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Eddie Jaku, a Holocaust survivor who led with kindness and tolerance, dies at 101

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

They sound like trite sayings off of some self-help calendar.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EDDIE JAKU: Happiness does not fall from the sky. It's in your hands. For me, when I wake up, I'm happy because it is another day to enjoy.

CHANG: But these are the words of Eddie Jaku, a Holocaust survivor who died yesterday in Sydney, Australia, at the age of 101.

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Perhaps his most surprising statement, shared during a TED talk, was that despite enduring the horrors of four concentration camps and multiple death marches...

(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)

JAKU: Hate is a disease which may destroy your enemy but will also destroy you in the process.

MCCAMMON: Jaku was born in Germany. He was kicked out of school as a young teen because he was Jewish. Using an alias to try to conceal his identity, he enrolled in another city, where he studied engineering and graduated as a tool maker. Those skills allowed Jaku to work as a slave laborer and be spared from the gas chamber.

CHANG: Jaku eventually escaped the Nazis' grasp during a death march. He hid in a cave and was eventually rescued by U.S. troops. A few years after the war, Jaku met his wife. They eventually moved to Australia, where they started a family and a new life.

(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)

JAKU: I aim to help people who are dying. I was at the bottom of the pit, so if I can make one miserable person smile, I am happy.

MCCAMMON: Choosing kindness and tolerance over hate was the premise of Jaku's book "The Happiest Man On Earth," which he published when he was 100 years old. He once said, where there is life, there is hope, and that became the bedrock of his philosophy.

(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)

JAKU: I am doing everything I can to make this world a better place for everyone. And I implore you, all of you, to do your best, too.

CHANG: Jaku is survived by his wife of 75 years, two sons, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

(SOUNDBITE OF COOPER SAMS' "WHITE WAVES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Ayen Deng Bior is a producer at NPR's flagship evening news program, All Things Considered. She helps shape the sound of the daily shows by contributing story ideas, writing scripts and cutting tape. Her work at NPR has taken her to Warsaw, Poland, where she heard from refugees displaced by the war in Ukraine. She has spoken to people in Saint-Louis, Senegal, who are grappling with rising seas. Before NPR, Bior wore many hats at the Voice of America's English to Africa service where she worked in radio, television and digital. Bior began her career reporting on the revolution in Sudan, the developing state of affairs in South Sudan and the experiences of women behind the headlines in both countries. In her spare time, Bior loves to kayak, read and bird watch.