Scrapbookpages Blog

February 26, 2010

Whatever happened to Hitler’s tree in Poland?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 8:51 pm

A good friend of mine sent me this link to a newspaper article about a tree in Jaslo, Poland that was planted in honor of Hitler’s birthday during the German occupation in World War II:

The article is dated July 7, 2009 and I have not been able to find any later news about the tree. If the tree was cut down, surely there would have been some news about it.  On the other hand, if the tree is still there, wouldn’t Elie Wiesel and Abe Foxman of the ADL be there demanding that the tree be removed?

The following quote is from the web site that published the article:

Jaslo – An oak tree planted in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II to mark Adolf Hitler’s birthday may soon face the axe if the local mayor has her way.

Authorities in Jaslo in rural southeastern Poland discovered the origins of the tree when plans were lodged to fell it to make way for a traffic roundabout.

“We obtained information that this is no ordinary tree but was put here to mark Adolf Hitler’s birthday,” said Jaslo’s mayor, Maria Kurowska. “So should I try to improve our town’s communications or should I allow a memorial to that criminal to remain standing? The choice is simple for me.”

Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, triggering World War Two and beginning more than five years of occupation. Six million Poles died, including almost all of the country’s three million Jewish citizens.

Not everybody in this town of 38 000 shared Kurowska’s view that the tree must go.

“It was 1942 when the Germans brought a seedling of an oak here and planted it in the centre of the town with all honours, an army orchestra and salutes,” said Kazimierz Polak, who was present at the planting ceremony as a child 67 years ago.

“My father told me then that it was Hitler’s birthday and we found out later the seedling had come from Braunau am Inn (in Austria) where Hitler was born,” Polak said.

“It’s a historic curiosity. What is the oak really guilty of? It’s not the tree’s fault that it was planted here to honour the biggest criminal and enemy of Poland.”

I have some suggestions for what to do with the tree:

1.  Rename the tree “Goethe’s oak.”

Hitler is the most hated person in the world and nobody wants a tree that honors him, but what about Johann Wolfgang von Goethe?  If there is one good German, it’s gotta be Goethe.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - what's not to love?

Goethe lived in Weimar, Germany and he had a favorite oak tree that he used to sit under.  Goethe’s Oak was hit by an American bomb because it just happened to be in the middle of the Buchenwald concentration camp that was built in 1937.  America bombed the Buchenwald camp because of the factories there; they were not trying to kill Goethe’s Oak.

The stump of Goethe’s Oak has been preserved, but it is slowly rotting away and will soon be nothing but dust.  Goethe needs a new oak, so why not give him an oak tree in Poland?

The stump of the Goethe Eiche inside Buchenwald camp

2.  Let Hitler’s oak tree live,  but put a stone marker in front of it.

According to the newspaper article, the oak tree in honor of Hitler came from the town of Braunau am Inn in Austria, where Hitler was born.  I visited Braunau am Inn a few years ago and I asked several of the locals to show me the house where he was born.  They all claimed that they didn’t know the location of the house.  Finally, I went into a book store and asked for a map that would show the location of Hitler’s birthplace.  I was told that no such map existed.

So I just started walking down the main street of the town until I saw a huge granite rock in front of an unidentified building.  I immediately recognized that beautiful golden granite: it was from the quarry at Mauthausen, a concentration camp in Austria.

There were a few other tourists, carrying cameras and gawking at everything, but none of them were paying any attention to the building with the granite rock in front of it.  I walked across the street and began photographing the rock and the building behind it.  People began to stare at me, and then they started smiling.  Then a couple of people actually applauded.  They seemed to be thinking: finally, a person who has the courage to take a picture of the house where Hitler was born.

Anyway, the point of all this is that everyone ignores the house where Hitler was born and it is not identified, but there is that rock, which has a message.

"For peace, freedom and democracy, never again Fascism, millions of dead admonish"

Stone marker in front of Hitler's birthplace in Braunau am Inn

So why not let Hitler’s Oak live, but put up a “never again” stone like the stone in front of Hitler’s birthplace.

Sing right out for Grandma’s lye soap

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 2:35 am

In 1952, there was a comedy skit that had the line “It’s in the book!” and a song called “Grandma’s Lye Soap.”

The lyrics went something like this:

Sing right out for Grandma’s lye soap,
The finest soap in the land
Good for everything in the home,
And for your face.
The secret was in the scrubbing,
It wouldn’t suds and it wouldn’t foam.

I was reminded of this song the other day, when I read that Eva Kor, a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau, said that she finally figured out why the soap at Auschwitz “wouldn’t suds.”  It was because it was made from the fat of the Jews who had been murdered.

My grandma actually made “Grandma’s lye soap” which she used for everything in the home, and for her face. I have used “Grandma’s lye soap” a time or two myself, so I know for a fact that it “wouldn’t suds.”

Back in the old days, a lot of Americans made their own soap. First you save the ashes from your wood burning stove. Then you butcher a hog and save the fat.

To make soap, you pour water over the ashes and allow it to seep through some holes and collect at the bottom of a barrel. The lye, which is needed to make the soap, is leached into the water.

Then you boil a lot of hog fat in a large black kettle, under a tree in the front yard.  That way, any neighbors passing by will stop to chat and the time will pass more quickly.

After the lye water is added, the boiling can take up to 24 hours. Eventually the lye and hog fat mixture will turn into soap, which is light brown in color.  The soap is broken into large chunks, not poured into a mold to make bars of soap.

Did the Nazis actually make soap out of Jewish fat?  Well, Eva Kor believes it and so do a lot of other people. But was it ever proved in court?  Yes, at the Nuremberg IMT, the Soviet Union submitted evidence and testimony about human soap making.

Human soap introduced as evidence at Nuremberg IMT

At Nuremberg, the Constitution of the International Military Tribunal included the following:

V. POWERS OF THE TRIBUNAL AND CONDUCT OF THE TRIAL

[….]

Article 21. The Tribunal shall not require proof of facts of common knowledge but shall take judicial notice thereof.

The making of human soap by the Germans was common knowledge that did not require any proof, so the Soviet Union was not required to furnish a forensic report along with the soap. The Nuremberg tribunal “took judicial notice” that the Germans had made soap out of the Jews.

When I visited the Memorial Site at Buchenwald, I was told that the Germans made soap in the basement of this building. However, it was not claimed to be human soap.

Soap was made in the basement of this building at Buchenwald