Recently, the German government has removed an interesting feature in a forest in the state of Brandenberg. Back in the day, a number of larch trees were carefully planted in a 20 square meter patch of a forest of pine. In the autumn, the larches would turn yellow, vividly standing out against the evergreens. The problem? The larches were planted in the shape of a swastika.

The swastika is thought to have been created in the 1930s to celebrate the birthday of Adolf Hitler. Specifically, it’s theorized that residents planted the trees to prove their loyalty to the Fatherland after a local businessman was sent to a concentration camp for listening to (gasp!) the BBC.

The swastika survived to this day because the forest was in East Germany. The communist government never bothered to remove it. The swastika is only visible from the air, and not too many people were flying coach in communist East Germany, so, if masses of people weren’t choking on their in-flight meals because of the sight, why bother removing it?

In the 1990s, post-reunification, an attempt was made to destroy the swastika, but the trees grew back. Oops. This time, 25 trees were cut down, and hopefully they got it right this time.

For a photo, see:

Storm_Damage: One of the reasons the German government destroyed the trees was because they wanted to prevent the site from becoming a shrine to neo-Nazis and anti-Semites. You have an excellent point when you say that we should not forget the sins of the past, lest we commit them again. But the way to do that is not to preserve sites that celebrate those sins. That prevents nothing and teaches no one; it only gives aid and comfort to the racists. We have plenty of other reminders of Nazi evil without preserving these trees: Auschwitz, Majdanek, Treblinka, Dauchau, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen

It is a great tragedy that the German government should race to destroy this historic landmark. The decision to cut these trees down is a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived threat of anti-semitism, and is obviously aimed to politically woo a potentially vocal voting bloc of Jews in Germany.

Before I go any further, I would like to state that I am not anti-semitic, nor am I racist. I think that Nazi Germany is one of the greatest evils to ever rise up and threaten the freedom and well-being of humanity.

That is precisely why it is important to preserve all the reminders we can of its power. We should keep around especially prominent landmarks like this as a visible memo to ourselves to stay vigilant lest something like the Third Reich threaten to swallow the world again.

If we destroy the legacies of our past conquerors, we put them out of our minds. We find ourselves taken unawares when similar conquerors rise to replace them. If we stand up to that which we fear. Look it in the eye, and accept it into our daily lives, we will gain the strength and the will to refuse tyranny the opportunity to gain a foothold ever again.

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