The death of Andrew Grove — who, astonishingly, in my view, didn't even rate a front-page obituary in today's New York Times — is a moment to reflect on immigration, on America, and on the triumph of freedom over fascism and communism.
Even the pre-prepared obituaries don't quite manage to capture the full intensity of Grove's life story. I started writing about it for another project that, alas, never came to fruition, but now is as good a time as any to share some of it:
In Budapest, a six-year-old-boy, Andras Istvan Grof, was told by a playmate, "Jews like you killed Jesus Christ, and we're going to push all of you into the Danube." Grof hid in Nazi-controlled Hungary by pretending to be a gentile. His mother warned him against using their apartment house's communal toilet when others were present; Grof's circumcision might betray the secret of his identity....
Where the Communists succeeded the Nazis, it was no better; Andras Istvan Grof's mother was raped by a Russian soldier. Grof's father, who had been called up to serve in a labor battalion in the Hungarian Army, returned home and reported that on one bitter cold night the Hungarian guards had made the Jews strip naked and climb into trees. Then the guards amused themselves by spraying the Jews with water and laughing as "one after another fell out of the trees frozen to death." At age 20, Grof escaped across the border to Austria, took a train from Vienna to Bremerhaven in Germany, and then a boat to Brooklyn, New York.
There, and in the rest of America, Jews encountered unprecedented opportunity and prosperity. Grof worked his way through City College, where he changed the spelling of his name to Grove and supported himself in part by working as a summer bus-boy at a New Hampshire resort hotel. Eventually he co-founded the microchip-maker Intel; by the end of Grove's decade as CEO, the company was making a profit of $6.1 billion a year on sales of $197.6 billion, its market capitalization was $197.6 billion, and its products had changed the way the world worked, read, and shopped.