Friday, August 18, 2017

The Olympic Oaks or Hitler's Oaks

With Nancy J. Farrier


1936 Berlin logo
Wikimedia Commons
Imagine the hesitation of many athletes in 1936 when the Olympics were to be held in Berlin. The venue had been chosen years before Hitler came to power. The athletes had been training for years for this competition. What were they to do?

Parade of Nations
Bundesarchiv_Wikimedia Commons
Many of those prepared to compete in the 1936 Olympics considered boycotting the games because of the Hitler mindset and his agenda. Staying home seemed to be the safer option. Yet, they had worked hard to attain their status and didn’t want to give up the dream. In the end, most chose to go to the games and do their best, ignoring the Aryan agenda on the rise in Germany. They wanted the chance to show the world what they could accomplish.

Fornax_Wikimedia Commons


Meanwhile, Adolf Hitler had a fascination with oak trees. He admired them for their strength and endurance. He used oak leaves in some of his insignia and symbols to show his power and his desire to accomplish much. Because of his love of oak trees he chose to give each gold medal Olympian an oak tree to take home with them.


The games began with Hitler present and willing to shake hands with the winners. He presided over the games until Cornelius Johnson won the high jump for the United States. Johnson not only won the high jump, he set an Olympic record that day. When the time came for him to receive his medal and congratulations, Hitler left the stands and refused to shake hands with him. The Olympic committee talked with Hitler and told him he needed to shake hands with all of the gold medal winners or with none of them. Hitler chose to refrain from shaking any more hands rather than shake the hand of someone he considered inferior.

Japan's Hideko Maehata w/Oak Tree
WIkimedia Commons

Of the more than 130 oak trees given out at the 1936 Olympic games only a few are still known to exist. Some were cut down because of the association with Hitler. Others were allowed to grow when people realized the oak tree was not to blame for what Hitler did.

Jesse Owens_Wikimedia Commons

One of the oak trees that is accounted for is the tree planted by Cornelius Johnson. I attended a talk given on the Olympic Oaks and the speaker told the story of find this tree and working to propagate new seedlings. Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics and planted his trees in the Midwest when he returned home. I don’t know where all the living trees are, but the story he told was fascinating and something I had never heard before.


One last note that he shared was Hitler’s desire to make a mark led to the planting of trees in a large forest in Germany. The larch trees he planted in a forest of evergreens would only show during the fall when they changed color and the symbol could only be seen by air. His strategy wasn’t discovered until the early 1990’s when a plane flew over doing an aerial survey in the fall. The trees Hitler had embedded in that forest, known today by some as the swastika forest, changed colors in the shape of a swastika. Many of those trees were cut down to eliminate the symbol. I find that sad to destroy the trees, but I do understand the reason.



Have you ever heard of the Olympic Oaks? Had you heard of the swastika forest? These were new to me, but a part of fascinating history.


Nancy J Farrier is an award winning author who lives in Southern California in the Mojave Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. Nancy and her husband have five children and two grandsons. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.

21 comments:

  1. Interesting and history I had not heard. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Marilyn. I'm glad you stopped by.

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  2. Interesting! Thanks for the peek into other troubled times.

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  3. I did not know anything about these oak trees. Thank you for another interesting post!

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    1. Thank you, Linda. So glad you enjoyed the post.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your very interesting post, Nancy. What a story! I have never heard about the trees given to Olympic winners.

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    1. Melanie, I had not heard of these oak trees either. I found it fascinating.

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  5. I hadn't heard of the Olympic oaks or the swastika forest before. I'm proud of the athletes who risked their lives to perform in the Berlin olympics. They proved to be the better men than Hitler, for sure.

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    1. I agree with you, Vickie. Those athletes were amazing.

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  6. This is fascinating history about Hitler's fascination with oaks!!! Thanks for sharing it!

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    1. Thank you, Becky. I'm so glad you enjoyed the history.

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  7. Wow! Thanks for this bit of history. I never knew! I guess someone didn't even want this information to become more prominent because of who Hitler was!

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    1. Paula, I don't think this is well known, but it sure is interesting. Thank you for stopping by.

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  8. I had heard of the swastika forest, but I never knew of the Olympic oaks. Makes me want to find one and visit it in a way. Not because it came from Hitler, per se, but because it proves that even though a person does/believes in bad things, sometimes they do have a little bit of good in them.

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  9. Thanks for the interesting post. I've researched lots about WWII, but have not heard of the Swastika forest or Hitler's Oaks. It's nice to know that some of the trees survived.

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