The Tree of Life

Among all the horror stories of the Holocaust, there are, every once in a while, some wonderful stories of brave individuals who chose to do the right thing. People who risked their lives and their safety to help another individual because they saw the humanity, not the religion.

Today’s post has to do with an object, not a person. There was a tree, in a small village in Czechoslovakia. Though the tree had no choice, made no decision, it in fact saved the life of a young Jew. Jakob Silberstein has gone on, in the decades since World War II, to build a life for himself, to have a family, but he never forgot the hollowed out tree that gave him refuge for 9 hours while the Germans searched for him. Decades later, he found the tree and asked the current owner if he could buy it. The owner donated the tree for free, and Jakov brought the tree to Israel.

And now, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum has honored the hollow tree that proved to be the salvation of 83-year-old Jakob Silberstein during World War II.

The Holocaust survivor spent 50 years tracking down the tree that saved his life, he said. “This tree, for me, is life,” he said during the ceremony. “It saved my life.”

The Polish-born survivor lost his entire family in the concentration camps, including his two parents and three brothers. For Jakob, it was the tree of life – and he has brought it to a place where it will be honored for years and years and years to come.

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