On 23 August 2010 around 13.30 hours the chestnut tree that Anne Frank wrote about in her diary fell down, together with its iron supporting construction.
Anne Frank Tree
In the period of over two years (6 July 1942 to 4 August 1944) that Anne Frank spent in hiding in the secret annexe, nature and her longing for freedom played an ever greater role. Through a window in the attic that was not blacked out, Anne could see the sky, birds and the chestnut tree. She wrote about the tree in her diary three times, the last time on 13 May 1944: “Our chestnut tree is in full bloom. It’s covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year.”
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The tree, a white horse chestnut, was over 170 years old, and stood in the courtyard garden of number 188 Keizersgracht. It was one of the oldest chestnut trees in Amsterdam. When in 2005 it was found that the tree was suffering from a serious disease, the Anne Frank House decided, with the permission of the owner, to gather chestnuts, germinate them, and donate the saplings to schools named after Anne Frank and other organisations. Many Anne Frank Schools and other organisations and locations around the world have now been given a young tree. In 2009, 150 descendents of the tree were donated to the Amsterdamse Bos woodland park. After three years in quarantine, the last young trees from the Anne Frank House seedling project will now be planted in the USA.
An aerial view of the chestnut tree.
For many years the chestnut tree was cared for by Pius Floris Tree Care of Amsterdam on the instructions of Amsterdam City Council. The young trees have been grown on and cared for by Bonte Hoek Nurseries. Since 2008 the chestnut tree was safeguarded by the Support Anne Frank Tree foundation.
Anne Frank tree support structure
Intensive consultations between Amsterdam Central Borough Council, local residents, the Tree Foundation, the Anne Frank House and the owner of the garden where the tree stands led to an agreement on the maintenance of the chestnut tree. In April 2008 the tree was given a support structure, and its crown was anchored. It was hoped that in this way the tree would remain standing for a minimum of 5 to 15 years. The Support Anne Frank Tree foundation was responsible for carrying out these measures.
Tree with new support structure.
Tree has fallen
On 23 August around 13.30 hours the chestnut tree that Anne Frank wrote about in her diary fell down, together with its iron supporting construction. The tree broke off completely at a height of approximately one meter above the ground. Fortunately nobody was injured.
The fallen tree on 23 August 2010.
Removal of wood
On Thursday 26 and Friday 27 August the fallen chestnut tree will be sawn into pieces and removed. The Anne Frank House is not the owner of the tree, and therefore has no say in what will be done with the wood. The Support Anne Frank Tree foundation will concern itself with this: www.support-annefranktree.nl/. It is not yet known what will come in the place of the Anne Frank tree. A descendent of the tree will possibly be planted in the garden. For the time being, only the broken stump bears witness to the tree from which Anne Frank once found consolation.
Passages from the diary
Anne Frank wrote about the tree in her 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.
Quotation from Otto Frank
During a speech in 1968 Otto Frank described his thoughts when he read Anne’s diary for the first time:
How could I have known 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, 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.