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Death to the Hitler Tree?

July 8th, 2009 12:43pm by stultzie


In the present climate of climate change and weekly world symposia on preserving the environment, it would seem an obvious crime to cut down a healthy, thriving oak tree, and that is exactly what is causing heated debate in the small town of Jaslo in south-east Poland.

So why is this noble oak causing such controversy? Well, it’s not just any old tree. The oak was planted in 1942, during the Nazi occupation, having been donated to the town’s German administrator by Adolf Hitler to mark the dictator’s birthday.

Perhaps nothing would have happened had it not been for the still sharp memory of 81-year-old local historian, Kazimierz Polak. When the tree was earmarked to be felled to improve traffic flow, Polak felt he had to make the authorities aware of its historic significance…

He had witnessed its planting when he was 13 years old.

“I can speak some German,” says Polak, “so I was able to understand that the ceremony (to plant the tree) was held to mark Hitler’s birthday. It was bought from his home town in Austria. It was decorated with Nazi symbols.”

The story of the tree’s origins came as a shock to most local residents after Polak gave his eyewitness account of the planting ceremony at a meeting devoted to the town’s wartime history. Few others remember the event: the town was destroyed by the Nazis in the final stages of the war, and most of the Polish population moved elsewhere.

The local authority, led by the mayor, Maria Kurovska, now wants the tree cut down and its timber burnt.

“The tree commemorates the biggest criminal in the history of mankind,” she told a Polish newspaper.

“Almost the whole town was razed by the retreating Nazi troops in 1944,” she added, “They wanted to leave behind a wasteland for the approaching Soviet troops…we don’t need a Nazi symbol in the centre of Jaslo.”

Mr Polak argues that the oak has been a silent witness to some of the greatest crimes of the 20th century, but, he adds, “Poland was a country which resisted the Nazi ideology. There is nothing in Jaslo that is connected with Nazism. The fact that the tree was planted is just an accident in history, something which I’m sure would be of interest to visitors who come to Jaslo.”

The debate is splitting the 38,000 residents down the middle and the town council is holding public consultations on what should be done with Adolf Hitler’s oak tree.

Ruckus ass tree.

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