Holocaust survivor’s fears about Australia
When Eddie Jaku arrived in Sydney 69 years ago, with the horrors of the Holocaust still fresh in his mind, he had nobody and nothing.
Almost everyone he had ever known had been butchered at the hands of Adolf Hitler's henchmen, including his parents in the gas chambers of the infamous Auschwitz death camp in Poland.
He had only survived the horrors of Nazi rule because of a minor miracle, when he managed to escape during a "death march" - when the Germans frantically began to move the prisoners out of camps near the end of the war.
Alone in the war-torn European countryside, he found a cave where he survived eating slugs and snails before he was finally rescued by an American tank. He weighed just 28kg and sunk into a coma shortly after.
Despite all this, the 99-year-old, who still bears the tattooed Nazi serial number on his forearm, told news.com.au he is "the happiest man on earth".
As he gears up for a powerful speech about the horrors of his experience and how it has shaped his positive worldview at TEDxSydney next week, he said there's only one thing that frightens him about Australia - the country that took him under his wing almost seven decades ago.
As candidates from Liberals to the Greens have had their campaign posters graffitied with Nazi-related imagery in the lead-up to today's federal election vote and Queensland Senator Fraser Anning spoke of the "final solution" in relation to immigration in his maiden speech, Mr Jaku said it was vital that the cycle of hate in Australia is broken.
"It frightens me, but children only say, 'I hate Jews' because their parents say that," he told news.com.au in an interview.
"They didn't invent that, their parents did. Hate destroys everything. I don't like some people, but I don't hate anyone, even the Germans."
Chillingly, he warned that even countries that have it as good as Australia are not immune to the threat of dictators and political "madmen" - adding that Germany, despite its financial problems following WWI, was one of the most civilised nations in the world when its people voted in a genocidal tyrant.
"I have been to the bottom of the pit, but you wouldn't believe what happened to me because I lived in a wonderful country," said Mr Jaku, who born Abraham Jakubowicz in Germany in 1920.
"I was German first and Judaism is my religion, not my race. I see Germany as the most civilised, most educated, the cleanest and the most organised (country).
"How is it possible that a country can follow such a man who is not German, cannot speak proper German and manipulates 68 million people?"
His life was soon turned upside down after Hitler was voted in and his family's non-Jewish friends, who often used to pop over for dinner, and the kids in school he thought were his mates suddenly changed.
They would stop coming for dinner and his classmates did nothing when he was pulled out of school for being Jewish.
However, the moment which changed everything was in November 1938, on the night immortalised as Kristallnacht, when Mr Jaku returned home from boarding school to an empty house.
At dawn Nazi soldiers burst in, Eddie was beaten and taken to Buchenwald concentration camp, near Weimar in Germany.
Mr Jaku was eventually released and fled with his family to Belgium, where he lived under a false name to hide his religion.
It was here that he landed a job at a Brussels cigarette factory and lived with his family in an attic - which had kindly been rented to them by a stranger.
However, in the small hours of October 17, 1942, after his hour-long walk home from the factory through blacked-out streets of the Belgium capital, Mr Jaku was handed yet another cruel blow.
The then 22-year-old's parents and sister had been taken by Nazi officers who were waiting for him at the home. This time, they were sent to Auschwitz where his parents were both suffocated to death in gas chambers.
As the war was in its dying breaths in 1945, Mr Jaku had one final stroke of luck when the Nazis began to frantically to move their prisoners out of the camps close to where Russia and the Allies were closing in and took them to be used as forced labourers in camps inside Germany.
Thousands died within days, but Mr Jaku spotted a chance among the chaos to flee. It was then that he found a cave and survived by eating slugs and snails.
He collected water from a nearby creek, but the water was poisoned with mercury from the spill-off from a nearby factory.
Fearing that he would be forgotten as his body would have been eaten by "big rats and snakes" in the cave, he decided to give himself up.
"I couldn't walk," Mr Jaku said. "I had to walk 80 metres to the highway, that took me a full day - from sun up until it was dark."
As he approached the road, he had to pull himself onto some bushes, but when he had cleared that final hurdle, he couldn't believe what he saw.
"I am in front of an American tank," he said. "The war had been over for a month."
Dishevelled and confused, Mr Jaku weighed just 28kg when he was rescued and collapsed into a coma shortly after.
He woke up in German hospital where he spent the next three months recovering - and when he was on his feet, he vowed to leave Germany and never come back.
It wasn't long after that he arrived in Australia. He was 30 years old and had nothing.
"I had nobody to ask to lend me some money. They are all dead. They all died in gas chambers," Mr Jaku said.
Despite this, he made a vow to himself to smile every day and that's what he intends to talk about at next week's TEDx talk.
He said the crucial lesson that can be learned from his experience and that can be taught to the next generation is that humanity needs to turn its back on hatred.
"Hate is a disease," Mr Jaku said. "First, it kills your enemy, but in the process, it kills you. You are a puppet. Germany became puppets.
"Jews had very bad luck. In out history, we had about 50 to 75 good years then we are thrown out by a man who is jealous - because we have always had to make money quick, because we haven't got time.
"Very often in our history, we had to run away and leave everything. You haven't got that time."
He hopes his story will inspire young Australians be happy and work hard - adding that he has never seen Australians have it as good as they have now in his 69 years in the country.
"People are not happy. Why?" he asked. "The government has to do what's good for the country, not what's good for the individual. The person who promised to do something for you is a b**tard because he's a liar. He can't do nothing.
"Hitler took from the rich, but did he make the poor rich? No. He made the poor poorer. He made a country of slaves. A country of puppets.
"If you vote for a madman, a totalitarian or a dictator, the crimes he will commit are in your name. A country is only as strong as its people and that means that you have to work," he said, adding that the love of his profession, making medical equipment, has kept him happy over almost seven decades in Australia.
"You don't die from work. To work hard is good. It gives you muscles and your mind occupied. You die from jealousy and depression.
"People today, they have no time. They are miserable. Young people today are running, but I don't know where they are running to, because there's a time to laugh and a time to cry but you don't have to run."