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A Tribute to Eddie Jaku

Tue 12th Oct 2021

Eddie Jaku, the last survivor of the Holocaust passed away, aged 101.
Eddie Jaku, the last survivor of the Holocaust passed away, aged 101.

Eddie Jaku, born Abraham Jakubowicz in Germany in 1920 .

Jaku was proud of his country and his family considered themselves Germans first and Jewish second. However, that took a frightful turn on the dark night of 9 November 1938, when young Eddie came home from boarding school to find his home empty. Hours later, scared and alone, he was brutally beaten by Nazi soldiers who dragged him away to a concentration camp in Buchenwald.

Eddie and his father later managed to escape, fleeing to Belgium where they lived under a false name to hide their religion. Eddie found work at the Brussels cigarette factory while he and his family hid in an attic which was generously rented to them by a stranger.

Horror stories continued everyday for years, and on another cruel day in October 1943, Eddie returned home from work to find his family gone and Nazi officers waiting for him. They had taken the rest of his family to Auschwitz where they were murdered. He had now lost everything - even his country.

During a 'Death March' in 1945, Eddie had another lucky break, bravely managing to escape into a nearby forest.  In the war ravaged countryside, he found shelter in a cave and survived on slugs and snails until he was rescued by an American tank in June 1945. Weighing in at only 28kg, he was in a terrible way and fell into a coma soon after. It took him three months to recover in a German hospital and as soon as he was physically able to walk out of there, vowed to leave Germany - never to return again.

In 1950, the 30 year old arrived on the shores of Australia where he had nothing to his name - and nobody.   He started to build a new life and volunteered at the Sydney Jewish Museum. He was married to Flore Jaku for 74 years and together they had two children and were blessed with grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Stamped with a Nazi serial number on his arm, this courageous soul, despite all the horrors and tragedies he'd endured, said he was still "the happiest man on earth" and vowed to smile every day for the rest of his life.

The biggest lesson Eddie learnt from his experiences and one he believes should be taught to other generations, is that humanity needs to turn its back on hatred.

In his award winning biography book, The Happiest Man on Earth, he pays tribute to the lost souls of the Holocaust and although heartbreaking and dark times were had, he said he still managed to find hope, happiness and kindness throughout his life.

"People today, they have no time. They are miserable. Young people today are running, but I don't know where they are running to, because there's a time to laugh and a time to cry but you don't have to run." Eddie Jaku.

Eddie Jaku passed away on 12th October 2021, aged 101.

Tributes flow for the last holocaust survivor and Sydney Jewish Museum said: "... Eddie's impact, as the 'happiest man on earth' will be felt for generations to come."

Josh Frydenberg said of his passing that Australia had lost a giant. "... He dedicated his life to educating others about the dangers of intolerance and the importance of hope. Scarred by the past, he only looked forward. May his story be told for generations to come."

Rest in peace Eddie Jaku, your legacy will forever live on thanks to your courage and conviction in the face of brutality.

"Your efforts today will affect people you will never know. It is your choice whether that effect is positive or negative. You can choose every day, every minute, to act in a way that may uplift a stranger, or else drag them down. The choice is easy. And it is yours to make." Eddie Jaku, The Happiest Man on Earth.

By Kirsten Jakubenko

Sources:

  • https://tedxsydney.com/contributor/eddie-jaku/
  • https://www.panmacmillan.com.au/9781760980085/
  • https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/true-stories/holocaust-survivor-eddie-jaku-says-rising-tide-of-antisemitism-in-australia-terrifies-him/news-story/652399c43225ac26416ee9bcbdaed1eb