4 lessons you can learn today from Holocaust survivors

At times like these that we look to others for words of inspiration. People often seek out the stories of Holocaust survivors, as people who have been through horrific experiences and have poignant life lessons to share.

If you are in need of inspiration today, here are words from four Holocaust survivors on resilience, perspective, happiness and humour.

“This is my champagne!” – Olga Horak

Overheard over a glass of water recently, 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Olga Horak exclaimed, “This is my champagne!”

Olga survived unthinkable horrors during the Holocaust. Today she is elegantly dressed, yet very much appreciative of the simple things that sustain her and give her life. There is much we can learn today, as we are asked to stay home, from Olga’s outlook on life.

Photograph of Holocaust survivor Olga Horak looking upwards

“Happiness does not fall from the sky; it is in your hands.” – Eddie Jaku

101 year-old Eddie Jaku has a lot to teach about happiness, as the self-proclaimed “happiest man on earth”. He says, “Happiness does not fall from the sky; it is in your hands. Happiness comes from inside yourself and from the people you love. And if you are happy and healthy, you are a millionaire.”

Eddie survived multiple camps, including Auschwitz, where his mother and father were both murdered. Today, Eddie’s positive outlook on life is infectious.

Photograph of Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku smiling

“No matter how hard it was, how bad it got, I never gave in.” – Jack Meister

At age 93, Jack still tells his story of survival to students and museum visitors weekly. He recalls the hard labour he endured in Kielce ghetto and Radom labour camp, and his time in Auschwitz and Buna concentration camps.

Jack always expresses an air of resilience. He attributes his survival and his strength to tell his story today to his determination not to give up.

Photograph of Holocaust survivor Jack Meister holding a photo of himself and his wife at their wedding

“You have to put your profile on the web” – John Gruschka

As many of us are spending more time online and seeking companionship, this lesson from Holocaust survivor John Gruschka hits home.

John survived the Holocaust when, at the age of 15, he was sent to live with distant relatives in England during the war. He had to learn to speak English, be self-reliant and adjust to a different way of life. He had two years of intercontinental correspondence with his parents and learnt how to communicate despite physical distance.

This came in handy when, later in life, John sought a companion and he knew that “you have to put your profile on the web.” “After a few hits and misses” on online dating sites, John met his partner.

Photograph of Holocaust survivor John Gruschka

To learn more about the inspiring stories of Holocaust survivors, visit our Digital Story, titled ‘Closer: Portraits of Survival’. Click here to learn more.

If you would like to read one or more of our Holocaust survivor memoirs, you can click here to browse our selection in our online Museum shop.

Photographs by Katherine Griffiths.

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