Gary Goulin-The Happiest Man on Earth

Author of Book: Eddie Jaku
Date Read: May 19, 2024

Book Report

Book Report #12 Written by Gary Goulin – May 19, 2024

Book Title: “The Happiest Man on Earth”

Author of Book: Eddie Jaku

Date Completed: May 19, 2024

Why I Chose to Read This Book:

This book came highly recommended to me by a close friend who described it as quick reading but very inspirational.

Book Summary:

In this book, Eddie Jaku chronicles his life – he was born in 1920 in Leipzig, Germany as Abraham Salomon Jakubowicz. He was the son of Isidore, a Polish-Jewish immigrant and Lina, a German Jew. He had a younger sister, Johanna. Eddie was raised in a middle class family; his father was a respected factory owner.

Eddie was kicked out of school at the age of 13 for being Jewish. His father then sent him to Tuttlingen, Germany under the pseudonym Walter Schlief, a gentile, to study engineering technology. To maintain his false identity, his father prohibited Eddie from contacting the family. He had no contact with his family for over 5 years, including his graduation.

In 1938, at the age of 18 and after his graduation, Eddie returned home to surprise his parents for their 20th anniversary. He was surprised to find his house abandoned. That night, November 9, 1938 was the infamous Kristallnacht. Eddie was captured and sent to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. He remained there until May 2, 1939 when the SS allowed him to be transported by his father to Dessau, where he would work for the SS as a toolmaker in an aeronautical factory. Instead, they escaped to Belgium, where they reunited with his mother and sister.

Eventually the Germans invaded Belgium and the Jews were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz, including Eddie and his family. Eddie’s mother and father were killed; Eddie and his sister were put into forced labor. Given Eddie’s education and skills, he was considered an “essential Jew” and he was put to work fashioning materials the Germans would use in the war. He was spared extermination unlike many others. Eddie eventually escaped and was rescued by American Troops as they were entering Germany at the very end of World War II.

The Happiest Man on Earth, by Eddie Jaku – page 2

Eddie made his way back to Belgium where he found his sister and best friend. He got a good job in a factory and met Flore, who later became his wife. He moved to Australia as the memories of being in Europe haunted him. In Australia, he found modest success and had 2 children. He has lived there since, and now has grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was 100 years old as of 2020 when he wrote this book. He spends his time lecturing and telling stories of the Holocaust at the Jewish Museum in Sydney. Eddie credits his survival of the Holocaust on maintaining hope. Hope came from the love of others as well as from the kindness of strangers. This kindness kept his hope alive and he was determined to continue to pay that kindness forward.

Lessons Learned:

As long as there is hope, friendship and love, humans can endure almost anything.

Happiness comes from within.

How This Book Can Help Me While Incarcerated and Upon My Release:

I was amazed at the perseverance and optimism that Eddie possessed. My friend was absolutely correct – Eddie’s story is very inspiring. My incarceration is so insignificant compared to Eddie’s experience in the concentration camps. While certainly not easy, enduring my time here, I know will be doable, especially if I take the lessons learned from Eddie, and that is to maintain hope and love: work hard to maintain relationships with family and friends. Their love and support will get me through this ordeal successfully, and will also help me transition smoothly during my re-entry.

I’m also learning that happiness does come from within: I am making myself “stop and smell the roses” and to appreciate beauty around me: Sunrises here are spectacular. The early morning sun turns the foothills a beautiful pink. Canadian geese with their little goslings are walking around the campus. 2 owls have made a nest in and of the trees outside my unit. I’ve never seen owls in the wild before. I stop to appreciate these beautiful things and it makes me happy. It gives me a positive attitude that I know will allow me to endure and even thrive during my incarceration and re-entry.

“Happiness comes from inside yourself and from the people you love. And if you are healthy and happy, you are a millionaire”.

“The best balm for the soul is friendship. And with that friendship we could do the impossible”.