Auschwitz survivor who wrote 'The Happiest Man In The World' dies aged 101

A pillar of the Jewish community in Australia, Eddie Jaku was published to worldwide acclaim last year


Eddie Jaku, who survived the hell of Auschwitz and inspired readers across the world with his book The Happiest Man On Earth, has died in Australia aged 101.

"This is my message, as long as I live, I’ll teach not to hate,” he wrote in his award-winning memoir, published last year, in which he declared: “I have lived for a century, and know what it is to stare evil in the face.”

Last year he told the JC: “I’ve seen miracles. I am a miracle. I was supposed to be dead. If I can make one miserable person smile, that is a victory. People wanted me to die and I didn’t die. People wanted me to hate and I didn’t.”

For so long a seemingly indestructible pillar of the Jewish community in Australia, he had spoken about his experiences of the Holocaust to countless thousands of visitors as a a guide at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

His book had been published in more than 30 languages and was the biography Book of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards.

His son Michael said: “He had heart problems more than three months ago, but he had had a successful, miraculous operation which fixed all that, but when you’re 101, you know your days are numbered.”

He remained active almost to the end at the museum and on the board of the Holocaust Survivors Association.

Michael said: “We always thought it was quite remarkable, especially as the years wore on because he had been so well for so long, he was lucky to have a charmed old age, and it’s only very recently that it caught up with him.

“He’d never seemed like 101-year-old but the last few months since the heart attack, it was starting to show that, his charm, old age finally caught up with him.”

Asked if his father talked about the Holocaust at home, Michael said: “He talked about it but didn’t harangue us about it like I know some, some Holocaust survivors do with their kids.

“He brought up anecdotes. It was never like a secret but in the later years during the last few decades, especially with his work at the museum that he really came out with a lot, a lot of things we didn’t know.

“It wasn’t because he was holding back, or that he didn’t want us to know or he wanted to protect us.”

Paying tribute to Eddie Jaku, Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison said: “Having survived the Holocaust, Eddie chose to make his life a testimony of how hope and love can triumph over despair and hate. 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.”

George Foster, President of the Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants said: “Eddie was an incredible man. His energy, spirit, and motivation to tell the story of his horrific experiences is an inspiration to us all.

"He was a man who did not carry hatred within him but gave the world light when there was darkness, and he did it with such grace and humility.”

Eddie Jaku was born in Leipzig in 1920 in Germany. He was deported to Buchenwald in 1938. He escaped only to be jailed in camps in Belgium and France between 1939 and 1941.

In 1943 he and his family were deported to Auschwitz. He never saw his parents again. After being liberated in 1945 he weighed just 28 kilograms. He and his wife Flore migrated to Sydney, Australia in 1950.

He is survived by Flore, to whom he was married for 75 years, his sons Michael and Andre, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

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