USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Nazi’

The Nazi Tree

Main piece:

The legend goes that VKC (who was a Nazi and a eugenicist in addition to being President of the University [of Southern California]) got a donation of a tree from the Nazi party that’s still on campus today.

Some people think that it’s the Fig tree by Moreton Fig, but that’s definitely not right. If you dig around it’s supposed to be an oak tree behind Bovard.

Now, a ton of people deny this – including administrators. But I am pretty sure that it’s the one on the back corner of Bovard – closest to the old Annenburg building. I’m sure that if more people knew, they’d want to cut it down or something. But for now, we’ve got a Nazi tree on campus.


Drew is a sixth generation Trojan, and is a Trojan Knight. He is intimately familiar with USC’s history and culture.


Recently, USC’s former president Rufus B. Von KleinSmid has come under fire for his Nazi affiliations. The Nazi tree story plays into this contemporary controversy.


Trees are inherently monumental. That a progressive and diverse college campus like USC could have a flagrant and distasteful symbol on campus as a Nazi tree is entertaining in a sick way. It’s also a little mysterious that there is uncertainty about which tree is the Nazi tree. It adds to the drama of the story, and causes more mental nagging on the part of USC students who hear the story. Any tree could be the Nazi tree.

Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Nazi Deathcamp Catch Joke

My informant is a Caucasian American who grew up in Los Altos, California. He performed this catch joke on me when we were casually talking in the suite of my college dormitory:

“Collector: It’s weird how hilarious holocaust death camp jokes are…I mean, they’re terrible!

Informant: Hey, don’t make fun of that. My grandfather died in a camp like that.

Collector: Wait–what? What? I’m sorry.

Informant: Yeah, you dick, he died–he fell off a watch tower. [Laughter]“

This is a catch joke in the style where the performer catches his target and then subverts his expectations. In this case, the catch was making the target (me) feel bad for making a Holocaust joke and insulting the memory of his grandfather. The subversion was telling me that his grandfather fell off a watch tower and implying that his grandfather was a Nazi.

The fact that this joke was performed suggests the de-sensitization of the taboo surrounding atrocities of the Holocaust among the younger generation.