(photo credit: Archives)
While Anne Frank and her family were hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam, her
sole connections to nature were birds, the sky and a white horse chestnut tree
outside her secret annex’s window.
RELATED:Yad Vashem collecting personal items from HolocaustAnne Frank Tree falls
The tree, mentioned in the teenager’s
famous diary, collapsed during a storm on August 23, 2010 – but its likeness
will be unveiled for the Israeli public on May 2, for Holocaust Remembrance
A monument to the tree will be dedicated in the Anne Frank Memorial
Park in the Martyrs Forest, on the outskirts of Jerusalem at 2 p.m. The Jewish
National Fund is organizing the ceremony.
Guests will include the Dutch
ambassador to Israel, Michiel den Hond; Ronald Leopold, executive director of
the Anne Frank House; JNF-KKL Chairman Efi Stenzler; Christoph Knoch, a member
of the board of the Anne Frank Foundation in Basel, Switzerland and Eli Van Dam,
CEO of JNF-KKL Holland.
The memorial consists of three dunams of
pathways, which include signs with passages from Frank’s diary translated into
Hebrew. The paths lead to an open room, symbolizing the annex where Frank hid.
Visitors can sit on a chair at one end of the room and look at the opposite
wall, where they can view the wilderness via the outline of a large
“Anne Frank suffered like many others, but today, at least we can
have a monument in Israel in her name,” said Stenzler. “Israelis will be able to
come to share her feelings and her thoughts. If Israel existed in the ’40s,
maybe the Shoah would not have happened.”
The project was created by Piet
Cohen, an artist and designer originally from the Netherlands.
selected because, like Frank, he was a Dutch Jew who hid from the Nazis and
their collaborators during the Holocaust.
Cohen was hidden by a Catholic
family in the southern part of the country, and made aliya in
JNF-KKL Holland raised money for the monument, which took almost a
year to complete.
The original tree, which at over 170 years old, was one
of Amsterdam’s oldest chestnut trees, was diagnosed with a disease in 2005. When
municipal authorities wanted to cut it down, community members, tree experts and
the staff of Bomenstichting (the Dutch national tree foundation) mobilized. The
Support Anne Frank Tree Foundation, established in December 2007, fitted the
tree with a metal support structure in April 2008.
Before the tree and
its support mechanism collapsed, the Anne Frank House staff gathered fallen
chestnuts from the yard where it stood. Some of the chestnuts were germinated,
and the saplings given to schools named for Frank, as well as parks and other
organizations. Others were preserved and gifted by JNF-KKl Holland to the
The tree’s remains were donated to Jewish museums in
Tel Aviv, Amsterdam, Berlin and New York. The Anne Frank House obtained
Frank mentioned the tree three times in her diary. In her
entry dated February 23, 1944, she wrote, “The two of us looked out at the blue
sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls and other birds
glinting with silver as they swooped through the air, and we were so moved and
entranced that we couldn’t speak.”
During a speech her father Otto gave
in 1968, he noted, “How could I have known how much it meant to Anne to see a
patch of blue sky, to observe the seagulls as they flew, and how important the
chestnut tree was for her, when I think that she never showed any interest in
Still, she longed for it when she felt like a bird in a cage.
Only the thought of the freedom of nature gave her comfort. But she kept all
those feelings to herself.”
The secret annex, in which Frank also hid
with her sister and four other Jews for two years, was raided on August 4, 1944.
Frank died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany in March 1945, at
“The [Dutch] embassy is very happy that Anne Frank’s legacy is
maintained in this way,” den Hond said. “It is her story of hope and tragedy
that reminds us of the human dimension of the inconceivable enormity of the
crime that we call the Holocaust.”
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