real life

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

Eddie Jaku, now 98 years old, can recall 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 Eddie’s.

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

But Eddie 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 Eddie had done, the guard said, “Your father goes by truck. You walk into the camp.”

So, Eddie 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 in Sydney, 73 years since World War Two ended, there are two places Eddie will never return to.

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


“I cannot and will not forgive or forget,” Eddie told Mia Freedman on Mamamia’s No Filter podcast.

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

Now self-described as the “happiest man on earth,” Eddie has one life lesson he wishes to teach those younger than him: “You must not hate.”

“You say ‘I don’t like this person’,” Eddie 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 Eddie, is 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 now, having lived almost a century, with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, Eddie says that he has 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 is Eddie’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.”

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, Eddie still cannot 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,” Eddie said.

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

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