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A Question of Forgiveness of The Large Scale Crimes Such as Genocide

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Large Scale Crime’s affect the World; the most common large scale crime is genocide. Genocide is to purposefully eliminate a society or ethnic group. One of the most talked about Genocides in history is The Holocaust, 6 million Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Families were torn apart, Jews were betrayed by their friends and neighbors, many fled to other countries to start over or rebuild part of their lives, sadly millions were sent to concentration camps where they were forced to hard labor, tortured and murdered in the most horrific ways. Many of the survivors of The Holocaust have shared their stories with the world, in hopes of helping stop such acts and showing the world what they suffered through. Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust Survivor wrote the book The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. In his book Wiesenthal tells of his interaction with a Nazi Soldier on his death bed who confesses his crimes and asks for Forgiveness from Wiesenthal. Wiesenthal reacts by simply walking out of the room. Forgiveness is a lot to ask of one person especially when asked by someone who hasn’t only wronged you but your friends and neighbors. Forgiveness is bigger than one person and asked to forgive someone for such crimes can prove to be extremely difficult. Ones feelings on forgiveness can be deeply rooted in faith, family and friends and life experiences. Although some say that we should forgive large scale crimes because of compassion and faith and religion says so, Large scale crimes are too horrific to forgive, and the criminals often show no remorse for their crimes.

One reason many say we should forgive Large Scale crimes is that forgiveness is an important part of faith. Faith and religion is a major part of many peoples lives, and many live their life based on the beliefs. People follow their faith because it brings a sense of security and belonging, many were raised in their faith and continue to follow it. In an essay in response to Simon Wiesenthal’s book The Sunflower Dalai Lama The head of the Tibetan monks, reflects on the Tibetan people struggle to regain their freedom from the Chinese government. Dalai Lama says “It would be easy to become angry at these tragic events and atrocities. Labeling the Chinese as our enemies, we could self righteously condemn them for their brutality and dismiss them as unworthy of further thought or consideration. But that is not the Buddhist way” (Lama 130). Faith keeps people strong in the weakest of times and guides them in times of confusion and hurt. José Hobday a Franciscan Nun of Native American decent who also penned a response to Wiesenthal’s book The Sunflower says “Forgetting and Forgiveness may seem to be two different things, but I believe they are of a piece” (Hobday 175).

Compassion is another reason why many people believe that Large Scale Crimes should be forgiven. Compassion is to have humanity or understanding, in the case of Large Scale Crimes compassion it is a major key to the healing process. Many believe that forgiving is showing compassion for fellow man. Robert McAfee Brown a professor of Theology and Ethics at the Pacific School of Religion wrote in his response to The Sunflower “That an act of forgiveness on our part could tip the scales toward compassion rather than brutality” (McAfee Brown 123). Brown is saying that showing compassion and giving forgiveness would put out more positivity to cancel out the negativity of the crimes and give a peace of mind for those affected. The Dalai Lama also touched on the topic of compassion, he mentions a conversation that he had with a Tibetan Monk who had been imprisoned for 18 years in China and then escaped to India after his release. The Dalai Lama asks him what the most difficult thing about being imprisoned was and the monk responded in a way that surprised the Dalai Lama, he says “I had asked him what he felt was the biggest threat or danger while he was in prison. I was amazed by his answer. It was extraordinary and inspiring. I was expecting him to say something else; instead he said that what he most feared was losing his compassion for the Chinese” (Lama 130) They show compassion towards those who have wronged them because their faith says it is the way and a way of getting closure for one self if that is what they seek from the power of forgiveness.

One reason many say we shouldn’t forgive Large Scale Crimes is that one can’t forgive on someone else’s behalf. In his essay response Moshe Bejski a Holocaust survivor like Wiesenthal and a Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel. Bejski states in his response that “Even if Wiesenthal believed that he was empowered to grant a pardon in the name of the murdered masses, such as an act of mercy would have been a kind of betrayal and repudiation of the memory of the millions of innocent victims who were unjustly murdered, amongst them, the members of his family”. (Bejski 115) Such crimes can not be forgiven by one person it is unfair to all who have suffered at the hands of the criminals. Alan L. Berger, a chairman of Holocaust Studies at Florida Atlantic University and former professor in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University, in his response to The Sunflower also believes that one shouldn’t forgive on behalf of others, he says “Am I entitled to forgive on behalf of the murdered? My Response is, do not forgive someone for whom forgiveness is forbidden. Judaism teaches that there are two types of sins. One is that committed by humans against god, beyn adam le-mako. The second type consists of sin committed by humans against other humans, beyn adam le-adam. I may forgive one who ahs sinned against me. I may not forgive one who has taken the life of another” (Berger 119). Religious Law can dictate what sins are forgivable. Bejski and Berger both believe that forgiving on another’s behalf is wrong. Forgiving those who have wronged many is betraying the people who were also affected by the large scale crime. One can forgive on behalf of themselves but not on behalf of another.

Another reason why many say we shouldn’t forgive Large Scale Crimes is that it is unlikely that the criminals would feel remorse for their crimes. These Criminals were willing and openly committed these crimes, destroying lives and whole communities, often their community. Berger presented the idea of what if Karl hadn’t died, he says “Let us assume that Karl…did not die. Would he then have had pangs of conscience? After the war, would he be among the penitents? Or would he not have been among those Nazis who…simply resume…Life…” (Berger 120). The criminals who commit such crimes often simply resume their lives as if nothing ever happened. If these criminals were faced with death, would they even feel any remorse for their crimes? Remorse is important, it shows that one truly feels guilt about the wrong that they have done. Feeling remorse and asking for forgiveness is only convenient when the criminal is facing death or persecution. Bejski also believes that criminals don’t feel remorse for their crimes, he says “Thus perhaps hundreds of thousands of Germans who participated in and committed genocide…returned to their homes and to quiet, peaceful lives, without their consciences ever bothering them, without ever feeling remorse”. (Bejski 116). Criminals of Large Scale crimes leave a path of destruction and heartbreak while being allowed to continue their normal everyday lives. Some are captured and persecuted for their crimes as where some are able to live the rest of their lives in anonymity and not face justice on earth.

Ones views on forgiveness can be influenced by faith, family and life experiences. Faith and religion are used by many as a guide on how to lead their lives. Many religions stress the importance of forgiveness as forgiving leads to peace. Others are influenced by their family and friends, whether it was the way they were raised or watching how others handle forgiveness themselves. Life experiences can also be a huge deciding factor in someone’s views on forgiveness. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to forgiving Large Scale crimes but many have experienced first hand the act of genocide. While for some forgiveness helps give closure and peace for others those who have wronged them do not deserve it at all. How or who someone wants to forgive should not be judged by others as everyone’s path of forgiveness is different. Berger is influenced by his studies and work, where as Bejski is influenced by his own horrifying experience being interned at a concentration camp during the holocaust . Little and big events can influence someone’s willingness to forgive.

Forgiveness for large scale crimes is the hardest thing to ask of a person. The asker may not see it as a big deal and will only ask when it is their own saving grace; as the Nazi did to Wiesenthal. The victims of these crimes suffer great injustices and watch while their whole entire world is destroyed because of the hatred in the heart of many determined to “rid” of people who are not to their “standard” and they treat them as subhuman. Large scale crimes have happened all over the world for centuries many have suffered and continue to share their stories of survival as a cautionary tale for the rest of the world to be aware of what is going on and make sure that all peoples are protected.

Essay three, had us focused on forgiveness of Large Scale Crimes. Large Scale Crimes are horrific acts committed against many. I wrote in my argument that despite people saying we should give forgiveness because of compassion and because religion or faith says so, that one cannot forgive LSC’s on behalf of another because it would be a betrayal to the victims and that the criminals show no remorse until its’ convenient for them or it’s too late. The essays in the book for forgiveness and against forgiveness all made strong points for their opinion. While some said forgive and others said not to forgive they all agreed that not forgetting about these crimes was very important. I believe that no matter what side you are on when it comes to forgiveness, no one is wrong, everyone is going to feel differently about forgiving for such a crime, especially those directly affected by the crime itself.

Even though I am not for forgiveness of Large Scale Crimes, I respected José Hobday’s reasoning for forgiveness. It touches on a more spiritual aspect and goes beyond the anger of LSC’s and was influenced by her upbringing. She says that “Forgiveness is of the heart” (Hobday 175). I believe that means you must feel forgiveness within you, not because you feel it is right or the one who committed crimes is asking but that giving forgiveness is the center of being human, giving forgiveness is to show compassion and strength and maturity to move on. Forgiveness can lead to inner peace and closure for any victim. Holding on to anger and resentment toward people can affect your spiritual health. While forgiving is one thing, forgetting isn’t something they should do.

While some believe that Large Scale Crimes should be forgiven, I believe that you can’t forgive them. The acts are too horrific and the criminals show no remorse for their crimes. Moshe Bejski’s reasoning for saying no to forgiveness for Large Scale Crimes resonates with me he is speaking of the Nazi that had asked Wiesenthal for forgiveness, he says “But how can forgiveness be asked of someone whose death sentence will soon be carried out by the dying man’s partners in crime, who are apart of the same regime, when the dying person himself admits that he too committing these same crimes against the Jewish people and was only stopped when the hand of god overtook him.” (Bejski 114) Bejski is saying that this Nazi is only asking for forgiveness and showing remorse because he is on his death bed. If he hadn’t been mortally wounded he would still be out there with his comrades , his comrades are out there continuing on with what the mortally wounded Nazi had been doing as well. You can’t forgive someone who is asking for forgiveness when it is too late. Forgiveness isn’t something to take for granted.

What influences my views of forgiveness is definitely my family and my faith. While I am Catholic and forgiveness is a huge part of my religion. I don’t believe that every act against someone or a whole group deserves forgiveness. I have had family members that were victims of Large Scale Crimes, I am Armenian and my Great Grandparents fled The Old Country during World War I because from 1915-1917 the Turkish Ottoman Empire systematically murdered 1.5 million Armenians. My Great Grandmother and Grandfather watched as their communities were torched and friends, neighbors and family members murdered in front of them. My Great Grandmother was 9 at the beginning of the war and told us that one night soldiers came to their home shot her grandfather dead where he stood and they took her father, she never heard of saw her father again, no one knew of his fate. After that night her mother bundled up what they could and the very next day fled on foot, they left Armenia went to Italy and then move to Egypt for a couple years before coming to America. My Great Grandfather lived in a town that was a mix of Armenians and Turkish people who had lived peacefully there as friends and neighbors. The Mayor of his town who was Turkish hid him and many other Armenians in his cellar until it was safe to flee the country. My Great Grandparents didn’t meet later until my Great Grandmother came to America to marry him. The trauma of what happened to them stayed with them for the rest of their lives, my Great Grandmother would stress the importance of being thankful for what we have now because your whole life can be taken from you in a second. I never met my Great Grandfather he died before I was born but my Grandfather (his son) said he forgave those who committed those crimes, because he felt that holding on to the anger would only hinder his new life in America. My Great Grandmother believed that forgiveness shouldn’t be forgiven as Turkey denied the genocide and few countries brought it to the worlds attention. My Great Grandmother died at 106 feeling betrayed by her new home because the genocide hadn’t been recognized by the United States government.

While my family has been my greatest influence in forgiveness, I believe that one can’t forgive because of lack of remorse and it would be a betrayal to one’s people. I was previously on the fence about forgiveness for Large Scale Crimes, before this book, even knowing where my Great Grand Parents stood. I feel no bitterness but because of the great injustices against the victims of Large Scale Crimes, I can’t forgive it. I also still strongly believe that you can’t force someone to side with your opinion. Everyone is going to feel differently about forgiving LSC’s, it affects everyone differently for some people it’s something they hear about in school and on the news and they move on. For others it’s apart of their history, like for me the Armenian Genocide is a huge influence in my family. It’s always a reminder to be thankful for the life that I live.

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A Question Of Forgiveness Of The Large Scale Crimes Such As Genocide. (2018, July 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from
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