One Oak's Nazi Heritage 'Hitler's Tree' Faces Chop in Polish Town

Adolf Hitler marked his birthday 67 years ago by planting an oak seedling in the Nazi-occupied city of Jaslo in Poland. Almost seven decades later, 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 controversial oak tree that is dividing opinion in the Polish city of Jaslo.
AP

The controversial oak tree that is dividing opinion in the Polish city of Jaslo.

Jaslo's mayor, Maria Kurovska, has reacted to the discovery with vehement demands that the tree be cut down and burnt publicly. She told SPIEGEL ONLINE, "If I have the choice between improving the traffic situation in our town and hosting a memorial to a mass murderer, then I choose the former."

Ironically though, just as much as the tree represents Nazism, so too does it symbolize Polish resistance. When Hitler ordered the destruction of Jaslo in 1944, the towering oak tree was one of the few things to survive the devastation.

Speaking to Polish newspaper Nowiny24, city councillor Krzysztof Czelusnik defended the tree, saying, "Hitler was the guilty one, why should the oak suffer for that?" And he is not alone in his opposition to Kurovska's plans.

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 Führer's birthday and was part of attempts to 'Germanize' the town.

Above and beyond its historical significance, Polak argues that the tree should be allowed to stand as an example of natural beauty in the city. Appealing to local authorities he said, "It is growing healthy and tall. Let it grow."

Kurovska remains unconvinced and is concerned that Jaslo could gain publicity for the wrong reasons, arguing: "If we keep it, we will walk in the city center remembering this is Hitler's tree." She also claims to have received e-mails from local residents who are both for and against the tree's survival.

The town will decide the fate of Jaslo's oak over the coming weeks. One thing is for certain though: the tree that survived World War II will not go down without a fight.

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