Sunflower: To consider forgiveness is unforgivable

For reasons a recently published essay “France without the Jews” by Danny Trom strives to unveil, France is the cradle for the revival of murderous antisemitism that threatens Jews throughout the Diaspora. In this disturbing context, it is comforting to note that there are also people in France who think that a theater show with the theme of the Holocaust has its place on the French cultural scene. In a world premiere held in Tel Aviv, Thierry Lhermite, in a one man show, tells with poignant restraint a story “Sunflower” based on book by Simon Wiesenthal. Against the background of atrocities committed by the Nazis the narrator has endured and witnessed, the play raises the question of the possibility to forgive. After the emotion aroused by the theater magic and the talent of Thierry Lhermite had quelled, an uneasy feeling seized me. As a child during the war, twice I escaped being reduced to smoke and ashes. I have known fear, I was beaten, I was hungry, I got cold, I lost loved ones. All this for the sole reason I was a Jew. Those who chased me didn’t know me. They were ruthless machines, soulless, and deprived of the meaning of forgiveness. Undoubtedly, you can’t forgive machines.

During my professional career in Israel I have guided the training of young students from all over the world. Their choice to come here was often dictated by their desire to witness the dynamism that a new nation engenders. Among them were also Germans with whom I am still in contact. We never discussed directly topics relating to the Nazi era.  Yet I could detect by their attitude that the past left an indelible stain on their soul. In the heart of Berlin, between the Brandenburg Gate and  Potsdam Square, the Holocaust Memorial is erected on several thousand square meters. No passer-by can forsake the significance of this monument. Forgiving is also forgetting. Germany and the Germans do not want to forget. The recollection of their crime is their gateway to redemption. They don’t want us to forgive.

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