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Meeting The Happiest Man on Earth

For Year 10, meeting Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku at the Sydney Jewish Museum this week was inspirational. Despite the horrors of Auschwitz, he told them he’s the happiest man on Earth.

Conveying the depth and detail needed by our students to fully understand the terrible events of the Holocaust is a complex task, and one our History Department approaches with care and respect.

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This week, the History Department spent time talking with Year 10 about the importance of giving the victims of the Holocaust a human face and appreciating that before it occurred, these were ordinary people with ordinary lives and families. They asked the students to think about some of the moral choices made by ordinary people to be bystanders, collaborators or to take a stand to help. And they also discussed why it is important to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, how it can be used to promote tolerance and understanding between different people, and why the current generation must not tolerate hate or discrimination.

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Head of History, Ms Poole said, “The girls began the day by attending a reflection session with their teachers, Ms Karsten, Mr Hollis and Ms Goh in the morning. They reflected on the images of Holocaust survivors and their stories. We then headed to the Sydney Jewish Museum, where the students undertook an amazing workshop with the Museum Education Officer, before touring the museum in small groups. Of note was the Children's Memorial, which is utterly sad and beautiful. Children were proportionally one of the biggest victim groups of the Holocaust, as the Nazis didn't view them as having value in terms of working for the regime. The girls were incredibly moved by the quote at the entrance to the memorial, which reads: ‘For children everywhere in the hope they will live in a world of peace and love. In memory of the children who found neither.’

The girls then met 101-year-old Holocaust survivor, Eddie Jaku, who told an amazing story of escaping a train to Auschwitz by removing the boards on the floor of the train. What an amazing man! He spoke about how he had experienced the very worst of mankind, the horrors of the death camps, and the Nazi efforts to exterminate the lives of all his people, including his parents, who were murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. But he also spoke about the importance of friendship and letting go of hate. As he said, happiness is a choice; it is up to us.”

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Maddie and Sophie were extremely moved by the excursion. They said, “The Year 10 History excursion to the Sydney Jewish Museum was a great way to solidify and build on our knowledge of the Holocaust and genocide. Upon arrival, a knowledgeable staff member gave us insight into the history of anti-Semitism and propaganda and introduced us to the story of some survivors, whose artefacts we would see later in the day. When walking through the museum, we were faced with the harsh reality of the Holocaust when shown items such as blankets made out of human hair, tattooed numbers and the striped uniforms worn by the Jews. The most defining part of the tour was definitely walking through the Children’s Memorial and seeing the display that represented the tears of the lost/ perished children.

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We ended the excursion with an amazing experience. Eddie Jaku, Holocaust survivor, author and famous speaker provided us with an emotional but inspirational talk on his life. At 101-years-old, we were extremely privileged to hear his story and his unique and tragic experiences put into perspective the ‘hardships’ in our lives. For us, two highlights would have to be hearing Eddie’s firsthand experience in the concentration camps and how he remembers the kind people who helped him on the way. We found it particularly amazing to see that Eddie still has such a positive outlook on life and an immense passion to educate and pass on his stories. All the Year 10 girls are extremely grateful for this experience and as Eddie would say, we want to live the rest of our lives with the three h’s in mind: hope, health and happiness.”

Ms Poole said, “It was an incredible day. A huge thank you to Ms Karsten, who as Year 10 Coordinator, organised it. We couldn't be more grateful for the experience of meeting Eddie Jaku, who at 101 years of age is still thriving. It was utter magic to see our girls listen to him, spellbound!”

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