this is what I said at the memorial service in Pocking, Germany when we rededicated the memorial my grandfather placed there in 1946 and dedicated a new memorial to the children who died after the war.
We are all echoes of the past. When I sat down to write these words, I thought of how my grandfather affected my life. How he affected my mother, who in turn affected me. And I had some thoughts that I wanted to share with you. Not anything that flows – just pieces in time from my memories.
My grandfather ate faster than anyone I ever met. I once asked him why he ate so quickly. He answered that he had learned to eat fast in the camps – and always ate fast from that day on. As a child, I thought it was fun to try to beat him. I still eat quicker than most people – I’ve never been able to stop.
When I was 13, I spent the summer living with him and my grandmother. He had one set of books in English in his apartment – the collected works of Shakespeare. I read them from beginning to end. My college major was in English Literature – specializing in British playwrights. My love of theater came from that summer.
My grandfather was an amazing man. He loved me. He told me in private that he considered me a miracle – he considered all living Jews a miracle. That summer I lived with him, I saw him continuously busy: helping others, learning, giving advice. He knew everyone at synagogues, stores, banks, on the street. I see a lot of that in my mother as well. Today, one of my key roles at Microsoft is to lead our efforts with our community. The drive that I have to make a difference through the software that I help create comes from him. The time I donate to schools and various charities comes from him.
The last time I saw my grandfather was through tears. I had flown in to visit him ahead of the rest of my family. He didn’t realize that I’d have to leave earlier than the rest of them as well. When he realized that I would be leaving within an hour or so, he started to cry. He left for the synagogue – it was time for the afternoon service. I went up to the synagogue after him, stood next to him; we put our arms around each other and prayed, and cried. After the services, he kissed me and again, in a whisper, called me his miracle and told me he loved me. That was the last time I saw him.
As I said, no deep thoughts – just pieces in time. I still miss my grandfather – and I’m grateful that this trip allows us to share some of him with you, and lets me learn more about him, his life and his deeds.
I’ve attached 3 photos – the first is the original memorial, the second is the children’s memorial, the third is a photo of me speaking at the ceremony.