Saturday, January 08, 2005

Forgiveness

The Guardian Unlimited has an article about a seventy-year-old woman named Eva Mozes Kor who survived the death camp at Auschwitz because she was a used as a subject of medical experimentation by the infamous Dr. Mengele. In her interview she talks about the power of forgiveness:


'In 1993 I met Hans Münch, a Nazi doctor from Auschwitz and a friend of Mengele. I found out that he was a real human being and a very nice man. I really liked him and that was a very strange feeling. He said the nightmare he lived with every single day of his life was watching the people dying in the gas chambers - he had to sign the death certificates when everybody stopped moving.

'I asked if he would go with me to Auschwitz in 1995 to sign a document saying what he did at the ruin of the gas chamber in the company of witnesses, and he said yes. Afterwards I decided to give him a letter of forgiveness. I thought maybe he would like it, but I also discovered that I had the power to forgive, and it was a tremendously empowering and interesting feel ing. So I began writing my letter which ended with a declaration of me forgiving everybody.

'If I could meet Dr Mengele today, I would say to him: "I have forgiven you." Forgiveness has nothing to do with the perpetrator. Forgiveness has everything to do with the victim taking back their life. I don't have to deal with the whole issue of who did what to me and how on earth am I going to punish them and make them pay for it. I am free of all that baggage.'

For thousands of other survivors, however, the search goes on and the questions remain. Sixty years on, the schoolchildren, tourists and researchers who visit Auschwitz, which is remarkably well preserved, find a desolate and cumulatively shattering place, devoid of hope or redemption - and a sense that all of us were diminished on the tracks to Birkenau. |Link (emphasis added)|


I don't think about forgiveness much. I'm more the type to hold a grudge. The world would be a better place if there were more forgiveness and more trust. But I'm not really the trusting type either.

But if Eva Mozes Kor can learn to forgive the people who murdered her family and tortured her...well, maybe I should learn from that. Peter De Vries once observed: "We are not primarily put on the earth to see through one another, but to see one another through".

In college I was assigned to read Gitta Sereny's Into That Darkness. My friends told me to stop reading it because I was becoming a right depressing bastard. I realize now that I have turned cynicism into my own personal religion. I expect only the worst from people. so I am never disappointed, and sometimes I am pleasantly surprised.

Gregory Corso once wrote: "The fall of man stands as a lie before Beethoven, a truth before Hitler." I think Gregory is on to something. There is so much good about humanity...and so much downright evil. All the hatred, racism, and sexism in our world. A world torn apart by war and genocide, murder and rape.

I will never forget what the Nazi's did. But I must remember that there is much good in the world. I have a wonderful wife and a good life....I am healthy and educated and a rich American. Nothing in my life even holds a candle to what Eva Mozes Kor lived through. I am truly in awe of her strength and her courage, as well as her power to forgive.

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