Eddie Jaku
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My dear new friends ... (Laughter) My name is Eddie Jaku, and I'm standing in front of you today, a survivor of the Holocaust and a witness of the most tragic times in the history of mankind. I was a proud young German. I thought this was the best civilization that could be given to a young man like me. How wrong I was. On the 9th of November, 1938, I returned from boarding school where I had lived under a false name for five years because I was a Jew. I lived away from my family, like an orphan, getting an education and under enormous pressure and fear that somebody could find out that I was not Walter Shleiss who I pretended to be. I was in great danger. On that fateful night, I had arrived home, but my family had gone in hiding, and I was alone. I went to bed with my dog close by. At 5 a.m., on the 10th of November, 1938, ten Nazis broke down the door of our house. What they did to me, I am ashamed to tell you. It was so bad that I believed, "Eddie, you're going to die today." After, they made me witness the demolition of our 200-year-old house and murdering my beloved dog, Lulu, who had tried to protect me, in front of my eyes. I lost my dignity, my freedom, and my faith in humanity. I lost everything I lived for. I was reduced from a man to being nothing. What happened to my country where I was born in, the country of my ancestors, the country which produced [Schiller], Goethe, Beethoven, and Mozart? What had happened to my German friends who became murderers? At the time, none of us understood that "Kristallnacht" - the "Night of Broken Glass" where the fronts of Jewish-owned shops were smashed, and the shops looted, and homes and synagogues were set on fire - was only the beginning of the nightmare of much, much worse to come. That day, I was transported to my first concentration camp, Buchenwald, where I was kept with another 11,000 Jewish men for about five months. On the 2nd of May, 1939, I was released. My father picked me up and brought me to Aachen. After 10 hours driving, we made an arrangement with a smuggler to take us into Belgium. I spent two weeks there with my dad in an apartment until I was arrested by Belgium police as a German, not a Jew. and interned in a camp with 4,000 other Germans. On the 10th of May, 1940, the camp was liquidated. We split up in Dunkirk, and I continued on to Lyon. There, I was arrested by French police and sent to Gurs, a terrible camp with 6,000 Germans. After my internments at camps, I was finally transported to what became my hell on earth: Auschwitz. My parents and sister were also transported to Auschwitz, and I was never to see my parents again. I did not have a chance to say goodbye to my beloved mother, and I have missed her every day of my life. If you have the opportunity today, please go home and make sure you tell your mom how much you love her. Please do this for your new friend, Eddie. I was lucky enough, managed to escape what became known as the death march. and I hid in a forest, alone, for many months, before I was found by the American army. But I'm standing here today a happy man, who enjoys life with a wonderful wife and a beautiful family. I do not hate anyone. Hate is a disease which may destroy your enemy, but will also destroy you in the process. (Applause) I'm doing everything I can to make this world a better place for everyone, and I implore you all to do your best too. Let us ensure that this terrible tragedy, the worst in the history, may never happen again and also will never, ever be forgotten. After many years of hardship and hiding, on the 7th September, 1945, after a long journey by train, I entered back into Belgium without any papers. Very shortly after that, I met and married my wife, Flore, to whom I have been married for 73 years. (Cheers) (Applause) Thank you. At that time, I was not a happy man. (Laughter) (Chuckles) I did not enjoy being amongst people. That was until our first son, Michael, was born. At that time, my heart was healed and my happiness returned in abundance. I made the promise that from that day until the end of my life, I promised to be happy, smile, be polite, helpful, and kind. I also promised to never put my foot on German soil again. Today, I stand in front of you, a man who has kept all those promises. My greatest happiness comes from my family, my wife, two sons - Michael and Andre - my many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who all bring so much joy. Today, I teach and share happiness with everyone I meet. Happiness does not fall from the sky; it's in your hands. If you're healthy and happy, you're a millionaire. (Chuckles) Happiness also brings good health to the body and mind, and I attribute my 99 years of health mostly to the positive and happy attitude. (Applause) One flower is my garden; one good friend is my world. Young people today forget to stop. They're constantly running and don't know where they're running to. (Laughter) You should take time to be happy and enjoy life. There's a time to laugh and there's a time to cry. I see good things in life. Invite a friend or family member for a meal. Go for a walk. Tomorrow will come, but first enjoy today! (Applause) I wonder how people exist without friendship, without people to share their secrets, hopes, and dreams, to share good fortune or sad losses. In the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter and sharing of pleasure, good times made better and bad times forgotten - due to the magic of friendship. For me, when I wake up, I'm happy because it is another day to enjoy. When I remember that I should have died a miserable death, but instead I'm alive, so I aim to help people who are down. I was at the bottom of the pit. So If I can make one miserable person smile, I'm happy. (Applause) Remember these words: Please do not walk in front of me - I may not be able to follow. Please do not walk behind me - I may not be able to lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend. (Applause) I will end my talk with a wish from my heart to all your hearts. May you always have lots of love to share, lots of good health to spare, and lots of good friends that care. Thank you for giving me the privilege of speaking to you today. Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers)