History Battles: Hitler Tree in Poland

Randall Stephens

Der Spiegel recently reported on an oak seedling planted in Nazi-occupied Jaslo, Poland in 1942. Seldom does a tree spark a controversy about memory and history. But... Almost seven decades after the planting, writes a journalist in the paper, "the tree is the subject of heated debate as the city mayor, previously unaware of its history, calls for it to be felled":

Getting permission to chop down a tree for the building of an intersection is not unusual. What is slightly rarer is the discovery that that tree was bequeathed to the city by the most famous dictator of the last century. An oak tree that had been growing in the Polish city of Jaslo for almost 70 years now faces the chop as its links with Hitler are revealed. . . .

The campaign to save the oak is led by 80-year-old Kazimierz Polak, who witnessed it being planted firsthand. He is organising a petition to challenge plans to fell the tree, which he watched being brought into the city in a box wrapped in the swastika flag in 1942. The oak, originally from Hitler's birthplace of Braunau am Inn in Austria, was given to the city on the occasion of the F├╝hrer's birthday and was part of attempts to 'Germanize' the town. >>>