Christian Discourses of Forgiveness and the Perpetrators

  • Katharina von Kellenbach


This paper will argue that the Christian emphasis on forgiveness has dubious side effects for perpetrators of genocide and their communities. The Christian focus on forgiveness undermines the painful process of truth finding and examination by encouraging premature closure and an attitude of forgetfulness. My observations on Christian teachings on forgiveness are based on popular culture and discourse rather than on academic theological literature. Specifically, I will revisit Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower and draw on my personal experiences with perpetrators in German families and the court system. A more detailed historical analysis of theological literature in post-war Germany and the attitude of the churches towards the prosecution of NS perpetrators is planned for my upcoming sabbatical year.


Moral Judgment Jewish Tradition Reconciliation Commission Family Gathering Christian Teaching 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • Katharina von Kellenbach

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