Have you forgiven?
I don’t like the word. ‘Forgiveness’ means let bygones be bygones and start from fresh, right? I don’t like that idea. And the reason I don’t like it is because we have changed. The people who perpetrated this and the people who it was perpetrated on, and those who stood by, changed. How do you forgive organized murder? Yet we need to continue to live together in the same universe. I prefer the word reconciliation. We can reconcile. So to reconcile means that if I’ve done some harm to you I don’t simply say: ‘I’m sorry’ and we go on. I have to learn something. I have to admit it was evil and in some way I need to change and compensate you. It needs to be a physical and psychological change. And that’s called reconciliation.
I had a group of teachers here 12 years ago. One of the young men was in his late twenties or early thirties. He was a German teacher, here on sabbatical. He looked at me and said: “Am I guilty of what my people did to you?”
And my answer was, and still is: “Your guilt or innocence does not depend on me; it depends solely on you. If you think that what happened was evil, if you look at the society and situation today and you see the beginnings of anti-Semitism or anti-Turks or anti-whatever, if you see this racial hatred and you do nothing about it, and say ‘it’s ok,’ then you’re not guilty of what your grandparents did, you’re guilty of what you building. On the other hand if you say: ‘that was evil and this is evil, I am doing something about it,’ then you’re fighting my battle with me. We can reconcile.”
Hatred is very distracting to me. And one of things I like to do is to live and have a good time. I make judgments of people’s behaviour, I am critical of some things that I do or I don’t do or what other people do. I don’t subscribe to blanket hatred such as: ‘I hate all Germans or all Poles or…,’ you know. It’s meaningless.