The Hol­low Tree

Jacob G. Rosenberg
  • Review
By – August 31, 2011
Jacob G. Rosen­berg (1922 – 2008) was a Holo­caust sur­vivor and award-win­ning author. Born in Lodz, Poland, he lived in the Lodz ghet­to, before his entire fam­i­ly was sent to Auschwitz, where all but he per­ished. Lib­er­at­ed Lib­er­at­ed in 1945 after sev­er­al con­cen­tra­tion camps, he went to a dis­placed per­sons camp in Italy, where he met his wife, and in time they immi­grat­ed to Aus­tralia. He was, per­haps, best known for his poet­ry and auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal works, East of Time (2005) and Sun­rise West (2007). The Hol­low Tree was pub­lished posthu­mous­ly.

The sto­ry is a unique pre­sen­ta­tion of the sad but true denial, by so many, of the hor­ror to come to the Jews in Europe, the ensu­ing dev­as­ta­tion, the unspeak­able loss, and at long last a faint glim­mer of hope. Set in some pas­toral town, we meet Jan, a young man from a wealthy man­u­fac­tur­ing fam­i­ly. They, as com­pared to oth­ers, belong to the ancient com­mu­ni­ty of Sojourn­ers.” As Jan dis­cov­ers his first, pas­sion­ate love in a beau­ti­ful young woman from a work­ing class fam­i­ly, he is also drawn into an emerg­ing new polit­i­cal are­na. He begins to step away from his tra­di­tion­al home and close fam­i­ly ties. The fore­shad­ow­ing is there, the ter­ror begins, and Jan is faced with one deci­sion after anoth­er for love and sur­vival.

This is a scary, sor­row­ful, and poignant tale. We have, no doubt, read it before. The choice to tell the sto­ry as a para­ble illu­mi­nates the time­less themes of moral­i­ty, love, brav­ery, and sur­vival.

The stilt­ed, reserved style might pro­tect the read­er from the well-known details, but is as provoca­tive as any fable we know. Even the tra­di­tion­al illus­tra­tion on the jack­et cov­er, done in paper cut-out, encour­ages one to read between the lines.
Pen­ny Metsch, MLS, for­mer­ly a school librar­i­an on Long Island and in New York City, now focus­es on ear­ly lit­er­a­cy pro­grams in Hobo­ken, NJ.

Discussion Questions