Timaru Boys’ High School is home to one of the world’s last living memories of Adolf Hitler, but just don’t mention his name. The school refers to their famous landmark as the ‘Lovelock Tree’.

Lovelock Tree (Hitler/Olympic Oak)

 “We’re very proud of that oak tree. It wasn’t given personally by Hitler, by the way.” Secretary at Timaru Boys’ High School


In 1936, a Berlin botanic nursery suggested to Adolf Hitler that he gift oak tree seedlings to every gold medallist at the Berlin Olympics that year. Hitler liked the idea because the baby trees would not only be a gift from the German people, but would fit well with the Nazi motto “blut unt boden” or “blood and soil”. The gift also aligned nicely with the party’s controversial status as an early advocate of the green movement. On top of this, the oak symbolized Hitler’s dream for the Third Reich: to grow tall and strong, and to last for a very long time.

Opening Ceremony Berlin Olympics 1936

Here is rare footage of the opening ceremony of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games:



Grown in the north German district of Elba, the year old ‘Olympic Oaks’  as they were called at the time, were presented to the winning athletes in terracotta pots featuring the Nazi Eagle with its talons tangled in the Olympic rings.

On the opening day of the ‘Nazi Games’, Hitler presented the young oaks to the winning German athletes but after that he refused to personally hand the prizes to winners because the Olympic Committee demanded he congratulate everyone – not just Germans. He had no interest in congratulating coloured athletes or those from the countries that would soon experience the terrors of the war he was planning at the time.  

Most of the 130 seedlings presented at the games are no longer traceable. However, one flourishes in the grounds of Timaru Boys’ High School. This seedling was presented to Kiwi athlete, John Edward Lovelock. Better known  as Jack Lovelock, the successful athlete was a pupil at the school between 1924 and 1928, becoming head prefect that last year. At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Lovelock won the gold medal in the 1500m sprint, setting a then-record time of 3:47.8. It was New Zealand’s sole gold in Germany, and the country’s first gold medal in athletics.

The race was one of the defining moments of the XI Olympiad, rivalled only by the famous success of Jesse Owens. On the podium, Lovelock was presented with the oak sapling by Dr Theodor Lewald, the chairman of the Reich’s Olympic Committee (ironically, of Jewish descent). In 1940, the baby oak tree found a permanent home when it was planted in the grounds of Lovelock’s old high school in Timaru.

Here is actual footage of the race and Lovelock receiving his sapling:



I have been to Timaru on numerous occasions but I never heard anybody mention the ‘Lovelock Tree’. It only came to my attention while doing research for my blogs. Despite the apparent lack of interest by the locals, people from a number of European countries have made a trip to the beautiful oak with the unique history. Pupils are not allowed around the tree as the grass beneath it is carefully protected by the school’s staff, not because of its Nazi associated origin, but because of the Jack Lovelock connection. The frames of all the rectors’ portraits are made from branches cut from the oak, and each year Timaru City holds the Lovelock Classic athletics event, where each winner is given a trophy made of oak from the tree.

Jack Lovelock


As well as the sapling, Jack Lovelock was also presented with a crystal chalice etched with the Third Reich’s Imperial Eagle and swastika. This was apparently personally presented to him by Adolf Hitler. Lovelock left the trophy in the care of a 14-year-old boy working at the Olympic village, saying it was too cumbersome to carry on the long sea voyage to New Zealand. The boy kept the chalice throughout World War II, but after Lovelock died in 1949, it was sold in auction to a private collector. The crystal trophy came up for auction again in 2005 and was bought on New Zealand’s behalf by Coca Cola. The company refused to divulge the purchase price but said it ran to tens of thousands of dollars.

Nazi Crystal Chalice

Unlike the oak tree, the origin of the chalice is clear to see with the swastika and Nazi eagle engraved around it. This chilling reminder of the most violent regime in history gives the Olympic trophy its value. It is currently displayed in the library at Timaru Boys’ High School along with other Lovelock memorabilia.

After the Olympic Games, Jack Lovelock moved to the USA and became a doctor in New York. In 1949 he fell onto the tracks at a Brooklyn subway station and was killed by an oncoming train. There is some controversy surrounding his death, some suggesting it was suicide, others saying is was simply a dizzy spell.


In recent years, many of the ‘Hitler Oaks’ have been destroyed because of their association with the Nazis. One survives in the USA. Britain’s last one was cut down in 2007 because it developed a fungal disease. Myths now surround the whereabouts of the other trees. Eighty years on, the ‘Lovelock Oak’ in the grounds of Timaru Boys’ High School, is one of the two remaining seedlings originally presented at the 1936 Olympic Games.


While on the subject, here are two more fascinating stories involving trees in New Zealand. Swamp kauri found in various parts of the upper North Island, dates back 150,000 years making it the oldest preserved wood in the world. The wood was trapped in swampy soil without oxygen thus protecting it from decay. Around 100,000 years later, more kauri trees were preserved the same way. This precious wood is able to be used and is the oldest workable wood in the world. However, it takes 7 years to fully dry it before it can be used.

In the 1800s, early settlers discovered the gum from the rotting trees could be extracted and a lucrative gum industry resulted. However, they didn’t have the technology to remove the huge tree trunks. This has only been possible in the past 40 years with heavy lifting machinery able to do the job. Recently, it has been discovered that unscrupulous people have been stealing the precious wood and selling it offshore. Fortunately, safeguards have been put in place to closely monitor the harvest and distribution of this remarkable gift of nature.

Beautiful Swamp Kauri


The Californian native, Pinus Radiata was first introduced to New Zealand in 1859 when a small number of trees were planted in Canterbury. During the depression of the 1930s, the government used unemployed workers to plant over 164,000 acres of the hardy tree, with 104,000 acres covered east of Lake Taupo, making it the largest planted forest in the world. By 1970, this forest had expanded to 122,000 acres. In 2011, Pinus Radiata was growing on 1,544,000 acres across both the North and South Islands, making up 90% of New Zealand’s exotic forest. The timber from this vast number of pine trees has been the basis for one of the country’s main exports, with the timber currently being exported to 7 countries.

There might be over a million pine trees in New Zealand but none of them has the unique history of one special tree spreading its strong, aging branches over the grounds of Timaru Boys’ High School.

Ceidrik Heward


  1. I came across your website whilst searching for info having recently seen the Hitler’s Oak in How Hill in Ludham, Norfolk, UK.

    Although the oak tree took some shrapnel from a German WW2 bomb and was badly damaged by the Great Storm of 1987, it was honey fungus disease which finally killed it off, and the tree had to be felled.

    A memorial carving was commissioned from the trunk of the tree.This was based on a photograph of the gold medal winning boat the Lalage, the British gold medal winning yacht in the 1936 Olympics.

    Website here:


  2. Judy Keller says

    There is another living “Hitler Oak” in Connellsville, PA, USA. It was awarded to John Woodruff, 1935 graduate of Connellsville High School. He won the GOLD MEDAL in the 800 meter run and brought the tree home . It is now standing tall on the outside of the track at our high school football/ track and field stadium.

    • Thanks for the comment Judy. It was good to read about another Hitler Oak. I didn’t find reference to one in America when researching that blog.

    • Choong Hun Lee says

      Does that tree have acorns? The 1936 Olympics were won by Korean athlete Son Ki-Jung, but for reasons not well known, the tree was replaced with an American oak. We’re looking for descendants of the original tree.
      Best regards,

      • Thanks for the question Chlee.

        I would think the tree has acorns but I’m sure if you contact the Timaru school mentioned in the blog, they will be able to confirm this.

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