by: Maggie Wilson Updated:
SEATTLE - Anne Frank lived in hiding, in the annex of an Amsterdam apartment, during Nazi occupation when she was a child.
“As long as this exists,” she wrote of the sun, blue sky and chestnut tree she would gaze at from the window, “how can I be sad?”
The white horse chestnut tree, weakened by disease, succumbed to a 2010 windstorm in the Netherlands. It was over 170 years old, according to The Sapling Project.
The Anne Frank House, with permission from the tree's owner, gathered chestnuts from the dying tree and germinated them, intending to donate resultant saplings.
An excerpt of a 1968 speech by Anne’s father, Otto Frank, is hosted on the Sapling Project’s site.
“How could I have known,” he asks, “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.”
A video uploaded by the Anne Frank House in 2009 shows views of the chestnut tree. Watch it here.
One of its saplings was planted in January in Seattle in Frank’s honor.
The Holocaust Center for Humanity in Belltown was one of 11 sites in the country selected to receive a sapling from the historic tree.
Ilana Cone Kennedy with the center said they were granted the chestnut sapling in 2009. The trees came from Amsterdam and required three years in quarantine in a special nursery.
“The little tree that came to Seattle was too small to plant in a public park,” Kennedy said. “Seattle Parks and Recreation has been nursing the tree in a greenhouse since 2013.”
The sapling was dedicated at Seattle Center’s Peace Garden. The Peace Garden is near the base of the Space Needle. The garden was planted in 1996.
A beloved feature of the garden is a Ceanothus impressus “Puget Blue,” which is covered with tiny blue flowers in early summer.
Recently, Seattle’s new Holocaust Center for Humanity welcomed a traveling exhibit honoring the memory of Anne Frank. One woman, Agi Day, reflected in Seattle this spring to KIRO 7 on the personal importance the Anne Frank display held for her.
“Just being in the Holocaust Center is reminiscent of many things for me,” said Day. “And Anne Frank, specifically, because I’ve been there in Amsterdam. And I, too, was a hidden child. Different story. But, again, a hidden child. … My mother, my sister, my grandmother were hidden in a convent, dressed as nuns. ... I was too young to be in the convent. So I was hidden with a Catholic family, a couple [with] no children. And they pretended I was a cousin from the countryside."
Kennedy, with the Holocaust Center for Humanity, said in the wake of a Seattle shooting at the Jewish Federation in 2006, people “from all walks of life” came together to show their support for the Jewish community and those impacted by the shooting.
In the shooting at Seattle's Jewish Federation building, six women were shot. One of them was killed.
Kennedy was working in the building that day -- and recalls being “incredibly moved by the outpouring of support.”
“In our application for the sapling,” Kennedy said, “we mentioned that this tree was not only one of hope and remembrance, but, in the spirit of Anne Frank, should serve as a reminder of what we can do when we put our differences aside and stand together.”
Of the Anne Frank exhibit in Seattle, Kennedy says every day people come to visit the display and are filled with their own questions and stories. The center has hosted thousands of students.
At the end of their tour, visitors are invited to leave comments on paper leaves and place them on a tree painted on the wall.
“The comments are moving and now cover the whole wall," Kennedy said. "One of them reads simply, 'We are all Anne Frank.' And another, 'I could invite the lonely kid that sits near us at lunch to come hang out with me and my friends.'"
Photographer Meryl Alcabes captured beautiful images from the sapling dedication ceremony. Click here to see them.
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