JERUSALEM, Oct 9 (Reuters) A survivor of the Nazi Holocaust touched a hollow tree trunk that he brought from Europe and told a spellbound audience in Israel: ''It saved my life.'' Polish-born Jakob Silberstein, presenting the tree to Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial yesterday, said he hid in its hollow trunk when German soldiers came looking for Jews in Czechoslovakia towards the end of World War Two.
Silberstein, now 83, found shelter during the war in the home of Jana Sudova, a Czech woman. Chasing a rabbit, he found the hollow tree in her yard and chose it as a possible hiding place should he be discovered.
As German troops were pulling out of the area, the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, mounted one final search for Jews. Silberstein bolted for the tree.
''It was so cramped in the tree, I was in there for nine hours and my heart was pounding, my whole body was trembling and I was sure that if the soldiers had come close to the tree they would have heard my breathing,'' he said.
''Towards the end I was so frightened but I didn't want to die in the tree. I feared that they might cut me up with a saw in the tree or shoot me,'' he added.
After the war, Silberstein settled in Israel. He returned to the Czech Republic in 2005 and with the help of a local journalist he managed to track down the tree, which had recently been cut down and was set to become garden furniture.
He was given part of the trunk, which he then brought to Israel.
Silberstein's parents and three brothers were among some 6 million Jews whom Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime killed during World War Two.
''The tree saved my life, I wanted it to remain as a memory, but it is a great pity that other members of my family can't witness this,'' he said.
REUTERS ARB KP0838