The Happiest Man on Earth Book Summary - The Happiest Man on Earth Book explained in key points
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The Happiest Man on Earth summary

Eddie Jaku

The Beautiful Life of an Auschwitz Survivor

4.7 (408 ratings)
25 mins
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    The Happiest Man on Earth
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    Eddie Jaku’s life changed as soon as Hitler became chancellor of Germany.

    Eddie Jaku was desperate to go to high school. He was clever and capable and wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an engineer. In 1933, Eddie had just graduated from elementary school in the beautiful city of Leipzig in Germany. He hoped to go to a good high school near his house. But then Hitler came to power, and suddenly everything changed for Eddie and other Jewish children like him.

    Eddie hadn’t given much thought to being Jewish up until then. If he identified as anything, it was as a proud German. His father had helped to manufacture weapons in World War I and was fiercely patriotic. He always told Eddie that they were “German first and second, Jewish third.” But when Adolf Hitler came to power, being Jewish became the defining aspect of their lives.

    The key message here is: Eddie Jaku’s life changed as soon as Hitler became chancellor of Germany.

    When Hitler was elected, he made his anti-Semitic views known from the very start. Germany had lost the First World War in 1918 and was paying enormous sums of money in reparations to the winning Allied powers. But the country couldn’t afford it, and the reparations had led to widespread poverty and hunger.

    The German people felt humiliated and angry. They were receptive to the messages of a man telling them he could return Germany to its former glory. They were also eager to find an object for their rage: the Jewish people.

    The Jewish community had been at the heart of Leipzig’s culture and economy for hundreds of years. Even in medieval times, the weekly market was held on Friday instead of Saturday – the Jewish Sabbath day – so that Jewish merchants could attend.

    But when Hitler came to power, he brought with him a tide of anti-Semitism. Eddie felt the consequences almost immediately. He wasn’t allowed to have his coming of age ceremony, or bar mitzvah, in Leipzig’s main synagogue. And, of course, he wasn’t allowed to go to high school.

    For Eddie’s family, who saw themselves as proud citizens of a city that prized education and knowledge, this was a shocking betrayal.

    Eddie’s father knew he had to find a way for his son to continue in school. So he found a solution, but it was drastic: Eddie would have to leave his family, and assume a completely new identity.

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    What is The Happiest Man on Earth about?

    The Happiest Man on Earth (2020) is the true story of one man, who survived inconceivable horrors during the Holocaust, and afterward made it his mission to change the world for the better. Eddie Jaku saw first-hand how a Fascist regime could spark anti-Semitic hatred, and turn former friends and neighbors into killers. In talking about what happened, he shares how love and kindness helped him to survive one of the worst atrocities in human history.

    Who should read The Happiest Man on Earth?

    • History buffs interested in the Holocaust and fascism
    • Memoir-lovers excited to hear the story of an extraordinary man
    • People who want to learn more about surviving complex trauma

    About the Author

    Eddie Jaku is a German-born engineer who spent World War II imprisoned in the Buchenwald and Auschwitz concentration camps. In 1950, he and his family moved to Australia. Eddie was a founding member of the Sydney Jewish Museum, and in 2013 was awarded an Order of Australia medal for services to the Jewish Community. Eddie speaks regularly about his experiences during the Holocaust. His TEDx talk has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

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