by Jenny Friedrich-Freksa

Guilt (Issue II/2019)


Guilt. It is a short word but it is highly charged, as if it were laden with evil. It weighs on a person who is punishable in the courts of law. We can also feel quietly guilty, reprimanded by our own heavy conscience. Guilt can afflict entire communities which tolerated something ugly in their midst. And guilt casts long shadows­ ­­­­­­­­– historical injustice can extend to the present.

A fierce debate has broken out about how to deal with colonialism. In an interview in this edition, French art historian Bénédicte Savoy and Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr talk about facing up to this dark chapter of history. The writer Malaika Mahlatsi from Johannesburg explains why arable land that once belonged to the black population should be returned to them. Kallie Kriel, on the other hand, who represents the interests of European farmers in South Africa, argues, point blank: “I didn't steal any land”.

The Israeli author Ayelet Gundar-Goshen explores questions of pangs of conscience: Why do people feel guilty? And how do guilt and responsibility play affect our own identity?

We also look at perpetrators and victims: Soun Rottana, a former child soldier of the Khmer Rouge, talks about killing. Lotte Leicht, EU Director of Human Rights Watch, explains how important it is for survivors to voice the truth about a crime. And last but not least, of course, it is about forgiveness, about how people of different cultures and religions apologise and apologise, how they reconcile and forgive each other.

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