Louise Kennerley/The Sydney Morning Herald by way of Getty Photos
Eddie Jaku, who survived the Holocaust and devoted the remainder of his life to selling kindness, tolerance and resilience, has died in Sydney at age 101.
The self-proclaimed “happiest man on Earth” shared his story with the world in a popular TED Talk, a best-selling memoir and as a volunteer on the Sydney Jewish Museum, which he helped create.
“Eddie Jaku was a beacon of sunshine and hope for not solely our group, however the world,” stated the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, which introduced his passing. “He’ll at all times be remembered for the enjoyment that adopted him, and his fixed resilience within the face of adversity.”
After the Holocaust he remained sad — till his son was born
Jaku was born Abraham Jakubowicz in Leipzig, Germany, in 1920, to a household that thought of themselves “German first, Jewish second.” He was kicked out of college as an adolescent as a result of he was Jewish, and accomplished his highschool training in one other metropolis beneath an alias.
Starting in 1938, Jaku and his household have been despatched to a number of focus camps together with Buchenwald, Gurs and finally Auschwitz, which he later described as “hell on Earth.”
As a result of Jaku had studied engineering, he was spared the gas chamber and as an alternative labored as a slave laborer. His mother and father and different relations didn’t survive the conflict.
Jaku himself was despatched on a “loss of life march” through the evacuation of Auschwitz in 1945, however managed to interrupt free. He hid out in a forest alone for months, he stated, subsisting off slugs and snails, till he was rescued by the American Military.
Later that yr he returned to Belgium, the place he met and married his spouse of 75 years, Flore. They moved to Australia in 1950. Jaku labored in a Sydney storage and Flore was a dressmaker earlier than the couple went into actual property collectively.
Nonetheless, as Jaku recalled in his 2019 TED Discuss, he was “not a cheerful man” instantly after the conflict — however his outlook modified when the couple’s first son was born.
“At the moment, my coronary heart was healed and my happiness returned in abundance,” he defined. “I made the promise that from that day till the tip of my life, I promised to be glad, smile, be well mannered, useful, and type. I additionally promised to by no means put my foot on German soil once more. In the present day, I stand in entrance of you, a person who has stored all these guarantees.”
Jaku stated his best happiness got here from his household. He’s survived by Flore, his two sons, 4 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.
He refused to let loss or hate devour him
Jaku vowed to show and share happiness with everybody he met, as he defined in his TED Discuss — appropriately titled “A Holocaust survivor’s blueprint for happiness.”
“After I do not forget that I ought to have died a depressing loss of life, however as an alternative I am alive, so I purpose to assist people who find themselves down,” he stated. “I used to be on the backside of the pit. So if I could make one depressing particular person smile, I am glad.”
In his speech, he provided some easy however sage items of recommendation for slowing down and savoring every day: invite a liked one for a meal, go for a stroll, lean on associates in each good occasions and unhealthy.
Jaku additionally urged listeners to do their finest to make the world a greater place for others, and to make sure that the horrible tragedy of the Holocaust won’t ever occur once more or ever be forgotten.
Regardless of his experiences, he refused to let loss or hate devour him.
“I don’t hate anybody,” Jaku stated. “Hate is a illness which can destroy your enemy however may also destroy you within the course of.”
Selecting kindness and tolerance was additionally the premise of Jaku’s memoir, The Happiest Man on Earth, which he revealed final yr at age 100.
Jaku was additionally a part of the group of survivors that co-founded the Sydney Jewish Museum in 1992, and volunteered there for the previous three many years, in line with a remembrance from Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
Jaku would take college teams on excursions of the museum’s Holocaust exhibitions, Frydenburg wrote, “bringing the grainy, light, black and white pictures to life for 1000’s of younger college students” and urging them to always remember. He wrote that Jaku would recall his personal experiences after which level to a leather-based belt — his solely private merchandise that survived the camps.
The museum wrote in a tweet that Jaku’s influence might be felt “for generations to come back.” Frydenberg — whose Hungarian mom arrived in Australia as a toddler in 1950 after surviving the Holocaust — additionally stated Jaku’s reminiscence and legacy will stay on:
“It’s our obligation to see that his story is thought by generations to come back, for he skilled the very worst, however noticed the perfect in mankind.”