truly forgive someone
who has wronged him personally.
16. To whom should forgiveness
be granted? Does this include blanket forgiveness or forgiveness
for someone who has mistreated you or your family?
17. How does justice figure into
the idea of forgiveness? Does justice preclude forgiveness? What
are the definitions of forgiveness, justice, and compassion?
18. But what would you have done
in Wiesenthals situation?
19. State more clearly your beliefs
on when and to whom forgiveness should be granted.
20. Overall, the paper is clear
and well written. Text is used well, and organization is good.