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. tbalz001

    I didn't think this story could possibly spark a religion debate. Instead I hoped to find words of sorrow. Oh well.

    August 24, 2010 at 3:32 am |
    • Chainsaw McGraw

      Glad we could disapoint!

      CNN Bloggers – 1
      You – 0

      August 24, 2010 at 6:25 am |
  2. Mario

    The world is more than a oneliner

    August 24, 2010 at 2:26 am |
  3. Religion Rots your Brain

    Remember folks, the family that prays together brainwashes the children!

    August 23, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
    • Atheist and proud

      So that why so many kids are messed up? And I thought it was the texting thing! Thank you RRB for making that short, sweet, and to the point! Sadly I feel its too late for many kids (and adults) to free their minds to think for themselves. I stopped believing that fairytale years ago along with santa and the easter bunny.

      August 23, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
    • Biafra

      Better the family do the brainwashing than anti-white Marxist toadies a/k/a public school teachers.

      August 23, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
    • Abel

      Not all religions are the same. Values are thought at home. Good manners too, by your parents.

      August 24, 2010 at 8:05 am |
  4. Anita Hughes

    All the many above caustic comments aside, I think it is wonderful what this younger generation is doing to eradicate racism of all sorts. A word here and there, a tree, a thought.... Discrimination does not have to be passed down through the generations.

    August 23, 2010 at 9:59 pm |
    • Ray

      "Discrimination," "prejudice," "racism," etc., are usually brought about by the actions and/or natures of the target groups themselves. Any honest historical analysis will confirm this.

      August 23, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
  5. Whoa There

    The work of a species of anti-semitic moth? Zyklon-B their buggy butts, pronto!

    On a lighter note, Frank was not a "Holocaust victim," as most would define it. She died of disease in a camp that wasn't ever claimed to be an extermination center.

    August 23, 2010 at 9:14 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Whoa – With much respect many feel that one did not have to die in a concentration camp to be a victim of the holaucaust. Remember there were ones that never even made it to tbe camps and were killed. That would be like saying to the family of a guy or girl who was not inside of either world trade tower but died when the buildings came down, that the person did not die in the 9/11 attacks. 

      August 23, 2010 at 9:42 pm |
    • Chainsaw McGraw

      @ Whoa There

      Please enlighten us as to what exactly the Franks were hiding from them? Last thing I recall was that they were hiding to avoid being "deported" by the Nazi Regime to be sent awway to a "camp."

      August 24, 2010 at 6:53 am |
  6. DN3

    I was just at the Anne Frank House two weeks ago. I regret I didn't know about the tree when I went there so I didn't specifically look out the window for it. I probably saw it without knowing its significance. I didn't expect to get so emotional as I walked through the secret annex but it had a very powerful emotional effect on me. They had a video of skeletal concentration camp prisoners and I just lost it. Also reading about what Anne's mother did while at Auschwitz, starving herself so that she could give more food to her daughters...so tragic. I watched an interview of one of Anne's friends who was reunited with Anne after not having seen her in a long time and I am truly amazed by the peace this woman has managed to achieve despite the horrors she's endured. It should put most people's challenges into perspective.

    For all those people who blame God for what happened or use it as proof that God doesn't exist, I don'[t think you understand the meaning of faith. Neither do they understand evil is going to exist simply because there is free will. God can't fix everything that people screw up or there might as well not be any free will. I think many people need to come to terms with the possibility that there is something or someone who is wiser and might know or understand something that us mortals cannot.

    August 23, 2010 at 8:24 pm |
    • Atheist and proud

      So you believe in an invisible being who cant "fix everything" we screw up and yet he(she,it) is wiser than we are? That doesn't sound like a very "wise" being to me. If you want to live in that fantasy world that's your choice. Until you can prove to me that he(she,it) exists I choose to believe he(she,it) DOES NOT!

      August 23, 2010 at 9:05 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      and Proud – let it go. It sounds like her post moved you into quite a rant with you screaming at the end. If you not the stomach for such post , if such can cause you to go off the deep end then maybe it's time you go and buy a xbox or psp and get a copy of madden and stick to just playing games. 

      You have not the maturity and control to run with the big dogs here 🙂 

      August 23, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
    • Atheist and proud

      Oh really? And what makes you such an authority on the subject.? On any subject for that matter since you seem H*ll bent on correcting everyone else on here! Whoa is correct if you would get off your soapbox and recheck your history. She died of dIsease in a RELOCATION camp not an EXTERMINATION camp! But of course people like yourself will twist any truth to fit your own ideology. Hence the reference to "religion". I have not seen proof that this god exists therefore I believe it doesnt. We're born, we live, and we die and thats the end of the matter.

      August 23, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
  7. Three Dog Mama

    Even though the world lost Anne Frank in 1945, her legacy is going strong thru the release of her diary. This tree also represents her desire to live free and no longer hide. She found beauty when others just saw bad. I'm glad that saplings are being grown from this tree. America – this is like our Liberty Trees.

    August 23, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
    • Chainsaw McGraw

      So, let me get this straight....she was the only person who saw beauty in this tree while everyone else who looked out the attic window saw an evil evil tree?!


      But...but....it was a beautiful tree....

      August 24, 2010 at 6:55 am |
  8. JC

    I think that they should make a bronze cast of that tree and erect the bronze tree in its place. Or someting like that... such a sad story. Never forget her and all those who perished at the hands of evil.

    August 23, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
  9. Corvus1

    This made me cry.

    August 23, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
    • Chainsaw McGraw

      I know...it made me tear up as well...all the wasted virtual space that was wasted on an article such as this.

      August 24, 2010 at 6:57 am |
  10. A Greatest Generation Grandaughter

    I don't know why the topic of God and all of the insults that follow are always immediately spewed on these forums/blogs. This is the last living remnant of Anne Frank's testament. Meip Geis passed last year. I think there are some younger siblings of Anne's friends left. Nevertheless the tree was so symbolic. Mountains remain forever to witness our grief. Trees remain for generations but pass like the ones we love. My grandfather died last year. A gracious, proud, bold, wonderful, man of principle – a WWII Battle of the Bulge veteran. This tree means so much to so many people. Rest in peace Anne.......Try to keep the insults to a minimum, if you have any respect for the dead.

    August 23, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
    • Naveed

      She maybe gone but not forgotten! I was 17 when I first heard of her and 30 years later, I still cry reading her work.

      keep hate monger in check!

      August 23, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
  11. Ron

    There is an old saying from the war," There are no atheists in a fox hole. But there were a hell of a lot of them that walked out of the concentration camps".

    August 23, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
  12. Simon

    Here's the real topic of interest, was there anybody around when this tree fell down? and if so, did it make a sound?

    August 23, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
  13. angelika

    I find it utterly disturbing, and a fact that people say "Hitler's Army was Christians. " In no way were the Christians, than I am a Jewish person. I am sorry but it bucks the heck out of me. I read a lot of biography's written from Jewish people, who have survived the Holocaust. By no means where the SS and the Nazi's and the Storm troopers. Christians. If they had been really Christians, they could have helped the Jewish people, and oppose to join Hitler! My grandfather opposed, got sent to prison. I am proud of him for having survived a POW camp. Why did other's not do the same? Hugs to my Jewish brother's and sister's . And I am extremely sorry for my country
    and their doing of such horrific crimes!Shalom

    August 23, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  14. Disgustedwithhumanity

    I learn more from reading the comments than I do from the articles on these sites. I have never read such garbage...such stupidy, hatred, ignorance and narcissim. I'm guessing most of you who write such garbage have never had a challenge worse then you favorite television show being cancelled. Or if you have, you haven't learned anything by it and certainly would not show the grace, dignity and bravery of Anne Frank and what she had to endure in her short 16 years on this godorsaken planet. Enjoy your lives and never you mind about the truly suffering. Not your prob, right?

    August 23, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
    • Susan

      Well said!

      August 23, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
    • magevelia

      I need to stop reading CNN comment boards, they are that infuriating, at times depressing. They've definitely opened my mind to the sort of petulant, ignorant, wasted life that is out there - a window that is useful, perhaps, if disheartening. I can only hope there are many out there like you, like others here trying to raise their voice over the ceaseless din of "Americangurl" and her likes, that move on without a word, learning and taking the fight to some place more worthy.

      August 25, 2010 at 8:23 am |
  15. ronen

    I'm Sorry HOW is this news???

    August 23, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
    • A Greatest Generation Grandaughter

      And because you don't care, no one else should either.

      August 23, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
  16. Barbara

    God created a perfect world. How long it took him, and what method he used are interesting questions to be pondered with with the minds he gave us, but are beside the point. God created a perfect world. He also gave us, his highest creations, free will. We must surmise that he did this because he wanted a real relationship with us, we are not robots. Free will is a wonderful thing. It gives us the certain knowledge that we love those who we believe we love, we are not just programed to feel that way. Free will is a hideous thing, because it allows all manner of evil to exist. Every evil in the world, from the weeds in your garden, to the unspeakable horror of the murder of millions of jews, gypsys, gays, mentally handicapped people and more, all of it is the result of the evil unleashed on the world by the advent of free will. God is not uninterested, nor is he incapable of action. He exists outside our understanding of time and space, yet is "closer than the air you breathe. He has not abondened the human race to suffer, die and disappear into oblivion. He has provided a way for all to come to him, in the person of the risen and living Jesus Christ. God is a gentleman. He will not compel you to want hiim. He simply offers a way out, so that you will be able to bear it. He offers himself, in all his eternal glory. Every person who ever drew breath on this planet was born with a god-shaped hole in his or her soul. That part of us that will live forever, is the part that must choose. We all follow him, or we follow the Enemy. With every thought, with every action of our lives, we choose one or the other. The Nazis were not Christians. Many who call "God, God", will not see the kingdom of heaven. If you belong to God, if you have given yourself to him, he will change you, mystically and permanently. Nothing the Nazis did had anything to do with Christianity. Don't make the mistake of blaming Christ for those who use his name, but do not live the life he has to give.

    August 23, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
  17. Flipper

    I do not understand how Jews who were persecuted over their religion can now persecute Palestinians over theirs.

    Did they learn nothing? I mean other than how to exploit people like Ann Frank and places like Auschwitz to further along their cause?

    Lets be real here. There were as many non Jewish Poles, Roma, homosexuals and handicapped killed in concentration camps by the Nazis as Jews, but you don't see anything mentioned about them at the holocaust museums. Heck, there were 26 MILLION Russians including about 14 MILLION civilians who died in the war. Jews want everyone to know how much they suffered when in reality their losses accounted for less than 10% of the total number of people killed in WW2.

    Of course as soon as you bring facts into the discussion some jackazz pulls the anti Semite card.

    August 23, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
  18. DavidPA

    OOps sorry...wrong blog posting!

    August 23, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
  19. heidi

    i wonder how many people on here are kids, because some of these statements, are so childish, so immature, so insensitive, that there is NO WAY that a grown person couldve said them. Unless of course they are uneducated and quite honestly trashy people

    August 23, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
    • Mikeal


      You should be glad of the voices of the young, even if they are brash and annoying and hurtful. Anne Frank was young and I have heard that some of her notes are a little off-color, as they say.
      Some of the posts make me laugh, others give me a nasty shock. It does not matter in the end who wrote them.
      I try to enjoy them all as human voices from around the world.

      Anne Frank's hiding place probably would have been easier to bear if she had had an anonymous blog to post her thoughts in.
      Think about it.

      August 23, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  20. Flipper

    I do not understand how Jews who were persecuted over their religion can now persecute Palestinians over theirs.

    Did they learn nothing? I mean other than how to exploit people like Ann Frank and places like Auschwitz to further along their cause?

    Lets be real here. There were as many non Jewish Poles, Roma, homosexuals and handicapped killed in concentration camps by the Nazis as Jews, but you don't see anything mentioned about them at the holocaust museums. Heck, there were 26 MILLION Russians including about 14 MILLION civilians who died in the war. Jews want everyone to know how much they suffered when in reality their losses accounted for less than 10% of the total number of people killed in WW2.

    Of course as soon as you bring facts into the discussion some nimrod pulls the anti Semite card...

    August 23, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
    • Renuel

      It is because they were specifically targeted on the basis of being a Jew.
      That is genocide. Yes, millions of other people from all walks of life and many many Russian people but the Holocaust is so horrible due to the fact of specifically targeting a group or people based on race, religion, ethnicity.

      December 4, 2010 at 8:05 pm |
    • Renuel

      Lots of Palestinians are also Jews. They are fighting over territorial rights to certain land and temples. Hamas is the driving force behind the Palestinian forces and they are anti-Israel.

      December 4, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
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About this blog

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.