A tree planted in a Polish town in honor of Adolf Hitler's birthday has received its death sentence.
The local government of Jaslo, a southeastern Polish town, wants to fell and burn the 67-year-old oak tree, which was brought by the Nazi occupying force from the Austrian town where Hitler grew up. Jaslo's mayor, Maria Kurowska, wants to uproot the town's Nazi past by removing the tree and planting a new tree to be dedicated to the memories of Polish officers who were killed by Soviet police in April 1940. The mayor did not mention whether a new tree would be dedicated to the memories of the town's Jewish citizens murdered during the Holocaust.
However, not all agree with the mayor's decision. "The tree has not hurt anyone and is not guilty of anything," a protest organizer said. Kazimierz Polak is appealing to the municipality to preserve the tree. "It is growing healthy and tall. Let it grow."
Polak, 81, remembers when the tree was brought to his town in a gift-wrapped box. Two years later, as the Red Army was approaching, the Nazis ordered the town to be plundered. When the last Germans fled Jaslo, only 39 out of the 1,200 homes remained. Polak considers the tree to be one of the few historic artifacts of the town.
Mayor Kurowska, on the other hand, argues that the tree's symbolism wrongly honors the Nazi leader. In addition, she argues, it obstructs drivers' views from a nearby traffic circle. It's only a tree; we have hundreds of them here," Kurowska said. "Instead, I can plant trees in honor of Hitler's victims."
Prior to World War II, 28 of Jaslo's 48 shops were Jewish-owned. Jaslo's 19 Jewish restaurants and taverns were well-known among the locals and catered mainly to peasants. On August 22, 1942, of the approximate 2,000 Jewish families in Jaslo, 150 able-bodied people were sent home, while the remainder were shipped to the Belzec concentration camp's gas chambers.
Not one Jew remained, not even a memorial to the Jewish community that once existed there.