Australian Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku has died at age 101.
Jaku was known for his bestselling memoir The Happiest Man on Earth.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced his death on Tuesday and called Mr. Jaku an ‘inspiration and a joy.
“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,” he said.
Jaku was born in Germany and experienced the horrors of the Nazis while captive at Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps during World War II.
He was first captured in 1938 and spent years trying to survive in death camps that claimed the lives of millions.
He miraculously escaped a death march and was rescued by allied soldiers before he moved to Australia in 1950 to start a new life with his wife Flore, haunted by what he had seen.
In her tribute, the federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Australia had ‘lost a giant’.
“He dedicated his life to educating others about the dangers of intolerance & the importance of hope.Scarred by the past, he only looked forward. May his story be told for generations to come,” he said.
Mr Jaku published his book The Happiest Man on Earth last year at the age of 100, after struggling to open up about the horrors he went through.
The cover shows his forearm inked with the number given to him during his time held captive in German concentration camps.
Mr Jaku, who was a father, grandfather, and great grandfather, volunteered for decades at the Sydney Jewish Museum and celebrated his 101st birthday in April.
“Life is what you want it to be. Life is in your hands. Happiness doesn’t fall from the sky. You want to be happy? You can be happy.
“When they put this number on my arm I was condemned to a slow death. And I didn’t die and this is grateful”, he said during a Zoom call with the museum last year.
Important things you need to know about Jaku
When Jaku was aged just 13, Adolf Hitler had come into power and he was kicked out of high school because he was Jewish.
His father, a mechanical engineer sent him nine hours away to follow in his footsteps and learn similar skills.
After five years of studying and sleeping in an orphanage, he graduated at the top of his class at the age of 18 and decided to return home to visit his parents in November, 1938.
He described the decision to surprise his parents for their 20th wedding anniversary as the ‘biggest mistake’ in his young life.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, on his return home, his family had already gone into hiding and after spending the night asleep in his childhood bed, he woke to a group of Nazis beating him.
They killed his beloved pet dachshund Lulu, burnt his house down and tried to carve a swastika into his arm.
He was taken to Buchenwald while also spending time as a prisoner in other camps in France and Belgium between 1939 and 1941.
Over the course of the next few years, Jaku managed to escape the camps on multiple occasions.
After one escape, he lived in hiding with his family in an attic similar to that of Anne Frank, but they were eventually found by Belgian police.
In 1944 Mr Jaku and his family were sent to Auschwitz where his parents were gassed upon arrival as part of the horrific ‘selection’ process carried out by the Nazis.
His parents’ fate was sealed by the notorious Dr Josef Mengele who carried out horrific experiments on prisoners, earning him the name the Angel of Death.
According to Jaku, they got off the train to Auschwitz he didn’t want to be separated from his father.
When the new arrivals were split into two lines – those who could work and those who would be sent to their deaths – he switched lines to be with his dad.
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