The Oak Jozef, a 650-year-old English Oak in the Wisniowa region of southeast Poland, has long been a Polish symbol of pride. In 1934, its image proudly appeared on the 100-Zloty bill—and that was before it performed one of its most remarkable feats, hiding two Jewish brothers in its trunk during the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II.
The brothers reportedly took shelter in the lower, larger hollow of the tree, while the upper section of the hollow was used as a lookout point. They are believed to have been in hiding after escaping from either the Nazi-established Fryszstak ghetto, or a nearby labor camp. They were shown the old English Oak by one of many Poles who aided Jews during the war, and successfully survived the occupation. Their fate after the war is unknown.
As for the fate of the Oak Jozef, it was named the 2017 “European Tree of the Year” for its historic significance, narrowly beating out the 500-year-old Brimmon Oak in Wales. The beloved tree is located on the grounds of a mansion owned by the Mycielskis, a noble Polish family, which became an intellectual centre in the region that still attracts visitors today.