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The BBC's Rob Broomby in Berlin
"The Communists apparently knew it was there but did nothing about it"
 real 56k

Monday, 4 December, 2000, 19:58 GMT
German forest loses swastika
Foresters in the German state of Brandenburg have removed a massive swastika from the landscape.

The swastika was believed to have been planted to celebrate wartime leader Adolf Hitler's birthday in the 1930s and its existence had been all but forgotten until German reunification.

Forestry worker fells larch
Around 25 trees were felled
The massive Nazi symbol, about 20 metres square in size, could only be seen from the air in the autumn weeks when the larch trees turn yellowish brown and stand out against the evergreen forest.

As foresters began their task, a new row came to light, involving a furniture shop which has provoked outrage by selling products with names from the Nazi past.

Pilgrimage fear

The Brandenburg State authorities, concerned about damage to the region's image, decided the swastika must go.

Work began at first light and around 25 trees were felled in all so that the symbol was removed without sacrificing too much forest.

Each larch was carefully numbered to conform with environmental rules.

Adolf Hitler
The trees were planted as a personal tribute to Hitler
Details of the trees emerged when aerial photographs mapping the forest were released from the East German archives after reunification.

The communist authorities knew it was there but did nothing about it.

Some have suggested it was laid out to prove the loyalty of local people after a businessman in the area was denounced and sent to a concentration camp by the Nazis for listening to the BBC.

One attempt has already been made to hack down that part of the forest in the early 1990s, but the trees have rapidly regrown, to the embarrassment of the authorities.

They are determined it will not become a pilgrimage site for followers of the far right.

Furniture furore

The ads represent a clear glorification of the Third Reich

Jewish leader Michael Fuerst
Meanwhile, the Svetia furniture shop in Hildesheim, south of Hanover, has caused a row of historical proportions since it began selling products with highly dubious Nazi names.

Items for sale include the hard-wearing "Adolf" sofa, or the bulky "Hermann", a settee named after Reichsmarschall Goering.

After that comes the durable "Rommel" bookshelf, or the ever-practical "Franco" wall unit.

I simply passed along the names that my suppliers provided

Store owner Franz-Georg Schwetje
The German Jewish community is up in arms and the local Chamber of Commerce is considering legal action against the firm.

The gimmick has been condemned as totally tasteless.

The shop, however, maintains it is selling products under the name offered by the manufacturer.

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See also:

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