Despite experiencing the worst of humanity, centenarian author and Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku managed to live a joy-filled life.
Jaku passed away Tuesday at age 101.
“Having survived the Holocaust, Eddie chose to make his life a testimony of how hope and love can triumph over despair and hate,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday of the German-born Jaku, who moved to Australia in 1950 after being rescued by allied soldiers, the Daily Mail reported.
Jaku spent his childhood studying mechanical engineering before graduating in 1938 and returning home to visit his parents. His first night back, Nazis came into the house and beat him in his childhood bed, killed his pet dachshund Lulu and burned down the house, he told the Sydney Morning Herald last year. He spent the next two years at various concentration and death camps, narrowly escaping certain death thanks to his engineering skills, which were considered valuable by the Nazis.
While he and his sister managed to survive, his father and mother did not: They were sent to the gas chambers. Finally, after witnessing countless horrors, he managed to escape the Nazis’ clutches by hiding in a drainpipe while on a death march in January 1945. After a few months living off snails and slugs in a cave, he emerged to be discovered by American soldiers, who took him to the hospital.
“In that moment I made a promise that if I lived I would become an entirely new person,” he recalled to the Belfast Telegraph earlier this year.
He moved to Sydney and went on to pen a book about how, despite it all, he felt determined to live without hate. And, in 2020, he published “The Happiest Man on Earth: The Beautiful Life of an Auschwitz Survivor,” which retold his story.
“I do not hate anyone,” he said in a 2019 speech, according to the Associated Press. “Hate is a disease which may destroy your enemy, but will also destroy you.”