Yesterday, we attended a moving ceremony at the World Trade Center to mark the 70th Anniversary of the publication of Anne Frank’s Diary which included the dedication of a white chestnut tree, a clone grown from an original tree outside the hiding place of Anne Frank and her family in Amsterdam, 188 Keizersgracht. Anne wrote about her view from the annex window: “As long as this exists, how can I be sad?” and referred to the chestnut three three times in her diary. This tree in Liberty Park is the eleventh clone of the tree in the United States planted by the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect. The date, June 12th, also marks what would have been Anne’s 88th birthday, sharing a birth year with Martin Luther King. Jr and Audrey Hepburn.
Members of Anne Frank’s family attended the memorial, including Monica Smith, her younger cousin who spoke of how Anne brought her food when she was interned in a refugee camp in Amsterdam, arriving with fingers full of ink and a lot of hope. Peter Kohnstam, a neighbor two doors down who was babysat by Anne before she and her family went into hiding from 1942 to 1944. It was Kohnstam’s mother who suggested that Anne keep a diary. Also attending the event was the 23-year old survivor of the recent Portland train attacks, Micah David-Cole Fletcher. Official announcements were made by Steven Plate, Chief of Major Capital Projects at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Latisha James, Public Advocate of the City of New York and Steven Goldstein, Executive Director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.
Anne Frank’s cousin, Monica Smith, speaking to those gathered
The original chestnut tree lived until 170 years old, downed by moth and fungal infections. The Anne Frank House decided to use the chestnuts to create seedlings and saplings for clone trees to be planted to locations dedicated to Anne Frank – now known as The Sapling Project. This tree at the World Trade Center was planted on May 16th, 2016.
As The Sapling Project reports, Anne Frank’s father spoke of her love for the tree:
“How could I have known”, he asked “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 nature”. Still, he acknowledged, “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 passages by Anne about the tree:
On February 23, 1944, she recorded her friendship with Peter and the peace she found by looking outside her window. “ 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.”
Two months later, on April 18, 1944, she noted that “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.”
On May 13, 1944, she noted that “Our chestnut tree is in full bloom. It’s covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year.”
The Anne Frank Tree may be just a sapling now, but with care, the tree should live into the hundreds of years.