Could you forgive a Nazi?

Discuss the August 2014 book of the month The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult.
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Re: Could you forgive a Nazi?

Post by ladybug31 »

I agree with the idea about not being able to forgive when you weren't directly affected. It would be like asking one German to apologize for Hitler and all the atrocities that he committed. However, I think that in some cases you could be able to forgive a Nazi. One thing that many people forget, that I only realized when my history buff best friend made me watch documentaries about the Germans, is that some of the soldiers weren't fighting "for Hitler", instead they were fighting for their mother country. It would be like saying that our soldiers are fighting "for Obama" as opposed to "for the U.S.A." Some of these soldiers were also young and were recruited into the Army from the Hitler Youth. It was a perfect example of a large group of people being brainwashed. I know that this kind of went onto a bit of a political rant, but the short version is: yes, a Nazi could hypothetically be forgiven in certain circumstances and if they are truly repentant of their crimes.
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Post by Sapphire1258 »

I don't think I would be able to, even if they had a reason to do what they did
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Post by rssllue »

It would be tough, of course, but I think that I could. Trusting them would be the really hard part afterwards. I don't know about that one.
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Post by Sweet_Lullaby »

no, I could not, or any human treating another in a bad way.
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Post by LivreAmour217 »

I want to say that I could forgive, because forgiving those who have wronged you is the right thing to do. However, since I have never been on the receiving end of such unfathomable evil, I don't know how I would react. I might pity my persecutors, though, because people who are willing to do such awful things are mentally and spiritually lacking, to say the least.
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Post by zoedecicco »

PashaRu wrote:Yes, of course. Forgiving someone in no way justifies or excuses what he/she did in the past.
I totally agree. I believe in forgiveness.

The guilt would surely eat away at them and they would punish themselves enough I'm sure, if they had a conscience.

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Post by raindropwriter »

I dont think I have that big a heart to forgive someone who tortured fellow human beings to satisfy whatever ego buster thought/need they carried! Destroying innocent lives is an offence beyond forgiveness whether you were directed affected or not! :(
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Post by 3chicnP »

That's hard to say. I'll say yes though. Some Nazi's (let's say a majority of them) weren't even aware of who they were fighting for or what they were doing. People can change and they deserve second chances. So yes, I would forgive a Nazi.
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Post by ravenclaw »

This book was sooooo intense; I actually just finished it today.
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Post by Duende Knocking »

No. I understand that many people in Nazi Germany at the time were not supporters of what the Nazis were doing, but felt they had to keep their heads down and be obedient to protect their families. However, random citizens were not generally drafted into the SS, the group who carried out the majority of the atrocities in the war.

Even if I was directly affected (I am indirectly affected, as many of my ancestors were European Jewish folk who came to the United States in the 1930s as refugees), it wouldn't be my place to forgive someone for the millions of those who died, who will never even have the chance to forgive.

Josef feeling that someone can forgive him just because of their Jewish heritage is oddly like using that individual to relieve himself of his guilt, too. The whole thing comes across as callous and rather manipulative, so I'd be even less inclined to forgive under the circumstances.
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Post by csimmons032 »

I am not saying that it would be easy to forgive a Nazi, but yes I think I could. The only way I would be able to do it though is if he showed a lot of remorse for the lives that he took. I could not forgive a Nazi that wasn't sorry for his actions. If he was sorry though, then I do think I could forgive him. However, I did not experience the brutality that the people in the Holocaust experienced. If I had been in their situations, then I would probably find it much more difficult to be forgiving. It all would just depend on how honest they are about wanting forgiveness for their actions and if they realized that what they did was wrong.
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Post by gatorgirl_823 »

ALynnPowers wrote:
lnygaard wrote:I was talking about this book the other day with my family and it ended up being a discussion on forgiving Nazis. In the book, Josef feels that Sage had the powere to forgive him because of her Jewish heritage---do you think he's right? If someone asked you to forgive them even if it didn't directly affect you, would you do it?

Personally, I think I wouldn't be able to do it. Since I wasn't directly affected by the holocaust or my family I would feel a little strange offering it. I don't think it would be my place... Then again can you hold one SS officer accountable for the entire genocide? What do you think?
I agree with you about not being able to forgive because I wasn't directly affected. I feel like it's not my place offering forgiveness for something that I have no connection to. It's basically an insult to the people it did affect, since I don't know the emotional connection like they do.
Exactly, when you are not connected or affected by the tragedy, it doesn't feel hard to forgive someone. But with an event as tragic and sadistic as the holocaust, it brings a whole new layer to it. That's a tough one to think about.
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Post by zeldas_lullaby »

Could I forgive a Nazi? Heck, I haven't forgiven my third-grade teacher yet for being a mean [insert dirty word here].

I decided when I was eight years old that I'd rather be a victim than be the perpetrator, because the latter must live with a guilty conscience, and I couldn't bear that. I've done bad things in my life, but nothing THAT BAD, so my conscience is clean.

I can carry a grudge until the cows come home, so I find it hard to believe that I could forgive a Nazi.

In theory, forgiveness sounds great. Oh so holy and pure. People have come to see it as a virtue. "Forgive to be the bigger person." I tend to believe that this is a "false virtue." Of course, it's great to forgive people who are genuinely sorry/remorseful. I truly believe in doing so. But in the more likely event that the person couldn't care less, forgiving them is unwarranted and misguided, plus they may turn around and hurt you again if you don't shun them.
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Post by Rachaelamb1 »

PashaRu wrote:Yes, of course. Forgiving someone in no way justifies or excuses what he/she did in the past. And whether or not forgiveness is extended depends on how the person himself feels about what he did.

There is no justification for what the Nazis did. The organization was the epitome of evil. We should never, ever minimize or try to excuse the horrors it perpetrated against the world and millions of innocent people. I've walked through Dachau and Mauthausen concentration camps. I've looked into the crematorium ovens. I've been inside the gas chambers. I've been inside the barracks, the "cold storage" room where corpses waiting for cremation were stored, seen the room and touched the table where sickening medical experiments were conducted, and the wall against which prisoners were stood and shot. Let me tell you, it's an experience you'll never forget.

However, I think that people can change. It's possible that a person who was a Nazi in WWII could later realize and understand the awful mistake he made in supporting that evil organization and have a complete change of heart. He could be cut to the heart and have deep remorse and regret over his role in those horrors. He could be a completely changed man. I think we have to allow for that possibility. (This in no way means he should be free from punishment. That's a different matter altogether.)

Don't ever excuse, justify, or forgive the Nazi party. And if a person who was a Nazi feels that what he did was okay, there is no basis to extend forgiveness. But if an individual truly changes, then he can be forgiven. I think we have to be able to differentiate between the person and the organization. Again, forgiving does not mean justifying or excusing. And I think that if we cannot forgive, no matter how much a person has changed and how deeply he/she regrets past actions, that is very sad indeed.

Finally, I realize that for some, especially those whose lives have been personally affected by the atrocities of the Holocaust, it may be extremely difficult to forgive a former Nazi. I understand that and would never criticize such a person. I am grateful that I don't know what it's like to stand in those shoes.
Very well put. I agree that forgiveness does not justify or excuse their actions. Forgiveness is often more freeing for the the person doing the forgiving than the other way around. I've heard it said that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It's something that has stuck with me for a long time.
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Post by Emmers00 »

I haven't read this book but this topic sounded particularly intriguing. I am speaking as a non Jewish person who has never had to be in the throws of such evil in my life, that being said I have beliefs on my response to the question. As a Christian I believe everyone is, and can be forgiven and it is not my place to withhold forgiveness to someone not matter how dark their past. Of course it is hard, and one must work to forgive, but forgiveness is something that should be offered to everyone. When we forgive people, we give them hope that they can turn their lives around and they are given a chance to be the people they were meant to be to start with. Of course justice must be served, but I would rather a world with mercy, where people are much more likely to get back on a good path, rather than squander what is left of their life in darkness. (Sorry about the punctuation)
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