A lot of us are familiar with the Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, whereby he shared his experience of being a prisoner at a Nazi camp, and how he managed to live through his intense and traumatic experience. Frankl is the one who developed the concept of Logo Therapy.
Similarly, we have Eddie Jaku here sharing his story and showing us how to live a more happy life, despite all the horrors he’s been through. At 189 pages, this book can be read in a day, with very easy to follow narrative. However, the trauma of being in a Nazi death camp is indeed terrible and to read about it does give the chills.
Jaku does say in his acknowledgments that he never had any intention to write a book based on his experiences. English is also isn’t his first language so getting a book out there was a challenge. He had been encouraged by a lot of his friends, family and other survivors to share his story. Hence, we have his book. As Jaku says, “Alone we are powerless, but together we are strong.”
In the prologue, Jaku says “Through all of my years I have learned this: life can be beautiful if you make it beautiful.” It’s all about having the right kind of perspective towards your outlook on life. Depsite all the horrible things he went through, he does end up creating a belief for himself: happiness is something we can choose.
Each of the chapters has a short one line statement that Jaku has learnt from his experiences. I won’t go into details explaining what he shares in each chapter, but these one lines are the lessons he’s learnt along the way. They are:
- There are many things more precious than money
- Weakness can be turned into hatred
- Tomorrow will come if you survive today. One step at a time.
- You can find kindness everywhere, even from strangers.
- Hug your mother.
- One good friend is my whole world.
- Education is lifesaver.
- If you lose your morals, you lose yourself.
- The human body is the best machine ever made.
- Where there is life, there is hope.
- There are always miracles in the world, even when it seems dark.
- Love is the best medicine.
- We are all part of a larger society, and our work is our contribution to a free and safe life for all.
- Shared sorrow is half sorrow; shared pleasure is double pleasure.
- What I have to share is not my pain. What I share is my hope.
Jaku was born in Germany in 1920, which makes him a 101 year old in 2021! He was imprisonsed in the concentration camps and was sent to death camp in 1945. He was eventually rescued by the Allied Soldiers and in 1950 moved to Australia. That’s where he’s been living since.
He does talk about losing his family and friends at the camp. Witnessing people dying around him. Living a life where he didn’t know what the next day would bring. The fear. The despair. The cruelty. But somehow, he managed to lived through it all because he developed a mindset to challenge the negative environment he was in.
Some of us may deny the Holocaust even happened. We may argue there were not 6 millions Jews. We may debate that life wasn’t as bad as the media portrays it to be. But we can’t deny that Jews were captured, and sent to camps, and one of them was Eddie Jaku, who has shown us how to be happy in all of this.