Title: The Happiest Man on Earth
Author: Eddie Jaku
Published: July 27th 2020
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genres: Biography & True Stories, Autobiography, Second World War, Holocaust, Historical, Political & Military
Rating: 4.5 stars
Life can be beautiful if you make it beautiful. It is up to you.
Eddie Jaku always considered himself a German first, a Jew second. He was proud of his country. But all of that changed in November 1938, when he was beaten, arrested and taken to a concentration camp.
Over the next seven years, Eddie faced unimaginable horrors every day, first in Buchenwald, then in Auschwitz, then on a Nazi death march. He lost family, friends, his country.
Because he survived, Eddie made the vow to smile every day. He pays tribute to those who were lost by telling his story, sharing his wisdom and living his best possible life. He now believes he is the ‘happiest man on earth’.
Published as Eddie turns 100, this is a powerful, heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful memoir of how happiness can be found even in the darkest of times.
‘Through all the years I have learned this: life can beautiful if you make it beautiful.’
As soon as you open The Happiest Man on Earth, a 2020 Pan Macmillan Australia publication, you will gain a new life coach in Eddie Jaku. Eddie, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, is a loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. Eddie is also a Holocaust survivor, with an infectious mantra on happiness that should be followed by all citizens of the world.
A German citizen of Leipzig, Eddie Jaku was born to a Jewish family. This embracing family fold wanted the very best for their children, so when Eddie came of age, he was sent away to study mechanical engineering. Without this early education, Eddie would never have managed to come out of World War II alive. When Eddie was just nineteen years old, he was transported to a concentration camp. Through a period of over seven years, Eddie survived two concentration camps, prison farms, factory work as a prisoner and the notorious death march, just before liberation. In this time Eddie was subjected to many evil acts of violence and brutality, but he also witnessed moments of kindness. Despite the loss of his family, friends and home, Eddie lived to tell his tale. Although it took decades for Eddie to share his story with others, he is now one hundred percent committed to educating the world about survival, resilience, hope, peace, acceptance, kindness and happiness. Eddie knows that he owes it to the millions of Jewish people who didn’t survive the Holocaust to share their story.
The Happiest Man on Earth has been categorised as a historical autobiography but I see this text as a kind of life guidebook, inspiring the reader to embrace joy, happiness and friendship. It is a humanitarian based tale that will ensure that you never take your life for granted again. Although many of us in Australia and the world are currently facing trying times, The Happiest Man on Earth delivers a timely reminder, that life is what we make of it. Life can be endured and survived, but we can also grasp onto those important moments of hope to carry us through the dark times.
Told in a first person style format, over fifteen very moving, inspiring and surprising chapters replaying Eddie Jaku’s life story, The Happiest Man on Earth is an incredibly honest account of this pillar of strength’s world. The tone Eddie takes to his book is warm, embracing, personalised, grounded, simple and factual. There are so many dark moments, but these are interchanged with Eddie’s appreciation for the simple things in life. These include a kind gesture, memorable encounters with friends and his sheer survival instinct. We follow Eddie’s early life in Leipzig, through to his student days, his arrest, two concentration camp experiences, prison postings and the death march that eventually set him free. From his medical recovery, to the assistance Eddie provided to other Holocaust survivors, through to his marriage, the birth of his son, the move to Australia and eventually ending in Eddie’s current role as an inspirational speaker, The Happiest Man on Earth covers a lot of ground in a compact format. I read Eddie Jaku’s book in just an afternoon, it was impossible to put it down and I came away feeling grateful, thankful and inspired.
Let The Happiest Man on Earth into your life for an afternoon, or an evening and hopefully you will come away with the same feelings I did of not just utter heartbreak, but of a newfound appreciation for life. I will leave you with these parting words from Eddie Jaku.
‘Happiness does not fall from the sky; it is in your hands. Happiness comes from inside yourself and from the people you love. And if you are healthy and happy you are a millionaire.
And happiness is the only thing in the world that doubles each time your share it. My wife doubles my happiness. My friendship with Kurt doubled my happiness. As for you, my new friend? I hope that your happiness doubles too.’
The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku was published on 27th July 2020 by Pan Macmillan. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
*Thanks extended to Pan Macmillan for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
*Book #8 of the 2020 International Male Author Challenge.