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Book Review: The Happiest Man on Earth

The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“‘Shoot them!” they cried. ‘Shoot the Jewish dogs!’
What had happened to my German friends that they became murderers? How is it possible to create enemies from friends, to create such hate? Where was the Germany I had been so product to be a part of… As they loaded me onto a truck to take me away, blood mixing with the tears on my face, I stopped being proud to be German. Never again.”

Eddie Jaku was born German. First a German, then a Jew. That was how he felt as a boy growing up in a country he felt was one of the most civilized and educated cultures in the world. That was before he was captured multiple times, locked up in various camps and faced with the everyday choice of working himself to a slow death or dying instantly should he no longer be of any use to the Nazis. At the end of the war, he was reduced to a mere 28kg.

How does one reconcile with a reality that people who were once your countrymen started treating dogs better than you? “She carried a baton to beat us with and went everywhere with her big German Shepherd attack dogs. She was very kind to them, always calling them, ‘Mein liebling’. My darling.”

In the midst of endless cruelty, Jaku was offered an occasional relief from kindness shown by strangers. “They gave us no food, but when we were travelling through Czechoslovakia, women would sometimes run up alongside the train and throw bread to us.”

While it is difficult to comprehend the mindset of those everyday Germans who were once just your average colleague, school mate or neighbour suddenly viewing you as a quasi-person. Yet when I think about the recent pandemic when the same people that once viewed their neighbourhood Asian grocers as part of the community abruptly change their stance and started attacking anyone that looked remotely Oriental, it is possible that human mentality hasn’t changed. Thankfully we have marginally better laws to protect the abused and prevent the start of another genocide.

“We are still here; Hilter is down there… In my mind, this is really the best revenge, and it is the only revenge I am interested in -to be the happiest man on Earth.”

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