While the rest of the world is focusing on politicos misbehaving, the economy, Japan’s nuclear fallout, the Arab spring to summer, and numerous natural disasters portending the end of the earth, in Amsterdam, a bunch of people are embroiled in controversy about the Anne Frank tree.
Or to be precise, the remains of the tree.
The 150 year-old chestnut collapsed last August, despite herculean efforts to save it. Stricken with a fungal infection, the tree faced felling years ago by city arborists. But protests ensued; the tree, a symbol of hope, a remnant of Anne Frank, a beacon amid despair, didn’t deserve the axe. A foundation sprung up, dedicated to extending the 70-foot tree’s life by constructing a metal support brace.
Then the tree fell. Like all living things, it died. What’s left are the remains and a slew of disputes. Jewish museums worldwide don’t want them, or even a woodchip or a plank to use in some symbolic gesture. There are bills for removal, for destruction to neighboring property, and of course, for lawyers. There’s a libel suit; a contractor feels he’s being defamed.
Anne Frank would have been 82 this June 12. From the one uncovered attic window in the Secret Annex, she gazed longingly at this tree’s leaves and branches for two years. Her only contact with nature, she marked the changing of seasons, observed birds, envying their freedom. The tree made an appearance in her famous diary three times.
23 February 1944
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.
18 April 1944
April is glorious, not too hot and not too cold, with occasional light showers. Our chestnut tree is in leaf, and here and there you can already see a few small blossoms.
13 May 1944
Our chestnut tree is in full bloom. It’s covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year.
She wrote her final diary entry August 1, 1944. She was captured three days later, and died in a concentration camp from typhus in March, 1945.
I read the diary as a teenager. I’ve seen every play and movie version. I’ve been to the Anne Frank house and countless exhibits about her. I taught her story to my students. For some, it was their first introduction to the horrors of the Holocaust and World War II.
From what I glean of Anne Frank, this “Treegate” soap opera would appall her.
What’s being overlooked, I think, is, a simple question:
What would Anne Frank want?
Instead of quibbling about the fate of her tree’s remains, honor her legacy. Plant trees.