“Life can be beautiful if you make it beautiful. It is up to you.” Eddie Jaku, The Happiest Man on Earth.
In this uplifting memoir in the vein of The Last Lecture and Man’s Search for Meaning, a Holocaust survivor pays tribute to those who were lost by telling his story, sharing his wisdom, and living his best life possible.
Eddie Jaku was born in Leipzig, Germany, into a prosperous Jewish family. He was proud to be German. When Hitler came to power, he expelled all Jewish students from school. Since Eddie was a talented student, his father used his influence to get his son false papers so he could enroll in an elite engineering school on the other side of the country. But on Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, the SS deported teenaged Eddie to Buchenwald concentration camp.
Over the next seven years, Eddie faced unimaginable horrors, first in Buchenwald, then in a French labor camp, then in Auschwitz, and finally on a Nazi death march during the last days of the Third Reich. Despite the horror he experienced, he maintained a positive attitude. He lost family, friends, and the country he had so loved, yet survived through determination, cooperation with a friend, and his engineering skills. “Without friendship, a human being is lost. A friend is someone who reminds you to feel alive.”
After the war, he moved to Australia, where he prospered. He was awarded the Order of Australia, which recognizes Australians who have demonstrated outstanding service or exceptional achievement.
The Happiest Man on Earth was published as Eddie turned 100 years old! It won the Australian Book Industry Awards prize for Biography of the Year in 2021. It’s a moving, and uplifting memoir of a man whose sense of gratitude changed the course of his life, and that of countless others. 4.5 stars.