Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassador Blog

Book review: The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku

This book was a wonderful read. It is a book that champions freedom, choice, and liberty. We as individuals have the right to live as freely as we want to, and Eddie Jaku explores this theme throughout the book.

‘Through all the years I have learned this: life can be beautiful if you make it beautiful.’ – Eddie Jaku

Cover image of the book Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku©Pan Macmillan

’The Happiest Man on Earth’ is more than a historical autobiography but a book that has not only helped me further my understanding of the Holocaust, but to understand the true meaning of ‘resilience’, especially in the strange year of 2020.

Eddie Jaku was born in Leipzig in 1920 and he and his family considered themselves as ‘Germans first, Germans second and then Jewish’. His story demonstrated to me just how quickly the situation changed for Eddie, his family, and so many Jewish people in the 1930s. When the Nazi’s came to power, they portrayed Jewish people as the enemy of Germany, and life became increasingly difficult for Jewish people living under the Nazi dictatorship.

This book kept me up until the late hours of the night, turning each page in the book I explored different aspects of Eddie’s incredible story. From living through Kristallnacht where his house (that had been his family’s home for generations) was destroyed to being sent to a concentration camp. The hardships he faced made me reflect on all the things I take for granted.

If we are to learn from history, we need to read the books of survivors and hear their testimonies, by doing this, we become their witnesses and it is our responsibility to share the lessons we have learnt so this can never happen again. Our work, however, is nowhere near complete. The current refugee crisis and the persecution of the Uyghurs in mainland China are just two examples, that show there is a long way to go to ensure that racism, intolerance and hatred do not permeate our society. The strongest message I have taken from this book is that to learn from history, we need to show empathy and resilience just like Eddie and together we can make a difference.

By Aiyesha Swarnn