With antisemitism on the rise, it’s vital that we never forget what happened.
(Trigger warning: Every horrible thing you can think of)
Imagine watching your beloved dog repeatedly stabbed by a bayonet.
Imagine watching your lifelong friends and neighbors throw children into the freezing river.
Imagine watching your childhood home set on fire with all of your worldly possessions inside.
Imagine learning that your cherished parents were murdered — in brutal, painful ways — and that you were never able to say goodbye.
Imagine watching a man slit his wrists and fall into a hole filled with human feces in order to die on his own terms.
Imagine being sent on a death march, fleeing, and surviving for months on slugs and snails.
Imagine experiencing all of this — of having your dignity systematically stripped away — and initially feeling too ashamed to tell your story.
This is what happened to Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku, who passed away on October 12th at the age of 101. Eddie, who famously told his story in a 2019 TED Talks and in his autobiography The Happiest Man on Earth, was a German Jew who — despite everything he went through — vowed to spend his years after the Holocaust being kind, polite, and giving. And that’s exactly what he did.
When you hear Eddie’s story, it’s difficult to imagine that one person could experience such pain. But then you remember that millions of people went through what Eddie went through.
Some survived the Holocaust and went on to live full and happy lives — just like Eddie. Others survived only to end their lives because the pain and loneliness were too much to bear. Millions were “euthanized” in windowless gas chambers — naked, afraid, torn from their loved ones. These souls were scooped into furnaces; their ashes floating toward the sky. The living could smell and see the smoke knowing that their dad, mom, sibling, spouse, friend, or neighbor was now reduced to embers. Millions more were murdered in a myriad of ways — shot, stabbed, beaten, raped, deprived of food and medical care, and other methods one can’t imagine.