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In 1922, Walter Rathenau, Germany’s foreign minister, was murdered by three men. Two of them later committed suicide. One, Ernst Techow, survived and was imprisoned. Rathenau’s mother Mathilde, wrote to Techow’s mother:

In grief unspeakable, I give you my hand. Say to your son that, in the name and spirit of him he has murdered, I forgive, even as God may forgive, if before an earthly judge your son makes a full and frank confession of his guilt… and before a heavenly judge repents. Had he known my son, the noblest man earth bore, he would have rather turned the weapon on himself. May these words give peace to your soul.

–Mathilde Rathenau

When Techow left prison in 1940, he smuggled himself into Marseilles where he helped more than 700 Jews escape to Spain. He often worked for nothing. Later he told a nephew of Rathenau’s that his transformation had been triggered by Mathilde Rathenau’s letter.

Forgiveness can ripple out into the world, curing the forgiven, healing the one who forgives.

Of course, ultimately, forgiveness is the gift not only from the one who forgives, but to the one who forgives. It shines the darkness out of one’s own soul. Who really wishes to carry bitterness? Do you know anyone like this? If so, discuss how they might heal themselves?

–David Wolpe

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