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Anne Frank’s ailing chestnut tree granted reprieve

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands: The diseased chestnut tree that comforted Anne Frank while she hid from the Nazis during World War II has been granted a reprieve.

The 150-year-old tree was due to be chopped down after experts determined it could not be rescued from the fungus and moths that caused more than half its trunk to rot.

The tree is familiar to millions of readers of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” It stands behind the “secret annex” atop the canal-side warehouse where her family hid during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, and its crown was just visible through the attic skylight — the only window that was not blacked out.

The story of the tree.

An appeals panel made two separate decisions last week: one upholding the right of the tree’s owner to have it cut down any time in the next two years, and another granting a request by the country’s Trees Institute to investigate the possibility of saving it, said Ton Boon, a spokesman for Amsterdam’s Central borough.

The tree is on the property of Keizersgracht 188, adjacent to the building that is now the Anne Frank Museum. Property owner Henric Pomes has agreed for the time being to wait for the institute’s proposal, due before Jan. 1, Boon said.

The Utrecht-based Trees Institute said its salvage plan would likely involve a combination of treatments and supports for its trunk and limbs.

“Safety must come first,” said spokesman Edwin Koot. “It’s dangerous for people, and you don’t even want to think about what could happen if it were to fall into the Anne Frank house.”

The Jewish teenager made several references to the tree in the diary that she kept during the 25 months she remained indoors until the family was arrested in August 1944.

“Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs,” she wrote on Feb. 23, 1944. “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. …

“As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.”

In May 2005, much of the tree’s crown was trimmed in an effort to stabilize it, but in November 2006, the city council ruled it was a hazard. In March, the council granted a license to have it cut down — prompting protests by the Tree Institute and others.

“The tree represented freedom and playing outside to Anne Frank,” Koot said. “Primarily because of its historical significance, we must go the extra mile to try to save it.”

The Anne Frank Museum, where the tiny apartment has been preserved, said grafts already have been taken and a sapling from the original chestnut will eventually replace it.

Anne Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945.
– Source: AP, via the International Herald Tribune, Oct. 3, 2007

• See also: Amsterdam, City of Trees

Category: News |

Last updated CET (Central European Time)

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