As many of you know, I have been researching my parents’ experience pre-, during, and immediately post-Holocaust. In the last 2 months, I have uncovered tremendous findings–another picture of my mother from the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, a potential half-sister to my father still living in Brooklyn, street location of where my father lived in Weisbaden, Germany, etc. Besides my own research about my parents (and their families), I needed to soul search my own Jewish-ness in terms of what it means to be a child of Holocaust survivors. In the beginning, I grew angry and repulsive of all things German—from the Hugo Boss clothing, Puma sneakers, IBM (for their relation to the Nazi party), etc. At the same time, however, it is counter-intuitive to my soul to hold hatred against someone or something. I do hate what happened to the Jews, but does what happened to my parents and their families entitle me, on a moral level, to carry hatred today, whereby I can “hate” modern day Germans (on the assumption that many presumably had relatives in the SS).

I came across Simon Wiesenthal’s book entitled The Sunflower. In it, the late Wiesenthal asks numerous scholars, professors, religious figures, etc., what they would have done if they were in his shoes…would they have forgiven a dying SS Nazi soldier who admitted to killing Jewish men, women, and children. The Dali Lama thinks forgiveness should be given. Others think that the acts of Nazi were so outrageous, that the only ones who could possibly forgive are those that the crimes were committed against–and they are dead.

Author and Rabbi Harold Kushner set forth a point that hits me in the kischkas as the ideal mentality I’d like to have (I am not quite there yet b/c I am still in the thick of research). He stated:

Forgiving is not something we do for another person, as the Nazi asked Wiesenthal to do for him. Forgiving happen inside us. It represents a letting go of the sense of grievance, and perhaps most importantly a letting go of the role of the victim. For a Jew to forgive the Nazis would not mean, God forbid, saying to them “What you did was understandable, I can understand what led you to do it and I don’t hate you for it.” It would mean saying “What you did was thoroughly despicable and puts you outside the category of decent human beings. But I refuse to give you the power to define me as a victim. I refuse to let your blind hatred define the shape and content of my Jewishness. I don’t hate you; I reject you.” And then the Nazi would remain chained to his past and to his conscience, but the Jew would be free. ——-(p. 186, Harold Kushner in The Sunflower written by Simon Wiesenthal)

Rob Stevens