Australian Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku – known for his bestseller ‘the Happiest Man on Earth’ – has died age 101.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced his death on Tuesday and called him an ‘inspiration and a joy’.
‘Having survived the Holocaust, Eddie chose to make his life a testimony of how hope and love can triumph over despair and hate,’ he said.
‘He will be sadly missed, especially by our Jewish community. He was an inspiration and a joy.
‘Shalom Eddie and thank you for your great gift to us all and our sincere condolences to all your loving family and friends.’
Australian Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku – known for his bestseller ‘the Happiest Man on Earth’ – has died age 101
Mr Jaku was born in Germany and experienced the horrors of the nazis at Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps during World War II.
He was first captured in 1938 and spent years trying to survive in death camps that claimed the lives of millions.
He survived a death march and was rescued by allied soldiers before he moved to Australia in 1950 to start a new life with his wife Flore.
Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg paid tribute to the 101-year-old, saying that Australia had ‘lost a giant’ with his death.
‘He dedicated his life to educating others about the dangers of intolerance & the importance of hope,’ he said.
Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg paid tribute to the 101-year-old, saying that Australia had ‘lost a giant’ with his death
‘Scarred by the past, he only looked forward. May his story be told for generations to come.’
Mr Jaku published his book ‘The Happiest Man on Earth’ last year at the age of 100.
The cover shows his forearm inked with the number given to him during his time held captive in German concentration camps.
Mr Jaku, who was a great grandfather, volunteered for decades at the Sydney Jewish Museum and celebrated his 101st birthday in April.
‘Life is what you want it to be,’ he said during a Zoom call with the museum last year.
‘Life is in your hands. Happiness doesn’t fall from the sky. You want to be happy? You can be happy.
‘When they put this number on my arm I was condemned to a slow death. And I didn’t die and this is grateful.’
At the age of 13, Adolf Hitler had come into power and Mr Jaku was unable to attend high school due to the fact he was Jewish.
His father was a mechanical engineer and sent him nine hours away away to follow in his footsteps and learn similar skills.
After five years of studying and sleeping in an orphanage, Mr Yaku graduated at the top of his class at the age of 18 and decided to return home to visit his parents.
He described the decision to visit his parents for their 20th wedding anniversary as the ‘biggest mistake’ in his young life, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
When he returned home his family had already gone into hiding and after spending the night asleep in his childhood bed, he woke to ten nazis beating him.
They killed his beloved pet dachshund Lulu, burnt his house down and tried to engrave a swastika on his arm.
In November, 2018 he was taken to Buchenwald and spent time in other camps in France and Belgium between 1939 and 1941.
Over the course of the next few years, Mr Jaku miraculously managed to escape the camps on multiple occasions.
Mr Jaku was born in Germany and experienced the horrors of the nazis at Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps during World War II
After one escape, he lived in hiding with his family in an attic similar to that of Anne Frank and her family.
In 1944 Mr Jaku and his family were sent to Auschwitz where his parents were tragically gassed upon arrival as part of the horrific ‘selection’ process carried out by the nazis.
His parents’ fate was sealed by the notorious Dr Josef Mengele who carried out horrific experiments on prisoners, earning him the name the Angel of Death.
Mr Jaku said that after they got off the train to Auschwitz he didn’t want to be separated from his father and so when the new arrivals were split into two lines – those who could work and those who would be sent to their deaths – he switched lines to be with his dad.
‘I was nearly on the truck with my father when one of the stooges standing guard with Mengele said, ”Hey, didn’t he tell you this way? Your father goes by truck and you walk into the camp”. I never saw my father again. He sent him and my mother to the gas chamber,’ he said.
He recalled the horrors of fellow prisoners taking their own lives by running into the electrified fence around the camp, and admitted he considered following them at times.
More to come