USC Nazi Tree

Text: Okay, so I heard from other people that the tree in front of that restaurant on campus, they say was donated by a Nazi.


Informant is a freshman at USC studying Aerospace Engineering, originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma. We are sitting in a USC dining hall as she shares between bites of her pancake. She is excited and enthusiastic as she remembers her stories, using frequent hand gestures to emphasize her points.

“I heard about this from other students at USC, and I think I did kinda believe them, even though I never researched it myself. The tree they’re talking about is pretty big and noticeable. It kind of makes me feel skeptical, like I don’t really know if I belief this. It doesn’t really make sense though the more I think about it.”

Analysis: This folk narrative about there being a tree donated by a Nazi at USC is an example of a legend. This legend proves how beliefs are crafted as a social process, because of how this legend was spread through word-of-mouth, even if some like the informant are not convinced of its truth. There is definitely an aesthetic to this belief, especially since said tree is quite eye-catching and unique, so it is exciting to have this sort of legend about it. People might find this type of legend more enticing because it is more of a “friend-of-a-friend” legend as the source cited is just by fellow peers.