The Happiest Man on Earth: The Beautiful Life of an Auschwitz Survivor

Harper: HarperCollins. May 2021. 208p. ISBN 9780063097681. $24.99. MEMOIR
“My dear new friend.” These four words open a captivating memoir by centenarian Jaku. He tells his story of living through one of history’s darkest periods and maintaining his sense of gratitude and hope. Born in Germany in 1920, Jaku and his family experienced the rise of Nazism. When he was a teenager, he and his family were sent to different concentration camps; Jaku was at Buchenwald and later Auschwitz. He briefly discusses the Holocaust; memories of his parents and his sister are affecting, and poignant passages trace his efforts to learn their fates. Through his stories, readers learn of his family’s loss of liberty and property, and Jaku’s loss of his parents. Yet Jaku says that he maintained a hope for his survival and a better life. He describes how his training as a precision engineer was an asset in this quest, as were his friendships. Now living in Australia, Jaku has volunteered at the Sydney Jewish Museum since its inception.
VERDICT This short book is an inspiring, yet heartbreaking read. Jaku’s message, he says, is to above all remain grateful in the face of adversity. His words will resonate, and his story will engage readers interested in Jewish history or inspirational writing.
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