A 65-foot pear tree, a centuries-old lime tree, and a bonsai growing from the top of a pigeon house have all been named Europe’s Tree of the Year in contests past. On March 21, it was announced that an English Oak that saved the lives of two brothers during World War II won this year's title.
The Oak Józef has stood in the Wisniowa region of Poland for 650 years. According to Atlas Obscura, its shining moment came in World War II when a pair of Jewish brothers used the tree to hide from Nazis. The story goes that after escaping either the Fryszstak ghetto or a nearby labor camp, a Pole helping Jews at the time directed them to the safety of the tree. The brothers used a hollow in the lower trunk for shelter and peered out from the upper trunk to assess their surroundings. The oak protected them for the remainder of the Nazi occupation and today it sits on the property of a wealthy Polish family.
The winning tree received 17,597 online votes, beating 200 contestants for the top honor. The Brimmon Oak in Wales, which comes short of Oak Józef in age by about 150 years, nabbed the second-place slot.
[h/t Atlas Obscura]