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While promoting her new film Nanny McPhee in Amsterdam on February 1, British actress Emma Thompson lent a hand to the Anne Frank House museum by agreeing to launch its new web site. "Anne Frank Tree" (www.annefranktree.com), the third web site produced by the Anne Frank museum, offers a platform for people around the world to express their feelings about Anne Frank and her story.
The centerpiece of the web site is a cyber "chestnut tree" - a replica of the tree Frank could see from her attic while in hiding. Visitors to the site can place their name on a leaf of the cyber tree and attach a story or poem about what the young heroic figure means to them.
Thompson placed her name on the first leaf to formally dedicate the project. In speaking to the attending audience, she said she read Frank's book many times as a youngster and continued to reread it as an adult. Thompson was grateful to be asked to the launch, and felt it was also fitting that an actress be asked to do the honors.
"[Anne Frank] knew about all films, all the stories, all the stars, all the reviews. She knew them all, even within her confinement," Thompson said before she placed her name on a leaf. "I think that she'd quite like an actress to have done this."
But Thompson said she believes that if Frank were alive today she would not have gone into acting.
"I think if she'd lived, she would have written books. She would have helped others. She would have used her extraordinary intelligence to organize our thoughts about the world. I think she would have loved generously and without prejudice.
"I think she would have had great courage. I think she would have spoken up for the dispossessed. And I think she would have tried to storm the invisible barriers that separate human beings and keep us in such conflict."
The Anne Frank Tree web site also contains video clips of notable figures who have been inspired by Frank. Nelson Mandela, for instance, relates how reading The Diary of Anne Frank gave him strength while imprisoned on Robben Island.
The site is also a tool for students in the more than 200 schools around the world that bear Anne Frank's name. Students can present their various projects and share their experiences. Site developers plan to eventually link up the schools through the site so they can have a platform to connect with each other directly.