Words that changed my life forever..
written by A. Bergstein
My world literally came to a stop when I received word of this tragedy. The world has lost a beautiful person who had a deep passion for life. Although my heart has been broken, I take comfort in knowing and believing that although I can no longer see my best friend, he will always be with me. Too often do we take people for granted, thinking that theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ll always be with us. We overlook opportunities to connect with others on a deeper level and we put things off for the next time. Max's death has awakened me to the reality that there may not be a next time and that we should live everyday as it were our last.
Who was Max? Well when you take a look at his posts and all his kind words, you see a great guy, but people on the internet don't even know the half of his greatness. To me Max is my hero, and a hero to many others, a hero of our nation. A man who touched everyone's lives, and forever changed it. A man who's life was so full of color, colors that we often could not see, the color of life. A great man amongst our people, and one who walked with truth and dignity in his heart. A man we will all miss greatly. There are probably some people out there who want to know what makes him my hero, what is so great about a guy who says nice things in his posts. Well I knew him for many years and I would say we had the most intense friendship ever. The way we met is a bit unusual and I'm sure to many of you it may sound like a movie or something, but I encourage you to read on, because this is nothing but the truth, the truth about a wonderful man who will be cherished and missed forever, not just by me but also by thousand's of others.
Now, let me take you to the beginning. Where and when our wonderful friendship began. It was one of those days, I was sitting in school and we were going through the second world war. Not one of my favorite subjects, because of all the horrible things the Nazis have done to my family. My family, including aunts, uncles, cousins, distant relatives and close family friends were deported to Auschwitz in 1943 and were murdered in late 1943. The only one who survived this concentration camp of hell was my beloved mother. Anyhow, It was almost the end of our history lesson, when the principal of our school walked in and asked me out, he said my mother wants talk to me. So I got up and went to see what my mother wants. I was kind of worried, because the day before I got in a fight with a guy from my neighborhood, while we were fighting I broke a car mirror with my elbow, and feared now I'm going to get it.
My mother was standing with her back to me, she was crying and shacking all over. I hugged her and asked her what's wrong. She replied:" He asked me for forgiveness.", I asked her:" Who asked you for forgiveness? For what? What did he do?" My mom said:" He didn't do anything at all, it was his grandfather..." Now, I started crying too, because I realized what this is all about. My mom knew his grandfather to well, Max's grandfather joined the Nazi Party in October of 1920, as its 82nd member. In November 1923, he participated in the Munich Putsch, Hitler's failed attempt to take power in Bavaria (when the Nazi Party later came to power, they awarded the Blood Order to each participant in the Munich Putsch, it becomes one of the Nazi Party's top awards). He was stationed in Auschwitz and was the most feared warden of the concentration camp, people called him the black death. In late 1945 the allies arrested him and convicted him of crimes against humanity, he was then executed in mid 1946.
I was speechless, all sorts of things were going through my mind. I didn't know how to feel about him, I felt, anger, hate, pity but as well admiration and courage. And back then, I would have never thought that I would be best friends with a German. My mother told me that she feels his apology was heart felt and sincere. He didn't just say, I'm sorry. No, he begged her on his knees embracing her legs, crying and asking for forgiveness for what his family has done to ours. I was confused to be honest with you, because Max traveled all the way from Germany to Israel to ask for forgiveness. That's quite a bit and honestly speaking not everyone would have done such a thing. Usually humans do not like to admit mistakes, they tend to forget about them, especially when it's about the holocaust. My mom also said that this young man is holding a speech later on in the University and he invited us too. Well, I hesitate at first, but then I told my mother we should go.
I will never forget the day I met him, from the moment on he walked towards me and my mother and I looked deep into his eyes who were filled with tears, I knew I cannot be angry with him, especially after what he said to us. With a very sad voice he said:" I'm glad you came, you know all the beautiful and honest things in life are not seen, nor touched, but are felt in the heart. So I offer you to look deep inside of my heart and if you see anything else but beauty and honesty, I promise I will end my life before I fail to live up to everything my heart stands for. If there's no beauty, honesty and love left in it, then I am not worthy to receive your forgiveness nor have I the right to live. I was looking at the grandson of a man who murdered my family but at the same time I was amazed what wonderful human being he is. Nothing like his grandfather, after his speech, all attendees, guests, even professors were standing and applauding with tears in their eyes. A young teenager, with words of great wisdom but also emotion, spoken out of the depth of his soul, this has not only made a great impression with me but with the whole University. He was asked to speak in front of all students and received the high honor of righteousness by the University principal. On this day he taught me a valuable lesson, he said:" Do not look at me as if I am a German because I am not. I may have been born in Germany, I may speak the german language. My family has committed the most terrible crimes in human history, but this is not me. You know, when I look at people I see my brothers and sisters, because logically speaking aren't we all related to each other? I mean didn't our ancestors walk together barefoot across the world? When our ancestors conquered the world, tamed wild animals, created settlements, they didn't make any difference between black or white , jewish or christian. It never matter to them whether you are small or tall, strong or weak, skinny or chubby, because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that we all are related to each other. We all belong to the same species, we all belong to the human race. Everything else like religions, country names, languages and currencies were created by the children of our ancestors. And the course it took from there, was certainly not what they wanted for us. I live in peace, I love you as I love my own brother, I love your mother as I love my own mother. Who knows, our ancestors may have walked together, and if not, let us walk together now". The lesson I was taught by him, still lives on in me, and will live on in me for the rest of my life.
I want Max to know that I have nothing to forgive him for, as he has never done me wrong. But because I love him so much and for the angelic like person he was, I and my mother forgive his grandfather for what he has done to us.
That's who Max was, he was one of the greatest human beings I have ever had the pleasure of knowing in my life. Even though god only granted him with 22 years, he has done more for me or anyone else I know, than any other person who has lived twice or even triple as much as he did. Until his very last day on earth, he fought racism, he fought for human rights, equal treatment for every creature on this planet. And in his will, me and a few friends are opening a foundation in his honor. We will continue his fight, till our time has come, until we will be reunited with our dear and beloved friend Max again. May he be an inspiration to all of you, may you follow his footsteps and consider yourself blessed (religious or not) that you had the chance to get to know him.
Max was buried in Israel, as this was his last wish. Hundred's of people attended the funeral.
Thank you god for a friend like Max.