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Decades after World War II ended, several forests around Germany quietly bloomed into giant swastikas every autumn as deciduous larch trees bloomed into yellow and eventually brown, surrounded by pine trees that stay green all year.
In the spring and summer months the swastikas would fade into the background, invisible even from the air. But the question of who planted them remains an unsolved mystery.
The local forester, Klaus Göricke, set out to uncover the origin of the troubling larch formation, and he found out that the trees had been there for a long time. By measuring the trees, he came to the conclusion they had been planted in the late 1930s.
That means that for decades, during every spring and autumn, a massive swastika took shape in the Kutzerower Heath -- surviving the Russian occupation, Communist rule in East Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall without ever attracting notice.
The fact that it went undiscovered for so long was in part due to the short period of time each year that it was visible. Furthermore, it could only be seen from a certain altitude, and the airplanes that headed north out of Berlin were already much too high for passengers to see the swastika in the forest. Private planes, on the other hand, were forbidden in East Germany.
It didn't take long for rumors to spread about how the swastika got there in the first place. A local farmer claimed that he had planted the trees as a child, with a forester paying him a few cents for each seedling he put in the ground.
Others reported that it was put there as a sign of loyalty after a nearby villager had been taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp by the Nazis because he had secretly been listening to the BBC. Still another version holds that a local Nazi leader ordered the trees planted on the occasion of Hitler's birthday. Finally, the Berliner Zeitung newspaper reported that it was planted in gratitude to the Reich Labor Service for building a street in Zernikow.