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Ovation: The Chestnut Tree Outside Anne Frank’s Attic Will Live To Promote Tolerance In The U.S.

03/26/2013

AnneFrankChestnutTreeSome of the best adventures of my childhood took place in my grandparents’ back yard.  Their property bordered along a golf course and it was always so exciting to hunt for lost golf balls in the grasses along the fairway.  They also had an enormous weeping willow tree in their back yard.  My grandmother always had a branch or two in a bucket of water waiting to sprout roots so that she could share them with her friends who could grow a tree of their own.  It was easy to cultivate a new weeping willow tree, but I wanted to grow my own pussy willow!  They had a beautiful, full, mature pussy willow tree beside their driveway.  I still want one!  Unfortunately, it was not quite as easy to convince this tree to germinate new growth with only a bucket of water.  Again and again my experiments lead to nothing but a dead wet stick until, eventually, my grandmother wouldn’t let me chop away at her beautiful tree any longer.

Saplings from the chestnut tree that Anne Frank saw from the window of her family’s attic hideaway as she wrote in her famous diary will live on.  The huge chestnut tree was one of the Jewish teenager’s only connections to the world beyond her window, as she hid from the Nazis for two years in the attic of her father’s office in Amsterdam, and was mentioned several times in the diary that she kept during the twenty-five months she remained indoors until her family was arrested in August 1944.  The old tree was diseased and rotted when wind and heavy rain brought it down in August 2010.

Next month, saplings from the famous tree will be planted in eleven U.S. locations beginning with the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.  Other locations, chosen by The Anne Frank Center USA, include a park memorializing 9/11 victims in New York City, an Arkansas high school at the heart of a 1957 “Little Rock Nine” desegregation battle and Holocaust centers in Michigan and Washington state.  The locations were chosen based a commitment to equality, demonstration of the consequences of intolerance or historical significance to civil rights and social justice in the United States.

The tree is referenced several times in the diary that Anne Frank kept during the 25 months she remained indoors until her family was arrested in August 1944.

“Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs.  From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind.” – Anne Frank, February 23, 1944

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is taking the lead in producing educational materials, focusing heavily on the humanities and presenting the tree through selections of her diary as a symbol of renewal, that will accompany the saplings.

The concept of living history should not be lost on us.  For me, it’s hard to believe that there are buildings in Europe that are older than the nation in which I live.

How wonderful it would be if I had been able to grow a new pussy willow all those years ago.  It would be a wonderful living memorial to the memories that I made with my grandparents in much the same way as the chestnut saplings might inspire tolerance in years to come.

Have you ever planted a special memorial tree?

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5 Comments
  1. This is a wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing it.

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  2. I wish more people would think this way!

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  3. This is so cool. It reminds us of our humanity in the midst of cruelty that she was hiding from. The closest thing we ever did was buy a Christmas tree with a root ball, which we planted later. Never do this, as the root ball aborbs the water and his heavier than you know what. It was at a our first house and last time I checked it was still standing. That was 25 years ago when it was planted. Take care, BTG

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    • We tried the Live Christmas Tree idea only one time, too. We dug the hole in the fall before the ground froze deep and worked to keep the poor thing alive. It didn’t die but it didn’t look good either. When we sold the house, there was a scrawny “Charlie Brown Christmas” tree left behind. I won’t do that again.

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