Most people know the name of Anne Frank, the Jewish girl who hid in a secret upper story apartment in Amsterdam during the German occupation until they were discovered in August, 1944. The family was transported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where Anne died seven months after her arrest, a victim of typhus. All of her family died, except for her father, Otto, who returned to Amsterdam after the war and discovered her diary there.
The diary, which was given to Anne Frank on her thirteenth birthday, chronicles her life from June 12, 1942 until August 1, 1944. It was eventually translated from its original Dutch into many languages and became one of the world's most widely read books. There have also been several film, television, and theatrical productions, and even an opera, based on the diary. Described as the work of a mature and insightful mind, it provides an intimate examination of daily life under Nazi occupation and in hiding; through her writing, Anne Frank has become one of the most renowned and discussed of Holocaust victims.
One of the most moving entries in her diary is dated February 23, 1944:
"I go to the attic almost every morning to get the stale air out of my lungs." From her favorite spot on the floor, Anne and Peter "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."
In 1968 Otto Frank described his thoughts upon reading those 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. But she longed for it during that time when she felt like a caged bird. She only found consolation in thinking about nature. But she had kept such feelings completely to herself."
The building in which Anne Frank and her family hid for two years is now a museum, visited yearly by thousands of tourists. The tree, however, is dying.
The Anne Frank Tree was a white horse-chestnut tree (Aesculus hippocastanum) which was prominently featured in Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl. The massive tree was one of the few pieces of nature visible to the young girl from The Annexe, the small building where she and her family hid from the Nazis during their occupation of the Netherlands.
Concerns about the tree's health date back to at least 1993, when a soil analysis revealed that leakage from a nearby underground domestic fuel tank was endangering the tree's root system. The city of Amsterdam spent €160,000 on a soil sanitation program to save the tree. For the last several years the tree has been attacked by a particularly aggressive fungus (Ganoderma applanatum, or "Artist's Conk") which is rotting the wood and undermining the tree's stability. Additionally, horse-chestnut leaf miner moths have taken to eating away at the tree's leaves, causing them to prematurely turn brown and fall off.
On May 26, 2005, the tree's crown was drastically trimmed after a six-month study by botanists concluded that this was the best way to ensure the tree's stability. However, the disease continued to thrive and a 2006 study estimated that 42% of the wood had become rotten. Botanists concluded that the tree's death was unavoidable and owners of the property decided to cut the tree down in order to eliminate the risk of the huge tree collapsing.
Cuttings have been taken from healthy portions of the tree, grafted to other stock, and will be replanted after the removal. In the meantime, there is another, virtual memorial in the online Anne Frank Tree. It’s one of the more useful interactive webpages I’ve ever seen. People have taken the opportunity to leave their own thoughts on the goodness of mankind and the meaning of abstract words like love, brotherhood, courage, happiness, liberty and giving. There are 207 Anne Frank schools in 12 countries. No one truly dies while they are remembered, and this simple girl’s courage and love of life is a memorial to what is good in mankind.
Strangely enough, I learned of this while watching an english language television program produced by a Communist Chinese TV channel. It may be that not all globalization is evil.