Book Review – The Sunflower

“The Sunflower – On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness”

by Simon Wiesenthal

Mr. Wiesenthal, a Jew, was a prisoner in concentration camps during WWII. He was treated inhumanely and saw this family killed or starved to death. One day a dying SS soldier who had murdered Jewish families asked him for forgiveness.  

It seems that Wiesenthal was haunted by his response. He wrote this story in “The Sunflower” asking “what would you have done?” He searches for answers from people of many faiths and backgrounds. He is answered by over fifty individuals including Desmond Tutu, Harold Kushner, and the Dalai Lama. 

The answers given vary from emotional, heartfelt, to very intellectual.  The discussion is enlightening on many levels. I recommend Wiesenthal’s book and the responses by those he sought out – theologians, jurists, psychiatrists, human rights activists, political leaders, former prisioners of war, writers and others – to answer his unrelenting question on forgiveness. You will never forget it. 


“The Sunflower” was originally written in France in 1969. It has been translated, revised and had the symposium added at later dates. Wiesenthal died in 2005 at the age of 96.


Sunflower photo by Pixabay

8 thoughts on “Book Review – The Sunflower

  1. Forgiveness is something I believe every human being has struggled with from the beginning of time. There are many ways to look at it. When we are unforgiving, we give the offender power over us, and at the same time, the offender may read it as permission to continue saying or doing hurtful things. At the end of the day, I believe forgiveness is healing, and allows a way to move forward, to reclaim one’s self-esteem, to renders others’ opinions just that, opinions, not fact. I would love to read this and see how those much wiser reflect on the subject. As long as I breathe, I have an opportunity to change, to grow., thanks in large part to people like you, Sue, who share wonderful, thought-provoking topics.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A friend pointed out, quite accurately, that I had not explained the title of the book, “Sunflower.” When Wiesenthal was marched to work sites he saw graves of Nazi soldiers, each with a single, beautiful sunflower blooming by their headstones. Day after day as he saw the sunflowers he thought of how his family and other Jews’ bodies were left in a heap, piled one atop another. No sunflowers for the his people. Sue


  3. Another of your blogs that will haunt Us and make us think. However we have never known such suffering as those in concentration camps.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I too, need to read this book, written from people who had endured both physical, emotional, and spiritual torture and heartache! We all have been told we must forgive 70 x 7 , from the Good Book! I know it will be a very interesting and provoking read! Thank you, Sue, for another compelling post .

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  5. Corrie Ten Boom was asked that same question by a nazi officer who was responsible for the death of her sister and father. Her response, “I decided to forgive and set the prisoner free only to find out that the prisoner was me.”
    That quote has always stuck with me. Thank you once again for challenging our hearts and minds.

    Liked by 1 person

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