Monument Honors Czech Jews Who Hid In Woods From Nazis, And Villagers Who Helped

From the JTA

Nearly 70 years after a Czech Jewish family sought refuge from the Nazis by retreating into a nearby forest and relying on non-Jewish locals for help, an American high school teacher has helped erect a permanent monument to their memory.

Last week, several dozen people went to the wooded site where the Wolf family had hid to unveil a modest stone monument that commemorates their struggle to survive and the locals who helped them.

For three nightmarish years during World War II, the Wolf family survived by intermittently hiding in the woods, a friend’s shed and people’s homes — all the while depending on others to provide them with food, fuel and other supplies.

The details of the family’s ordeal were recorded in a detailed diary by son Otto, who was 15 when they went into hiding in June 1942. The villagers of Trsice, which is about 150 miles east of Prague, knew the story. But it was only after Colleen Tambuscio, a New Jersey teacher, brought a group of students to the wooded hideout four years ago as part of a Holocaust study tour that the wheels were set in motion for a proper memorial.

Tambuscio, who teaches a course on the Holocaust, genocide and human behavior at New Milford High School, leads an annual Holocaust study tour to Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland. One of the books she uses in class, “Salvaged Pages,” is a compilation of wartime diaries by young writers that includes an abridged version of Otto Wolf’s accounting of the family’s harrowing plight.

Four years ago Tambuscio realized during the group’s stop in Olomouc that they would be very close to the Wolf family’s forested hideout. With the help of the local Jewish community, they trekked into the woods and managed to identify the family’s cave-like shelter.

By Bruce Konviser

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