Whom to Forgive and Why

A recent news item in the New York Times reported on an American hockey player now playing for a German team. Read the article here. The important aspect of this story is that this hockey player, Evan Kaufmann, is Jewish and he lost grandparents during the Holocaust. He talked of forgiveness. The burning questions are two: 1) Whom does he forgive? 2) For what offense does he forgive? I do not think that he has to forgive Germans now with whom he interacts if they have had nothing to do with the Holocaust and if they are not offending him now. After all, they have committed no injustice. Perhaps he is forgiving the actual Nazis who executed his grandparents.

Does he then forgive on behalf of his grandparents? That decision would seem to be in the hands of the grandparents themselves who are not present on this earth to make such a decision. Does this mean that he cannot forgive the Nazis? I think he can. He can forgive them for all of the pain that they have caused him as he walks the streets of Dusseldorf, recalls the hatred, recalls the loss of growing up without the grandparents. He can forgive the Nazis, even if they are deceased, even if he does not know them personally or even know their names. He can forgive them for the pain he now carries as a result of the atrocity perpetrated on his grandparents.

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