Hitler oak divides Polish town

Hitler oak divides Polish town
File photo of oak tree. Photo: DPA
Residents of the southeastern Polish city of Jaslo are debating whether to destroy a 67-year-old oak tree that was given to the town by Adolf Hitler.

The tree was given to the city in 1942 as a birthday gift from Hitler to the then-head of the town council, said 80-year-old Kazimierz Polak, who was an eyewitness to the planting. Local politicians have called for the tree to be removed.

“The tree remembers the biggest criminal in the history of mankind,” Jaslo mayor Maria Kurovska told a Polish newspaper. She has ordered the oak to be chopped down and publicly burned.

The debate about the oak arose due to urban renewal, not the tree’s historical provenance. The city plans to build a new intersection in the centre of town which would require removing the tree, which managed to survive World War II, when 97 percent of the city was destroyed on Hitler’s orders.

But the Hitler oak has its defenders, including eyewitness Polak, who has started a petition campaign to preserve the tree. Tomasz Kasprzyk, who runs a housing estate in central Jaslo has also joined the fight, saying the oak should be a nature memorial and not a symbol of Nazism.

“Hitler was the guilty one, why should the oak suffer for that?” said city councilman Krzysztof Czelusnik.

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