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The Hollow Tree Trunk that Saved a Life is Brought to The Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations

Jakob Silberstein (second from left) looks at the hollow tree trunk inside which he hid.  Standing next to him: Anna Gerlovva, daughter of his rescuer (first from right), Natan Eitan, Director-General of Yad Vashem (second from right) and Antonin Hradilek, Deputy Ambassador of the Czech Republic in Israel (left) Jakob Silberstein (second from left) looks at the hollow tree trunk inside which he hid. Standing next to him: Anna Gerlovva, daughter of his rescuer (first from right), Natan Eitan, Director-General of Yad Vashem (second from right) and Antonin Hradilek, Deputy Ambassador of the Czech Republic in Israel (left)
An emotional Jakob Silberstein talks to journalists and photographers, relating how the hollow tree saved his life An emotional Jakob Silberstein talks to journalists and photographers, relating how the hollow tree saved his life

The hollow tree trunk that provided shelter for Jakob Silberstein during the Holocaust, was brought yesterday (8.10.07) to the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem.  Participants at the unveiling ceremony included Holocaust survivor Jakob Silberstein, Anna Gerlovva, daughter of Righteous Among the Nations Jana Sudova who rescued Silberstein,  Natan Eitan, Director-General of Yad Vashem, and Antonin Hradilek, Deputy Ambassador of the Czech Republic in Israel.

Jakob Silberstein recently located the tree that provided shelter for him while the Nazis were searching Jana Sudova’s house. He brought the tree trunk to Israel and requested the Yad Vashem directorate’s permission to bring it to Yad Vashem.  Visitors to the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem will now be able to see the tree that saved Silberstein’s life, and read his moving story.

The Rescue Story

Jakob Silberstein was born in 1924 in Rypin, Poland.  Following Germany’s invasion of Poland, his family was forced to move into a ghetto, and in November 1942, they were deported to Auschwitz, where his parents and 3 siblings were murdered.  In January 1945, while on a death march towards Czechoslovakia and Moravia, Jakob managed to escape together with 3 friends.  Arriving at the village of Schunichl, near Bohumin, they found refuge in the attic of Jana Sudova’s house, where she lived with her 3-year-old daughter Anna.  Sudova made sure the 4 escapees had everything they needed.  In Jana’s backyard, Jakob discovered a birch tree with a hollow trunk.  He decided to widen the entrance to the tree for use as an emergency hiding place.  Thereafter, whenever the Germans came to search the farm, Jakob would hurry to hide inside the tree.  The Germans never discovered him there, and he would remain hidden inside the tree-trunk until the danger had passed.  Jakob stayed in Jana Sudova’s house until the liberation.

After the war ended, Jakob discovered that Sudova had known from the start that he and his friends were Jewish.  Despite the grave danger to her own life and that of her daughter, she concealed them for about 6 weeks.  In 1958, Jakob immigrated to Israel.  15 years ago he started searching for the family who had saved him.  Finally, after publishing his story in a newspaper, he found Anna, Jana’s daughter.  Jana Sudova had died in 1993.

In recognition of her courage and the fact that she risked her life to save Jews during the Holocaust, Jana Sudova was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations on 22 January 2006.  In May 2006, an award ceremony was held in honor of Jana Sudova, and her name was unveiled on the wall of Czechoslovakia in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations.