Finding resources on Simon Wiesenthal’s ‘The Sunflower’

The first half of “The Sunflower” is an account of some of Simon Wiesenthal’s time in a Nazi concentration camp. As a young man, Wiesenthal was at a hospital providing forced labor, when he was taken to see a mortally wounded SS officer named Karl. Karl had been tormented by the crimes he committed and as he was dying, he wanted to confess to and also receive forgiveness from a Jew. That Jew was Simon Wiesenthal. After hearing the Nazi’s story, Wiesenthal left the room in silence but the issue of what he should have done or whether he had done the right thing haunted him. Wiesenthal shared this and discussed what he did with fellow Jewish prisoners. At another time, he also discussed this with a Catholic in the prison camp. Even after being liberated from Mauthausen, the whole event still seemed to haunt him. He even visited the mother of the SS officer after the war was over.

The second half of “The Sunflower” is a collection of essays written by theologians, spiritual leaders, rabbis, authors, and others who have experienced heinous crimes themselves. These essayists wrestle with questions like whether we can forgive crimes committed against others; if we should forgive people no matter how horrific the crime; and what we owe the victims of such heinous crimes. The new edition of “Sunflower,” in honor of the 20th anniversary of its publication, adds a number of other voices reflecting a large range of diversity.

Related web resources:

Simon Wiesenthal Center

Nazi Hunter Simon Wiesenthal Dies at 96
The Washington Post

Mandel Fellowship Book Reviews

Random House Reader’s Guide

Reflection from a student at the I.L. Peretz Community Jewish School

Facing History and Ourselves: The Sunflower Synopsis

SAJES Educational Resource Guide

SOURCE: Vision, January/February 2012

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Vision is a serial publication of the National Association of Catholic Chaplains.