In the Garden of Beasts by my favorite author, Erik Larson, and it's gotten me very interested in the rise of Nazi Germany. Since I've read quite a lot of Holocaust literature, I'm mostly interested in how the rest of the world viewed Hitler and the Nazis, and how the world allowed it to get so out of hand, especially considering the reputation Germany still had from World War I.
As a result, I'm kind of grumpy with Germany at present. I need some happy German reading, pronto! But that's a different post.
Because of this new interest, I decided to watch the documentary Forgiving Dr. Mengele. Dr. Mengele was a Nazi doctor at Auschwitz who performed gross medical experiments on the Jews. He was particularly interested in testing things on twins, and Forgiving Dr. Mengele follows Eva Mozes Kor, a survivor of these twin experiments. She and her sister, Miriam, both survived the experiments and were freed from Auschwitz, but Miriam died later on because of the experiments. Mengele had given Miriam something that stunted the growth of her kidneys, so they never grew larger than they were at age 10. Eva still has a lingering eye problem due to being injected with strains of bacteria that Mengele allowed to go untreated, just to see what would happen.
|Eva Mozes Kor at Auschwitz|
While at Auschwitz, Eva gave Dr. Münch a document that declared she forgave him and the Nazis of all crimes committed against her, including killing the rest of her family and the latent death of her sister. She described it as an act of healing. Being able to let go of that hatred and anger and offer forgiveness changed her heart and changed her outlook on life.
What's fascinating is how angry other survivors of Dr. Mengele's experiments became with Eva. They were irate that she decided to forgive the Nazis, and they accused her of forgetting what was done to her.
As if someone could forget Auschwitz. Really. Eva also opened a museum in Terre Haute, Indiana, called CANDLES Holocaust Museum, which stands for Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors. And she tours the country giving lectures on the horrors of Auschwitz and the process of forgiveness.
I don't call that "forgetting."
One man made the point that she couldn't give the Nazis forgiveness because they hadn't atoned for their sins—they hadn't asked for forgiveness from her, so it wasn't hers to offer.
That is fascinating.
I'll admit that I have a hard time with forgiveness sometimes. There are certain things in my life that I kind of refuse to get over. It eats away at me, honestly. I hate it. I want to find forgiveness in my heart, but I also want the guilty party to say, "I'm sorry," and ask for forgiveness. In my worst-case scenario, I forgive them and they say, "Well, I didn't do anything wrong." That would make me crazy. I'm not sure I could hang on to forgiveness after that.
But is forgiveness something someone has to want in order for us to give it to them? Or is forgiveness something that just comes from within us? Something that heals our hearts regardless of the other party?
The Bible says we need to forgive others because God forgave us, and that if we don't forgive others, we're going to be out of luck when it comes to God's forgiveness. We're not allowed to be stingy with the unwarranted forgiveness God has granted to us. Check out Matthew 18:21-35. It's pretty clear on this issue.
But in that story, the guilty party asked for forgiveness, and it was either granted or denied. What happens if someone doesn't ask forgiveness—or doesn't think any wrong was done?
I think forgiveness can be one-sided. It's not as comfortable as an "I'm sorry" followed by an "It's OK—I forgive you." But it can be done.
What say you? Can you forgive someone who hasn't apologized?