The Forgiveness to ComeThe Holocaust and the Hyper-Ethical

The Forgiveness to ComeThe Holocaust and the Hyper-Ethical

Peter Banki

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9780823278640

Publisher: Fordham University Press


The book addresses the difficulties posed by the Holocaust for a thinking of forgiveness inherited from the Abrahamic (i.e., monotheistic) tradition. As a way to approach these difficulties, it explores the often radically divergent positions in the debate on forgiveness in the literature of Holocaust survivors. Forgiveness is sometimes understood as a means of self-empowerment (Eva Mozes Kor); part of the inevitable process of historical normalization and amnesia (Jean Améry); or otherwise as an unresolved question, that will survive all trials and remain contemporary when the crimes of the Nazis belong to the distant past (Simon Wiesenthal). On the basis of an examination of Jacques Derrida’s concept of forgiveness (as forgiveness of the unforgivable) and its elaboration in relation to the juridical concept of Crimes Against Humanity, the book undertakes close readings of Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower (Die Sonnenblume (1969)), Jean Améry’s At the Mind’s Limits (Jenseits von Schuld und Sühne (1966)), Vladimir Jankélévitch’s Forgiveness (Le Pardon (1967)), and Robert Antelme’s The Human Race (L’espèce humaine (1947)). In addition, it analyses the documentary film Forgiving Doctor Mengele (2006) on Eva Mozes Kor. Each of these works bears witness to “aporias,” or unsolvable impasses, of forgiveness, justice and responsibility in relation to the Holocaust. The book argues that Derrida’s concept of forgiveness has the capacity to transform the debate about forgiveness and the Holocaust and open new ways to read the literature, which turns around this question.