real life

"I cannot and will not forgive or forget." The life lesson from Holocaust survivor, Eddie Jaku.

Eddie Jaku, a Holocaust survivor, and author of the best-selling book The Happiest Man On Earth, has died at 101 years old.  

Up until recently, he was still volunteering at the Sydney Jewish Museum. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said: "Sadly Eddie has passed away, aged 101.

"Having survived the Holocaust, Eddie chose to make his life a testimony of how hope and love can triumph over despair and hate.

"He was an inspiration and a joy."

Speaking to Mia Freedman, for Mamamia's No Filter podcast, Jaku recalled the moment more than 75 years ago, when he came face to face with a man named Josef Mengele.

Known to history as The Angel of Death, it was Mengele’s finger that determined the fate of hundreds of thousands of Jewish men and women – including Jaku's.

Standing beside his 52-year-old father, Mengele pointed Jaku to one side, and his father to another.

But Jaku paid no attention. He followed his father, with his head down, hoping no one would notice him. A Nazi guard, however, did.


“Hey, you!” he called out. “Didn’t he tell you to go this side?”

Realising what Jaku had done, the guard said, “Your father goes by truck. You walk into the camp.”

So, Jaku turned around, and walked into Auschwitz concentration camp, a site where more than 1.1 million people were murdered.

He would never see his father again.


Living much of his life in Sydney, Jaku always said there were two places he would never return to.

The first was Germany, where the Nazi party rose to prominence, and systematically perpetrated an act of genocide which resulted in the death of more than six million European Jews.

The second was Poland, where his mother and father were murdered one night inside a gas chamber.

“I cannot and will not forgive or forget,” Jaku told Freedman.

Listen to Eddie Jaku’s interview with Mia Freedman on No Filter. Post continues below. 

Self-described as the “happiest man on earth,” Jaku said one life lesson he wished to teach those younger than him was: “You must not hate.”

“You say ‘I don’t like this person’,” Jaku said. “But you do not hate. Hate is a disease. It destroys first your enemy, but you also.

“Hate should be taken out of the vocabulary. This is the downfall of humanity…”

The secret to happiness, according to Jaku, was a good wife [partner] and friendship.


“When I was eight years old my father said to me, ‘Eddie, there is more pleasure in giving than taking,'” he recalled.

At first, he did not understand, dismissing his father’s advice as ‘coocoo’.

But having lived for more than a century, with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, Jaku said that he had found “what you give, you get back… you give nothing, you get nothing back.”

These lessons are critically important, he explained, because if young people do not learn from the generations of the past, “there will be no future”.

It was Jaku's belief that if the Jewish Holocaust had not taken place, “we wouldn’t have today breast cancer, Parkinson’s disease… These were men and women that will never be replaced.” They were human beings who had such meaningful contributions to make to the world, both big and small. 

It is impossible to quantify what was lost during one of the darkest times in human history – when children, even babies, were murdered simply for being Jewish.

Decades on, Jaku still could not understand how Germany, one of the most intelligent, hard-working and welcoming countries, could have done such a thing.

“But I [will be] happy until I drop dead,” Jaku said.

“I will teach children how to be happy, and make this world a better place for everyone.”

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