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August 23rd, 2010
10:59 AM ET

Tree beloved by Anne Frank falls down

Editor's note: If you've got pictures of the historic Anne Frank tree send them to CNN I-report.  We'll post some of the best ones.  Here's an early submission.

A chestnut tree beloved by Holocaust victim Anne Frank as she wrote her diary in hiding in the Netherlands fell down Monday, the Anne Frank House museum told CNN. The tree, which was more than 150 years old, had been diseased since 2005 and had a support structure to help keep it upright.

But it fell early Monday afternoon, Anne Frank House representative Maatje Mostart said. "It's a pity. It's an important tree," she said. "Anne Frank looked down on it from her hiding place. It was the only piece of nature she could see." "Something went wrong with the support," she added. "Happily it fell the right way. It didn't fall on the secret annex or on a person, so that was a relief for us."

Frank, a teenage girl whose diary of her time in hiding during World War II was published after she died in the Holocaust, mentions the tree three times in her writings. "Our chestnut tree is in full bloom. It's covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year," she wrote in May 1944, shortly before she and her family were discovered and deported to concentration camps.

Since the tree was found to be diseased, hundreds of saplings grown from its chestnuts have been donated to schools and parks around the world, the Anne Frank Museum said.

Frank admired the tree from the attic window of the secret annex where her family hid for two years, before being betrayed. "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," she wrote on February 23, 1944. "As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be."

The spring before her family and the others hiding with them were captured, the girl focused on the tree's budding life - and her own.
"Our chestnut tree is already quite greenish and you can even see little blooms here and there," she wrote on April 18, 1944. Two days earlier, she'd recorded her first kiss.

Frank died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen just weeks before the Nazi concentration camp was liberated in 1945. But her name, story and message live on through her diary and, also, through her ailing tree. A fungus had left two-thirds of it hollow, said Anne Frank House spokeswoman Annemarie Bekker. A battle began in late 2007 between city officials who wanted to chop it down and activists who insisted it should stay.

But a court injunction, a second-opinion analysis and a committee mobilization left it standing until Monday, barely alive and supported by steel. The tree was a horse chestnut, which is often called a buckeye tree in the United States and a conker tree in the United Kingdom. Through a project and contest launched last year by the Anne Frank Center USA, a New York-based educational nonprofit working with the museum in Amsterdam, 11 sites in the United States will see Frank's tree blossom. They range from the White House and various museums and memorials to a high school that changed U.S. history. A handful of winning applications were driven by youth inspired by Frank– who would be 80 if she'd survived - and her diary.

One girl in Boston, Massachusetts,12-year-old Aliyah Finkel, felt an immediate connection to the writer, so much so that she chose to have her bat mitzvah - the coming of age ceremony for Jewish girls - in the synagogue Frank's family attended in Amsterdam before they went into hiding. "It wasn't just a diary written by some person, it was written by a 13-year-old girl," Finkel said. "I was interested in the story of her life. She had so much hope. There are some parts [of the diary] that are really sad, but it's more inspiring." With the help of her family, and contacts they have with local officials, Finkel's inspired push will bring a tree to Boston Common and lessons about tolerance to the city's public schools.

Farther South, a public school in Arkansas, the only one in the nation to become a national historic site, will also see an Anne Frank tree bloom. Little Rock Central High School senior John Allen Riggins, 17, heard about the contest last summer while listening to National Public Radio. His school was racially integrated in 1957 by the "Little Rock Nine," a development that proved a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights movement. An avid follower of history and politics, Riggins saw parallels between Anne Frank's legacy and that of the Arkansas students. "From all across the world, in different time periods and different social struggles, young people have been caught up in history and these social tensions have come down upon them," Riggins said. "Anne Frank was 14 when she was hiding, and the youngest of the nine was 14."

For Elaine Leeder, it was in many ways her father's youth, and by extension her own, that made her reach out for a part of the tree. The dean of social sciences at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California, Leeder is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. Her father lost his mother, sister and brother when they were taken to a pit outside their Lithuanian village and gunned down along with about 2,000 other Jews. "The shades were always drawn in my house. We were afraid of neighbors," she said, describing the legacy she carried. "I became a genocide scholar over the years because of my personal story."

The sapling she competed for will be nurtured in the university's Holocaust Camp; Genocide Memorial Grove, where genocides across time are remembered. Beside it will be a sign quoting Frank: "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." Much of what his daughter wrote came as a surprise to Otto Frank, the family's sole survivor. He retrieved the diary and eventually published it after World War II. More than 30 million copies have been sold.

In a speech he gave in 1968, according to the Anne Frank House, he spoke of the reactions he had upon first reading his daughter's words. "How could I have suspected that it meant so much to Anne to see a patch of blue sky, to observe the gulls during their flight and how important the chestnut tree was to her, as I recall that she never took an interest in nature," he said. "But she longed for it during that time when she felt like a caged bird."

It turns out the saplings selected for sites in the United States are caged themselves. When they arrived in the country in December, the young trees were seized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Because of sicknesses ravaging horse chestnuts in Europe, the trees will remain in quarantine for three years.

But even as the original tree finally falls, pieces of it are growing strong, reaching for blue skies and welcoming birds across the globe - a living legacy to a girl who understood what life could promise.

Editor's Note: Belief Blog contributor Jess Ravitz posted an indepth look at the tree earlier. Check it out here

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Europe • Judaism

soundoff (326 Responses)
  1. Miriam

    Thank God the Russian army came blasting into the Reichstag and blew them to smithereens. Between the Yanks and the Russians, the Germans should stay pummeled to death.

    August 23, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
  2. RDW

    lol FelipeBR, I wasn't expecting that......I think wikileaks is a hero myself

    August 23, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
  3. rmse

    The issues of religion, color, sex, sexual preference etc. will go away when people stop talking about them and wearing them on their sleeves. There is no right or wrong to any of these things, they just are. No one has the right to assert their beliefs on to anyone for any reason whatsoever. History is just that, history. And we can learn not to repeat the mistakes of humans by learning history. But today, and moving forward, growth can only be accomplished by understanding that who we are as individuals only makes us individuals, nothing more. No one (or group) is better or worse for something or some belief. If you are a good person, you are that – a good person. If you are not, then you aren't. Your religion makes you neither. Nor so your color, your sex, etc. Stop preaching. Live your life as best as you can, without hurting or taking advantage of others. Stop trying to "defend" your beliefs. Start living by them. Quietly.

    August 23, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
  4. RDW

    I wonder if theres a similiar story to Anne Frank's, but this time in Iraq the past 7 years. A young girl in hiding hoping that the Americans won't find and kill her like the other 100K+ civilians we murdered.

    August 23, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
    • FelipeBR

      you will have to ask that to wikileaks.

      August 23, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
    • Scooty

      RDW your an idiot and unamerican!

      August 23, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
    • FastEddie

      @Scooty

      If RDW is merely scorning the insanity of war, as we all should, then take it as that instead of some anti-US-troops rant.

      August 23, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
  5. Valerie

    God allows evil to exist in order to draw good from it.

    God is capable of drawing good from EVERYTHING.

    Souls are strenthened through SUFFERING. I laugh at some of you people trying to argue God does not exist. Prove he DOESN'T. You can't. And if you don't believe in God, you better hope you are right.

    August 23, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
    • FelipeBR

      you are nuts!

      August 23, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
    • Luke

      Valerie – Care to join me down at the Children's cancer ward at NY Hospital this weekend?

      August 23, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
    • Kate

      @Valerie

      Come to Walter Reed with me next time and tell them that it's strengthening their souls.

      August 23, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
    • Luke

      Valerie – By the way; that's the weakest argument for god I've ever read in my entire life. Prove he doesn't! HA! you really got me there. I should walk away with my tail between my legs, eh? It's an interesting argument you got there. Well, the burden of proof is not mine, Valerie. You are asking me to prove a negative; like asking me to prove that unicorns do not exist. It's basically like trying to divide by zero and the oldest thing in the book of arsenal you've got. However, to humor you – I don't have to prove there is no god. All I have to do is pick apart the claims of the bible and disprove it piece by piece, which I can do given the time. After that, why would I believe in the rest of the book if I have disproved nugget after nugget. So, now...humor me please. If the Creation story states that trees were created before the sun and the entire scientific record indicates that no life on earth existed before the sun (and subsequently before the earth), how did that happen?

      August 23, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
    • Tanja

      I agree – you are SICK! What good comes out of suffering of millions? "We" learn the "lesson"?!
      As "we" sit in our comfortable homes and watch HD TVs?

      August 23, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
    • Valerie

      Felipe, Luke & Kate..............you have all read, but NONE of you have understood.

      And I will leave it at that.

      August 23, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
    • Zena

      Why don't you go prop yoursef on the cross too, so we can understand.

      August 23, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
    • Chaim

      @Valerie

      I think I see where you're coming from, but I don't agree with you...and yet the comfort of your beliefs must work for you, so I will leave you to what comfort you find in your beliefs. May you find peace in this life and whatever comes next.

      August 23, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
    • Luke

      Valerie – I take a lot of offense to that, seeing that you know zilch of my life, what I have been through, know nothing of my upbringing, do not know the real suffering I've experienced with disease and death surrounding me. Pardon me, but take your words of advice and shove off.

      August 23, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
  6. Lolacaust

    Anne Frank? Is that the deaf chick who flew across the atlantic? LOL! HISTORY!

    August 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
    • Ala McDurka

      Ahhhh, durka durka durka.

      August 23, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
    • FelipeBR

      no, she walked from africa

      August 23, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
    • Scooty

      WHat an idioy! You must be under 50 years old!

      August 23, 2010 at 4:18 pm |
    • Scooty's Retarded? I think so!

      Scooty, Scooty Scooty. You must be over 90, because you I don't think satires existed back then.

      Also, you spelled idiot wrong. Kind of ironic.

      August 23, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
    • Gretchen

      Grow UP, lola and get a life.

      August 24, 2010 at 4:00 pm |
  7. dave

    WE have free will to choose good or evil. Just b/c some people pray for the Cowboys to win, does not mean that God made the Cowboys win or made Anne Frank die. No one in the history or the world killed more people than Stalin and Mao, two atheists. Evil comes from greed, jealousy, fear, anger, pride, and the misuse of religion. YOu like science??? What else is Eugenics except the misuse of science to do evil. Eugenics came from American scientists who wanted to castrate balck people. Hitler and Gobbels borrowed the ideas from Americans to come up with the idea of the master race.

    August 23, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
  8. TYRANNASAURUS

    ANNE FRANKS IS A TRULY SAD STORY....BUT THE TREE WAS OLD AND DYING AS LIVING THINGS DO SO LET'S NOT GET ALL RELIGIOUSLY MEANINGFUL OVER IT.

    August 23, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
    • FelipeBR

      The tree gave it life uo so the grass could live.....

      August 23, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  9. Naveed

    If she was here today, she would be heurt to see things have not change. Hate mongers are out in full force in NYC.

    Anne Frank, you are in my heart and as long as it beats, you shall live.

    August 23, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
    • dave

      So, you are comparing the people who think the Islamic cultural center/mosque near ground zero is a provocation to the Nazis ---- NICE - how many millions of people have been killed by the protestors - how many lampshades have they made out of human skin. How many gold teeth have they pulled from corpses.

      August 23, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
    • Kate

      @dave

      Unfortunately I think Godwin's Law is invalidated when the discussion is about anything to do with the Nazi's to begin with, but I agree with you, this was a way wrong comparison to draw.

      There is *nothing* that compares to the systematic planned slaughter of 12 million people – a slaughter that would have grown even worse if it hadn't been for the defeat of the Nazis. It's an insult to all of them to even think of bringing it up in comparison with anything else.

      August 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
    • Naveed

      Dear Dave, obviously you lack the historical understanding, of the progression that led to the slaughter of millions of Jews. I said nothing about the Islamic Center in NYC! It is your own subconscious that is reminding you of your own demons.
      In Germany, before "lampshades were made out of human skin and gold teeth were pulled from corpses", it started with well financed and organized hate speech against the Jews , followed by burning books and eventually the carnage that humanity will never be able to outlive.
      By the way, remember the Japanese Americans!! I am an anti-hate mongers who has contempt for hypocrites.

      August 23, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
    • Naveed

      Dear Kate, those who deny the history tend to repeat the history. What happened to NEVER AGAIN? We cannot turn a blind eye to any kind of racism.

      August 23, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
    • Desert Sky

      "Those who deny the history tend to repeat the history" So how do you explain the atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinians?

      August 23, 2010 at 8:43 pm |
    • Naveed

      Mr. Sky, No, I can not explain the atrocities that are committed againt Palestinians by their corrupt leadership that is squandering billions of dollars that have been sent to them either. Insted of purchasing weapons to attack Israel, they should feed their people and uplift thier lives.

      No self-respecting nation can tolerate the carnage that has been committed by the Palestinians suicide bombers. Israelis are not interested in being pushed into the sea, it is fantasy that Hamas need to forego. Oh yes, what are these public hangings of civilians by Hamas...... ?

      August 23, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
  10. Steven

    Let this be a lesson to all of you: never plant a tree – because there is no point.

    August 23, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
    • TYRANNASAURUS

      THEY DO PRODUCE OXYGEN DON'T THEY I KNOW.

      August 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
  11. huntress50

    Please, let's also nor forget that 13 million people were murdered in those camps. My grandfather was one of them...a Lutheran minister. All of those lives lost were important, regardless of religion, or anything else.

    August 23, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
  12. jon

    God is not to blame for the Holocaust, Man is. If God would have prevented it would anyone thank him or even care to?
    The fact is, man has dominated man to his ruin. Remember the meek will inherit the earth someday. You will see your tree again Ann.

    August 23, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
  13. Chainsaw McGraw

    Why all the fuss? Its a bloody tree! Get over it and just plant a new one!
    Thank you CNN!

    August 23, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
    • Chainsaw McGraw

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cClxs3j_I6E&fs=1&hl=en_US]

      August 23, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
    • dave

      the fuss is not about the tree the fuss is abut remembering the girl and all the errible things that were done

      August 23, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
    • RDW

      I see that you got no love! Everyone is entiled to their opinion. So cool........Why doesn't someone go out and find the cure for the disease instead of complaining.

      August 23, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
    • Jina

      You're right, it's just a tree. So I guess we should tear up Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson's plantation, Mount Rushmore, and Graceland too. They're occupying valuable land that could be put to better use, and it's all in the past after all, right?

      August 23, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
    • Chainsaw McGraw

      Jina, finally someone else understands!!!! Mount Vernon, Mount Rushmore, and Graceland should be torn down and returned to those who laid claim first. Afterall, those locations were purchased in blood from those who lived off the land first. 😛

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R-FZsysQNw&fs=1&hl=en_US]

      August 24, 2010 at 6:20 am |
  14. summarex

    Oh Rick! So then, assuming those tales are true, the Vatican was somehow morally obliged to help the winners of WW2 round up their enemies so they could try them in kangaroo and hang them! Your sense of entitlement is absolutely amazing. But I'm not going to waste any more time arguing with a guy who knows history from being there since he is probably dead. I don't debate the dead.

    August 23, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
  15. summarex

    test

    August 23, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
  16. edog355

    You religious nuts are all crazy.

    August 23, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
    • A Greatest Generation Grandaughter

      Because the article is about religion – are you able to leave a legitimate response or relative comment?

      August 23, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
  17. summarex

    How about that! My comments are now being moderated!

    Oh really Rick! So then, assuming those tales are true, the Vatican was somehow morally obliged to help the winners of WW2 round up their enemies so they could try them in kangaroo and hang them! Your sense of entitlement is absolutely amazing. But I'm not going to waste any more time arguing with a guy who knows history from being there since he is probably dead. I don't debate the dead.

    August 23, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
  18. FelipeBR

    Are they going to burn it?

    August 23, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
  19. Laura

    Americangurl, I was unemployed for several years, but somehow I don't think I suffered as much as those that were in concentration camps wondering every day if that was the day they would be killed. You obviously have no idea what some people have lived though.

    August 23, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
    • Luke

      Laura – I had the absolute pleasure to growing up living next door to an Auschwitz survivor. I told me stories and showed me first hand photographs he took from the camp after being liberated by the Russians and Americans. I held a real photograph of the walking dead taking by US troops, one of which has General Eisenhower looking into a pit of dead bodies. When he was 75, he had a stroke. I visited him in the hospital. After talking for 10 minutes, he asked for a cigarette. I told him that he had to quit now – strokes are caused by smoking. He said something I'll never forget. "Luke, if Hitler can't kill me, nothing can." I gave him the Lucky Strike. He smoked until his death 10 years later of natural causes. No one here knows what human suffering is. I suppose I got just a marginal taste growing up listening to his stories.

      August 23, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • Kate

      @Luke

      Thank you for that

      August 23, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
    • Americangurl

      @Laura No I don't care what those people went through! And you know why? It was 70 years ago! I live in the hear and now not in the past the way you do. Grow a brain and realize this is the 21st century and stop the croc tears for people you dont even know and who wouldn't care if you did!

      August 23, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
    • Luke

      Americangurl – You're the reason why we can't have nice things in this world.

      August 23, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
    • A Greatest Generation Grandaughter

      Born with a silver spoon......even if it was just walmart and dominos. Spoiled and never really experienced horror. Some people can empathize. Some people have a stone-cold heart and are selfish. You just have to look past them.

      August 23, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
  20. rick

    Wow summarex your ignorance is quite evident. While Catholics owe nothing to any particular race, Culture or religion, The Vatican should not have actively participated in the aiding and abetting of known killers. Being a sovereign state does not give you the authority to actively participate in the hiding of fugutives and laundering stolen property. I will let anyone else chime in on this issue. I am done trying to deal with an individual who might only know history from a textbook.

    August 23, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
    • summarex

      Oh really Rick! So then, assuming those tales are true, the Vatican was somehow morally obliged to help the winners of WW2 round up their enemies so they could try them in kangaroo and hang them! Your sense of entitlement is absolutely amazing. But I'm not going to waste any more time arguing with a guy who knows history from being there since he is probably dead. I don't debate the dead.

      August 23, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • Zack

      @rick

      You've got it right. summarex has written some bad posts here. Maybe the fact that it's Monday has something to do with it.

      August 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.