Study Guide: The Sunflower (Simon Wiesenthal) II. Reading Questions Part I (pp. 3-26)

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Study Guide: The Sunflower (Simon Wiesenthal)

II. Reading Questions

Part I (pp.3-26)

1. List and describe each of the following characters: Arthur, Josek, and Simon.

2. Describe the Jewish prisoners’ living conditions.

3. According to Josek’s story, how was man created? (Recount the story)

4. Draw you own answers to Simon’s questions: “Were we truly all made of the same stuff? If so, why were some murderers and others victims?” (pg. 7). Your answer should attempt to get at the questions, “Are we ALL equal?”

5. What are Simon’s attitudes toward his God and his situation within the work camp?

6. Who are the “askaris”? Describe their personalities and attitudes toward the Jews.

7. What is particularly ironic about the askaris’ and the SS soldiers’ “love” of music?

8. How do the townspeople react to the sight of the Jewish prisoners?

9. For Simon, what do the sunflowers represent? (pg. 14-15) Answer must get at the symbolic significance of the sunflower.

10. Give an example of how did the anti-Semitic Polish students treat the Jewish students.

11. How did the “Radical elements” in Poland attempt to “force” Jewish students out of school?

12. What memories does Simon have as the Red Cross nurse leads him through the “Reserve Hospital”? To whom does she lead Simon?
Part II (pp. 26-55)

1. Because of time spent in the concentration camps, what does Simon not fear?

2. What memory does Simon recall about the lack of respect given to a dying Jewish prisoner?

3. According to Simon, how did many “Aryan” looking Jews save themselves from capture and certain death during WW2?

4. What happened to Simon’s mother? What was more than likely her final destination?

5. Describe the dying man (name, age, occupation, parents, childhood, religion, NAZI involvement, etc.).

6. Why has the dying man summoned Simon to the side of his deathbed?

7. What are some of the thoughts, feelings, and/or questions running through Simon’s mind as the dying man begins his story? (p.34-35)

8. What is the name of the Russian town in which Karl’s monstrous memory originate?

9. What horrendous crime(s) does Karl confess to Simon?

10. What heart-wrenching memory does Karl’s story trigger in Simon? What is so symbolically tragic about this memory for Simon?

11. What trick did the SS Group Leader, Katzmann, employ to round up the remaining children in the Jewish Ghetto? What became of the children?

12. How does Simon’s memories of lost children change his feelings toward the dying SS soldier?

13. What rationale does Karl give for his involvement in his now confessed horrific crimes.

14. According to Simon, who had taken the place of God in NAZI Germany? Who did the Germans say invented God?

15. What accident put the SS soldier in the hospital? What caused him to hesitate in the German assault on Tagamog?

16. Draw your own conclusions to Simon’s questions (pg. 55): “He sought my pity, but had he any right to pity? Did a man of his kind deserve anybody’s pity?” Answer should get at whether Karl is deserving of sympathy and/or pity.

17. What does the SS soldier ask of Simon? Why?

18. What is Simon’s “answer” to Karl’s final request?

Part III (pp. 55-75)

1. What “sad but characteristic story” do the newcomers tell Simon and the others? What was the Nazi purpose for such public executions? (pg. 57).

2. What did the rest of humanity have which the Jews did not?

3. What would happen to anyone who missed roll call? (58)

4. How did the Nazis make room for newly arrived prisoners? What was the ultimate Nazi plan?

5. Where did prisoners await their certain execution? Describe.

6. What questions plague Simon about the prisoners in the “pipe” and the SS man? 7. What does he believe would be Arthur, the cynic’s, reaction? What is Arthur’s initial reaction?

8. What is Adam’s initial reaction? What is Adam’s family history?

9. What is Josek’s initial response? What is Simon’s counter-argument to this response? 10. What is Haolam Emes? How does Josek use this concept to answer Simon’s dilemma? 11. What does Arthur mean when he says, “A superman has asked a sub-human to do something which is superhuman”? Answer hinges on understanding the Nazi concept of Übermenschen and Untermenschen.

12. According to Arthur, “death is [a] constant companion.” Explain how Death is the only constant in life.

13. According to Simon, how did the native Poles feel about the Jews?

14. What has happened to the SS man? What does the nurse give Simon? What is his reaction?

15. Read carefully Arthur’s “speech” to Simon beginning with “If we survive this camp” to “We are indulging in a luxury...”. Discuss in detail Arthur’s philosophy about what is wrong or out of sync with the world at this time.

Part IV (pp. 76-83)

1. How many years have passed? What has happened to all the people Simon knew at the camp?

2. Where is Simon? What is certain to happen now?

3. According to Simon, what was planned for the prisoners as soon as the Americans approached the camp?

4. What image(s) haunt Simon?

5. Who is the new prisoner? Why does no one at Mathausen ask about anyone else’s past?

6. Describe the new prisoner’s background.

7. What are Bolek’s various points about what Simon could have done, did, and should have done for the SS man? (pp. 81-83).

Part V (pp. 83-94)

1. What happens to Simon? To Bolek? How does Simon feel about “restarting” his life?

2. In 1946, where do Simon and his wife go? What does Simon see there? Of what does it remind him?

3. While on his way to Munich, what does Simon decide to do? Why?

4. Describe post-war Stuttgart.

5. What lie does Simon make up about how he knew her “good” son?

6. What does say about her husband’s opinion of Hitler and her son’s early involvement with the Nazis?

7. As Simon listens to her story, what does he conclude about how Germans and Austrians felt about Nazi socialism?

8. What does Simon conclude about the question of German guilt?

9. With what consolation did he want to leave her?

10. Why did Simon not tell this woman the truth about her son?
Part VI (pp. 95-98)

1. Even years later, how do the thoughts of Karl still haunt Simon?

2. What reflections does Simon have about “people like him”?

3. What does Simon recall about the Nazis during their trial at Stuttgart?

4. According to Simon, what does the world today demand?

5. When asked, “Was my silence at the bedside of the dying Nazi right or wrong?”, what does Simon say if the crux of the matter?


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