Eddie Jaku, a Holocaust survivor who described himself as the “happiest man on earth” has died aged 101 years.
Jaku died at a care home in Sydney, and had lived in Australia since in 1950. He is survived by his wife of 75 years, Flore, their sons Michael and Andre, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
During World War Two, Jaku was imprisoned in four concentration camps.
Apart from his ordeal in different concentration camps, he led a daring escape on a train, broke free from a death march and survived in a forest.
Ever since then, Jaku dedicated the rest of his his life to advocating for peace and kindness.
“I do not hate anyone. Hate is a disease which may destroy your enemy, but will also destroy you,” he said.
Born Abraham Jakubowicz in Leipzig, Germany, in 1920, Jaku was the only Jewish student at his school – but that was not a problem, he said, until Adolf Hitler came to power.
Jaku’s family sent him to a boarding school, where he used the alias Walter Schleif, out of fear that others might realise he was Jewish.
He studied mechanical engineering but when he arrived home on 9 November 1938 to surprise his parents for their wedding anniversary, no one was there.
It was Kristallnacht, the ‘Night of Broken Glass’ when Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues were attacked throughout Germany and Austria. Many were killed and tens of thousands of Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps.
Ever since then his life was not the same.
In 2020, to celebrate his 100th birthday, Jaku published his memoir, entitled ‘The Happiest Man on Earth’ chronicling his extraordinary story of survival,
The memoir also made Jaku one of the world’s oldest published authors.
“I have lived for a century, and I know what it is to stare evil in the face,” he wrote.
“I have seen the very worst in mankind, the horrors of the death camps, the Nazi efforts to exterminate my life, and the lives of all people. But I now consider myself the happiest man on earth.”