The Symposium: Forgiveness for Simon and Karl

After reading The Symposium which has various responses of different people, among them are the survivors of the Holocaust, writers, human activists, politicians, authors, and historians. All these people belong to different fields so everybody has their own thoughts to Simon’s question about forgiveness, and they responded differently. I chose two responses that stood out the most to me. Firstly Alan L. Berger, she particularly focuses on the principal trait of this story which is silence that Simon uses in both of his encounters with Karl and his mother.

Her response was clear that she doesn’t forgive Karl if she were in his place. Secondly, Mary Gordon, she urges that there is no such thing as private nature of confession and Simon is not the right person to obtain forgiveness from as he doesn’t represent the entire Jewish community. She also mentioned that forgiveness can be granted but the actions done can never be forgotten.

In the beginning Alan L.

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Berger mainly talks about the silence that Simon uses. When he met Karl in the hospital on his deathbed, and asked for forgiveness, his instant response was silence, and he walked away. The second time he kept his silence, when he met Karl’s mother, she was recalling the fond memories of her son, so he remained quiet and did not shatter the image of her son by telling about his actions as a SS member. She also talks about the two kinds of sins, one that is committed by humans against God and the other sin is committed by humans against humans which includes mass killings.

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She believes the second sin cannot be forgiven because God has the power and willingness to forgive but humans might lack this power and they won’t forgive who has sinned against them. Alan also questioned Karl’s apology, about his intention, and if his horrendous actions were forgivable.

On the other hand, Mary Gordon talks about the private nature of confession is wrong. It means that a public crime like Holocaust committed by Nazis on millions of Jewish people cannot be forgiven by confessing privately to one Jew. If a person wants to atone to his crimes, he should obtain it from either Priest or from the victims. She also says that Karl should die in camps, in those terrible conditions, and that’s how he can pay for his reparations. She made it apparent too in her response that he shouldn’t be excused for his actions. Moreover she writes that forgiving and forgetting are two separate things. The murderers of Holocaust might be forgiven in the end but forgetting their crimes wouldn’t be possible.

I chose the above two responses because I could relate to their opinions. Both have different views on Simon’s question but they mean the same thing to not forgive Karl. Both writes that we are in no place to grant him absolution on his crimes, the only right people to be addressed in this matter are the victims and families who have suffered. The thought that I could relate most is when Alan mentions about the grace of Simon, the way he composed himself in both of his encounters, he treated them with respect and left with absolute dignity. The other view of Mary that I stand up for, when a crime like mass killing is committed, then this is in no way a private matter, so it’s best to acknowledge the crime in public too.

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The Symposium: Forgiveness for Simon and Karl. (2021, Sep 08). Retrieved from

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