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The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness
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The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  3,789 ratings  ·  389 reviews
While imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, Simon Wiesenthal was taken one day from his work detail to the bedside of a dying member of the SS. Haunted by the crimes in which he had participated, the soldier wanted to confess to--and obtain absolution from--a Jew. Faced with the choice between compassion and justice, silence and truth, Wiesenthal said nothing.But even y ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published December 18th 2008 by Schocken (first published 1969)
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Megan Williams I am a freshman in college reading this for my Honors program. I think if you want a discussion between the kids, this may be a little too intense for…moreI am a freshman in college reading this for my Honors program. I think if you want a discussion between the kids, this may be a little too intense for 8th graders. I would not want my 8th grade sister reading this.(less)
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Aileen
Simon Wiesenthal is in a Nazi Concentration Camp in Poland and performing physical labor at a local hospital when a nurse comes up to him and says, "Are you a Jew? Come with me." She leads him to a room, in which a catastrophically injured young man lays. The injured man asks Simon to sit and listen to his story.

The young man is a Nazi. He was raised very Catholic and hoped to become a priest before diverting from his plan and becoming a member of the Hitler Youth. He then joined the SS "as soo
...more
Matthew
Wiesenthal's true story might just be a thought experiment for an Intro to Ethics course, were it not for his writing, which makes this book something loftier. Much less interesting are the short essays that make up the second part of the book. In these, an all-star team of moral authorities (including Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama) offer brief responses to the central dilemma of the story: To what extent are victims of atrocities required or even permitted to forgive their persecutors?

Many o
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Karima
I gave this book five stars not because of literary style or readability but because of IMPACT, on a very personal level. The theme here is FORGIVENESS: it's meaning, it's affect on our lives, and its limits or limitlessness.
I did not choose this book. My 87 year old Aunt Dominica lent it to me and asked me to read it. She had recently read it and was hungry to discuss it with someone. I look forward to that exchange.
This book is divided into two parts. The first section (a mere 98 pages)is the
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Sandra
"Tutto nella vita ha il suo prezzo, e io lo pago, e posso guardare in faccia tutti"

Questo libro è stato scritto da Simon Wiesenthal, detto il cacciatore di nazisti, un ebreo nato e vissuto in Polonia, laureato in architettura, sopravvissuto ai campi di sterminio. Dopo la fine della guerra Wiesenthal ha dedicato la sua vita alla ricerca dei nazisti responsabili dell’Olocausto che si erano rifugiati in paesi “amici”, come l’Argentina, il Brasile e il Sud America in generale: per far ciò ha creato
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Gabrielle
Recommended by Juli Ann -- I'm not sure I'll do this in a sitting; I may mete out the essays between other pieces of fiction.


Well...I'll be honest. I didn't read every essay in the back of the book. I read the ones written by people I have heard of. That was interesting. I enjoyed reading Matthew Fox & Desmond Tutu. Cynthia Ozick's was my favorite response. I think my reading of this holocaust account was made more intense by my experience at the Museum of Tolerance this past summer. Wiesent
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Mom
This book gathers a diverse collection of responses to a request for forgiveness by a dying soldier for atrocities he took part in. In part, some of the responses tended to gather around perspectives that different faiths had about forgiveness, including a core question of whether some acts can even be forgiven if the person who was wronged was no longer living and could not be asked for forgiveness. The power in the book was to communicate that "forgiveness" is not something to glibly advise so ...more
Jan Rice
In this book Simon Wiesenthal takes the first 100 pages to describe an event in his life and the surrealistic dilemma it posed. One day while he was in a Nazi forced labor camp in Poland, his group finished some railroad labor and got put on clean-up duty in a wartime hospital instead. On that day, a nurse chooses him at random, beckons him aside, and confirms the obvious--that he is a Jew. Then he gets taken to the bedside of a dying SS soldier (SS troops being the Nazi elite who ran the Holoca ...more
Katherine
Here's the story: When our author, Simon Wiesenthal, was on work detail in a concentration camp, a dying SS soldier had him fetched at random, confessed hideous crimes to him, and begged for his forgiveness. Not knowing how to respond, Wiesenthal left the room. The soldier died later that night. Wiesenthal still wonders what he should have done.

The second half of the book consists of short responses from political and spiritual leaders, teachers, and philosophers, tackling the big questions - di
...more
Anna
"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong." -Matama Ghandi

I believe in forgiveness. However, this is a unique case of forgiveness. A young Jew in a concentration camp is asked forgiveness for a certain incident by a dying SS guard. The young Jew answers in silence.

As an analytical thinker, I found this book fascinating. The question of forgiveness has always been up for debate. But what about forgiving someone for a crime committed against someone else? Since the Naz
...more
Patrick Allen
Lines in the sand. The best way to describe my understanding of forgiveness as a child was that there were certain things I would forgive, and things "across the line" that I simply could never forget. As an adult I understand the evolving nature of that discussion, but for the most part my childhood did not require this.
Simon Wiesenthal was not so lucky. He endured the ultimate hell on Earth: concentration camps. His narrative and the question he asks at the end strike to the very core of teac
...more
Kate
A very simple and very heart-wrenching story of a man in a concentration camp who is provided the strange experience of hearing the confession of a dying member of the SS. The book ends with the question, "What would you have done." A thorny ethical question if there ever was one, huh? The edition that I read was followed by commentary by a few dozen thinkers, from atheists to the Dalai Lama to Muslims who had experienced the horrors of Bosnia to Martin Marty. Very thought provoking. The French ...more
Rochelle
This story, like much of the Holocaust canon, carries a distinct weightiness, if only for the scale of human atrocities that were committed--and the fact that we can refer to a canon under which we may subsume genocide as simply a category, but whose umbrella is inclusive of so much more that is so atrocious as to have no equivalent. It is a scale which has yet to be balanced by acts of extraordinary compassion in the face of unmitigated evil, in part, because, true self-sacrifice rarely survive ...more
Natalie
Simon Wiesenthal proposes the question, "What would you have done?" What would I have done? That is an impossible question to answer. I would like to say that I would have forgiven the S.S. officer, but at the same time I would like to say that I would not have forgiven him. Is it my right to forgive on the behalf of others? If so how can I if they are all dead? The novel is mind-boggling for not only me, for for most of those who respond to Simon's debacle.
Here is how I see it. I think that fo
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Kathy Maggiacomo
Not a summer read. Too deep but I think it's an important book to read. It's scary to think how a government can have corupt people rise to power, Hitler, and worse is to think how people don't stop it from happening. How could anyone convince "good boys" who were raised with religious beliefs and morals to murder innocent Jews or any group for that matter on such a scale. It shocks me to believe people are capable of shooting down woman, children and unarmed civilians with the belief they are " ...more
Ashley Lauren
This book had me wanting to write my own essay through the whole symposium. I never thought I would end up having such a vivid opinion on the subject, but after reading 53 responses I really felt strongly about my own personal view.

I felt the memoir at the beginning was not nearly as powerful as other Holocaust memoirs that I have experienced previously. I think Simon told it well but didn't reall drag me into it as much as other have. Additionally, I felt that many of the essays in the symposiu
...more
Erik Graff
Aug 13, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: high school ethics classes
Recommended to Erik by: Erin S.
Shelves: philosophy
As given in the book description, this is at once a memoir and a large set of responses to it, most hingeing on the problematics of sin and forgiveness. Appropriately, it is often used as a text in ethics classes.

Personally, I found it distressing for two reasons. The first was because of the memoir itself. Descriptions of concentration camp life and of war are distressing enough, but in this loaded instance when the war is WWII, the camp a Nazi one and the victims the Jewish author and a host o
...more
Phil
The Sunflower is a story of a WWII concentration camp inhabitant and his unexpected encounter with a dying Nazi soldier seeking forgiveness for his crimes against the Jews. The book is written by Simon Wiesenthal who actually lived out the entire experience he portrays in the book. The book is Wiesenthal’s call to the world as he was left always wondering whether or not the Nazi soldier was deserving of forgiveness. The story is accompanied with over fifty responses to Wiesenthal as to whether o ...more
Heidi Gonzalez
This is more like 2 books in one. The first is the story and the second is responses from scholars, religious leaders, and country leaders on what they would do or what they believe. Its a difficult question with no right answer.

Since I've never been in that situation its hard to know what I would do, I probably would do just what he did, although it would haunt me. Its hard to forgive, even harder when the person has committed such heinous acts of cruelty. But if we don't forgive, if we reduce
...more
Beth A.
This book is in two parts, Wiesenthal’s story and “The Symposium.” Several “eminent persons” were invited to answer the question posed at the end of the story, “What would I have done?” The question was, should Wiesenthal have forgiven the Nazi soldier who confessed to killing a Jewish family.

The first part, the story of Weisenthal, his circumstances at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp and the Nazi soldier’s request for forgiveness, was excellent. It wasn’t too descriptive of the horrors he wen
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Pritchie Brown
The Sunflower tells the true story of author Simon Wiesenthal’s life during the time of World War II. Simon tells of the struggles of being Jewish during the Nazi’s rule and the devastation they inflicted upon him personally. This novel deals with very heavy material and is a very emotional read.

As a middle grades English education major I think this novel can be taught in a middle school classroom, ideally 7th grade and up, but should be handled with care. While this novel does present the read
...more
Courtnee
The Sunflower was quite the interesting read. Wiesenthal did not offer readers a leisurely read. No, he forced each reader think hard and long about his own experience and what they would do if they were ever in his place, one reason I enjoyed reading it. I liked this book because it read like a fictional novel, which is the only type of book I tend to read. Besides that minor point, I adored how the novel made my mind work over deep topics and how it provided me a small gateway into the life of ...more
Melissa Jackson
The Sunflower, by Simon Wiesenthal, is a story about the author while imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. The story takes you through the hardships and thoughts of a Jewish prisoner as he endures the hardships brought on by the Holocaust. As Simon was on a work detail assignment at an S.S. hospital, he is taken aside by a nurse who takes him to a dying S.S. soldier. The soldier confesses his crimes to Simon in hopes of being forgiven for all he has done to the Jews. Simon has a hard time co ...more
Kelly Breeden
The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal is a great book. It really makes the reader think about his or her willingness to forgive certain things. This book is also great because of the history it includes, which is that of the Holocaust and the World War II era. I think middle grades students would really enjoy reading this book and figuring out for themselves whether or not they would forgive Karl for what he had done. Since forgiveness is an important ...more
Leketha Outley
Sunflower
This book was ultimately about forgiveness. Forgiveness is such a broad topic because in order to forgive someone of something, one must consider his own views on morals, justice, mercy, and human responsibility. This book talks about how Simon – a Jew, had the opportunity to listen to a dying Nazi’s confessions of his sins. The dying Nazi was a man named Karl. He wanted to be able to confess his sins to Simon because in my opinion, he felt that just saying sorry to one Jew and getting
...more
Damarcus Henley
The sunflower… is about a man named Simon Wiesenthal that was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. He was taken from his job to be with a dying soldier, who was haunted by the crimes he committed and wanted to confess them and receive some sort of forgiveness for his crimes. While this soldier explains his story to Simon, he stays silent while trying to fight his different emotions he feels inside. Years after the war is over, Simon begins to doubt himself and wonders if he did the right thi ...more
Kristin
Simon Wiesenthal may be best known for his dedication to hunting Nazi war criminals and bringing them to justice. However his book, The Sunflower, provides the world with an equally valuable service, to question oneself and our actions. The Sunflower is written in two parts. The first part tells of his encounter with a dying SS soldier while he was incarcerated in a work camp . The dying man asks for Wiesenthal's forgiveness as a representative of the Jewish community the soldier has persecuted ...more
Kathleen Dixon
This is an extraordinary book. Simon Wiesenthal is the “Nazi hunter” who spent his life since the war (WWII) identifying Nazi war criminals in order for them to be brought to trial. For this work he has been honoured by the governments of Italy, the Netherlands, Israel, and the United States. He was born in 1908 in Buczaz, a city in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and he studied in Prague and Lvov. He had just begun work in an architectural office in Lvov (Poland) when the Germans invaded. From 194 ...more
Ian Cole
The Sunflower is a philosophical, religious, moral, ethical, whatever else you want to call it question presented as Simon Wiesenthal experienced it during his time as a prisoner of the Nazis. One day, while assigned to work cleanup duty at a hospital (actually a former school which Wiesenthal, himself, attended), a nurse asks him to follow her. He is directed to a room in which resides a young, dying Nazi soldier. The soldier wishes to make a confession about a crime that he perpetrated again ...more
Melissa Rotti
"The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgives" by Simon Wiesenthal is a book I will never forget. Even though I am only giving The Sunflower three stars, I have never read anything like this book. While being imprisoned in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, Simon Wiesenthal was taken to the bedside of a dying Nazi Soldier. The Soldier asked for a Jew to come so the soldier could ask for his forgiveness before taking his final breath. As the dying solider recounts his vile a ...more
Mrsgaskell
This is probably one of the most powerfully moving and thought-provoking books I’ve ever read. The first half of the book recounts an experience of Wiesenthal’s while he was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. While on work detail at a hospital he was taken to the bed of a dying SS soldier who confessed his crimes against Jews and asked for Wiesenthal's forgiveness. Wiesenthal remained silent but was haunted afterwards by this experience, and visited the soldier’s mother after the war. He e ...more
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Simon Wiesenthal, KBE, was an Austrian-Jewish architectural engineer and Holocaust survivor who became famous after World War II for his work as a Nazi hunter who pursued Nazi war criminals in an effort to bring them to justice.

Following four and a half years in the German concentration camps such as Janowska, Plaszow, and Mauthausen during World War II, Wiesenthal dedicated most of his life to tr
...more
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