Sunday, May 5, 2013

Nazi Symbol Lived On in Forest For Sixty-Five Years

The forest swastika was a patch of larch trees covering a 3,600 m2 (4,300
sq yd) area of pine forest near Zernikow, Uckermark district, Brandenburg, in
northeastern Germany.  The trees are carefully arranged to look like a
swastika.  The object was probably created near the height of Hitler's power,
in the 1930s.  It is unclear how the trees came to be planted and arranged.
However, it has been suggested that the object was laid out in 1937 by
locals to prove their loyalty to Hitler after a businessman in the area was
denounced and sent to a concentration camp by the Nazi Party for listening
to the BBC.  One source maintains it was planted by a warden, either out of
support for the Hitler regime, or due to orders from state officials.

For a few weeks every year in the autumn and in the spring, the color of the
larch leaves change, contrasting with the deep green of the pine forest.  This
makes the swastika highly visible from air.  The object was not discovered
for many decades, due to the scarcity of privately owned planes in the area.
During the subsequent Communist period after World War II, Communist
authorities reportedly knew of the swastika's existence but made no effort to
remove it.  However, in 1992 the reunified German government ordered an
aerial survey of all state-owned land.  The photographs were examined by
forestry students, who immediately noticed the design.

In 1995, The Brandenburg state authorities became concerned about
damage to the region's image and the possibility that the area would
become a pilgrimage site for Nazi supporters, so they attempted to destroy
the design by removing 43 of the 100 larch trees.  However, the figure
remained discernible with the remaining 57 trees as well as some trees
which had regrown.

In 2000, German tabloids published aerial photographs showing the
prominence of the swastika.  On December 1, 2001, 25 more larch trees
were removed from the area and the image was largely obscured.  

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