Eddie Jaku, Holocaust survivor and self-proclaimed ‘happiest man on Earth’ has passed away in Sydney, aged 101.
The world mourns the death of Eddie Jaku, a ‘beacon of light and hope’ as described by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.
Born Abraham Jakubowicz in 1920, Jaku survived 12 years as a German Jew throughout Hitler’s rise to power. During this time, he led a daring escape on a train, broke free from a death march and survived in a forest. Jaku said to himself, “If I could survive one more day, an hour, a minute, then the pain would end and tomorrow would come”.
As the author of The Happiest Man on Earth, he became a first-time author at 100 years old and received an Australian Book Industry award in 2021.
His life and tales of resilience awarded him an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2013 – the highest recognition for outstanding achievement and service.
Jaku lived as a healthy man, even driving his own car up until the very end.
After surviving World War II, he vowed to make himself smile every day and dedicated his life to spreading happiness, helping people and teaching them not to hate.
On November 9 in 1938, Jaku returned home from boarding school to find that his family had already gone into hiding. He went to bed alone with his dog beside him. At 5 am the following morning, 10 Nazis broke down his door. Eddie thought he was going to die that day.
He was forced to witness the destruction of his family home and the murder of his beloved dog, Lulu, who he remembers trying to protect him. He lost everything that day, particularly his faith in humanity.
Between 1938 and 1943, Jaku was in three different internment camps before he was finally sent to Auschwitz. After this, he never saw his parents again. When recalling this devasting memory, Jaku emplored others, if they get the chance, to go home today and tell their mothers that they love them.
Eddie Jaku as a boy (front right). Image: TimesA Jewish doctor, who helped dislodge a bullet in Jaku’s leg after an attempted escape, told him: “One hour of rest equals two days of survival.” So Jaku vowed to rest and if he would survive, he decided to live every day to the fullest.
“This is my message, as long as I live, I’ll teach not to hate.” The passing of Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku OAM has left a huge void in the hearts of the Sydney Jewish Museum 'family'. Eddie’s impact, as the ‘happiest man on earth’ will be felt for generations to come. pic.twitter.com/dwHN0nX1gY
— Sydney Jewish Museum (@SydJewishMuseum) October 12, 2021
In 1945, Jaku was rescued by American troops after having survived one of the greatest horrors in human history.
As the war came to an end in Europe, he met and married his wife, Flore, in Belgium. The two then migrated to Sydney, Australia, in 1950. Eddie Jaku ran a variety of businesses, volunteered in his community and built a loving family.
In a recent TEDx talk, Jaku asked that we remember these words:
“May you always have lots of love to share, lots of good health to spare and lots of good friends that care.”
Even though Eddie is no longer living, his messages are timeless.