The main reason for forgiveness that these respondents mention is freedom. Having the capability to forgive, one can free themselves from the burden of hate and victimization. “Forgiveness happens inside us. It represents letting go of the sense of grievance, and perhaps most importantly the role of the victim” (Kushner 186).
Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist, argues that forgiveness is always an option, regardless of what someone has done, which the Dalai Lama also confirms in his own response. Moreover, Wiesenthal believes Karl is not just atoning but is genuine in his repentance. Throughout the confession, Karl displays genuine remorse. He holds Wiesenthal’s hand while he confesses his sins even through his pain. Though Karl never formally apologizes, there is “true repentance” in his confession (Wiesenthal 53).
Another respondent, Sven Alkalaj supports this by stating that “there is a genuine recognition of guilt” (105). Wiesenthal should grant him forgiveness because of the obvious guilt in the Nazi’s confession. On the other hand, “Forgetting is something that time alone takes care of, but forgiveness is an act of violation, and only the sufferer is qualified to make the decision” (Wiesenthal 97). In the situation with Wiesenthal, although he did pity the him, he could not forgive the soldier because he could not speak for the people who were killed or tortured, let alone forgive him for it.
Harry James states “Forgiveness is not something we can depend on others for. We must somehow earn it.” (Wiesenthal 125) The damage and the pain involved with it is irreversible. Therefore, even if Wiesenthal were to forgive the Nazi, it wouldn’t really make a difference. I very much agree with this idea, but at the same time, it’s not about the Nazi soldier. It’s about Wiesenthal and his personal healing process.
Ultimately, I feel that Wiesenthal did the right thing by remaining silent. He gave the Nazi soldier an opportunity to confess his crimes, but he did not offer him his forgiveness. However, Wiesenthal’s silence does not mean that he is refusing to forgive, but a valid and natural response to an unexpected situation. Karl placed such a burden on him. Therefore, Wiesenthal has every right to resent him for it. Forgiving the soldier wasn’t something that Wiesenthal was able to do at the time, but something he would have to do for himself in the future for his own good.