The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal

The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal is a book that has the power to change your life, and to think about the act of forgiveness in a very deep way.

Photo Credit: Goodreads

This is the true story of Simon Wiesenthal, and how, as a Jewish prisoner under the Nazi regime, he encountered a dying Nazi soldier who would ask Simon to do something that is very difficult: to forgive him for his sins against the Jewish people.

This book has two sections: the first section detailing Simon’s telling of the story, and the second which is filled with essays written by prominent figures of what they would do in Simon’s role.  I didn’t read all of the commentary, but I did read some of them.

Does The Sunflower sound familiar to you?  It’s the real-life version of the Jodi Picoult novel, The Storyteller.

One section of Simon’s tale really struck a chord with me.  During a time when many Jews were living in the ghetto, the regime in charge wanted the children to be gone.  The SS leader decided the best way to get all of the Jewish children out of hiding (so they could kill them, of course) would be to start a kindergarten, and advertise it as something for the good of the Jews.  Extra food was even sent to the ghetto to help show the goodwill.

However, when the children came out of hiding to go to the kindergarten on that day, they were loaded onto SS trucks and brought straight to the gas chambers.

Does Simon have the right to forgive on behalf of all of the Jewish people that this dying Nazi killed, injured, etc?

Can he deny a dying man’s wish?

Will Simon forgive this Nazi?

Would YOU?

Thanks for reading,


Interested in getting your own copy? Check it out on Amazon & IndieBound. I get a small percentage if you purchase from those links, and it doesn’t cost you any extra.



13 thoughts on “The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal

    • It’s real. Which is why it should be read. So we don’t forget and make the same mistakes again. Even though, history has shown that genocide is something that has been repeated (Darfur).

      The book poses the question of forgiveness, but gives an overview of Simon’s story so that you have the background you need in order to see Simon’s perspective and decide if you would be able to forgive.


  1. Pingback: Thursday Mashup | Traveling With T

    • Both are good books, but this one is a true version of the tale, and much shorter. It looks long, but that is because of the essays at the end. The actual story is only 98 pages or so, and you can choose to read or not to read the commentaries after.


  2. I can see that your questions are great for discussion. I would feel bad for denying a dying man’s wish, but as one person I don’t have the right to forgive on behalf of a group of people. This book sounds great, Rebecca and so is your review.


    • EXACTLY! That is the conundrum. But here’s another part to it. . . put yourself in Simon’s shoes. He is a Jewish man during the Holocaust. His family and friends are being killed. He’ll probably die soon, too (he survives, since he writes the book after WWII, but he doesn’t know this during the Holocaust of course). This Nazi confesses his crimes on his deathbed to you, a Jewish person who is probably going to be killed by other Nazi soldiers at some point.

      Lots of ethical questions arise, including: Would this man have done anything to change his behavior if he lived or would he continue to kill Jewish people? Do you have the right to forgive on behalf of others? Can you forgive when you are inside of this horrificness?

      It’s not easy to answer, but that’s what makes the book so great. It takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to think about what you would do, and what would be “right” to do.


      • Yes, that is something that would cross my mind, that if he wasn’t dying, would he have continued what he was doing? Was he asking for forgiveness for the sake of “redemption” and the fact that he is asking shows that he God-fearing and that he knows what he was doing is wrong. Oh this book would be lovely for discussion! I will read it sometimes, definitely.


  3. The holocaust story and the Nazi atrocities would continue to fascinate and haunt me as far as I live. And I am not Jewish, but as an African who abhors injustice, cruelty and sheer misuse of power, I don’t have adequate words to describe the reprehension of the Nazi crimes. The collective guilt of Germany does not make it any better but it does alleviate the pain somewhat and salve some conscience.

    Having said that, I don’t know what I would do in Simon’s shoes. Knowing myself, I would probably forgive the Nazi.That is what the good book say we should do after all.

    A great review, Rebecca. I should love to read this book!


    • Thanks! And I mean, genocide is horrible no matter what religion you are! I mean, look at Darfur! We said it wouldn’t happen again, but look. . . it’s just crazy. It’s something to keep thinking about and keep remembering because it might have started with the Holocaust, but we have a long way to go as people in order to get rid of all of that!


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