Anne Frank's tree, hope lives on at Sonoma State University

  • Sam Youney, director of landscaping at Sonoma State University, examines the young chestnut sapling grown from a cutting from the original tree that inspired hope in Anne Frank. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/ PD)

It was the tree that infused Anne Frank with hope, offering a glimpse of the changing seasons and passage of time that she was unable to experience while her family lived hidden in German-occupied Amsterdam during World War II.

On Monday heavy winds and rain toppled the massive chestnut tree that the young teenager had admired through heavy curtains during the more than two years her family lived undetected by Nazi sympathizers.

But the tree, and its message of hope, will live on in Sonoma County, because one of the saplings taken from the original chestnut tree will be planted on the campus of Sonoma State University.

“It's sad, but there are many more trees from the mother tree. It's like children continuing legacies,” said Elaine Leeder, dean of the SSU School of Social Sciences.

The local sapling, about eight months into a three-year federally imposed quarantine, will eventually be planted at the Erna and Arthur Salm Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Grove on campus.

The sapling will be central in a mock planting ceremony Nov. 14 during which the public can see the approximately 14-inch tree.

“I'm saddened, but it's not unexpected,” Leeder said of the death of what is known as the Anne Frank Tree. “It's been dying and that is why the saplings were taken.”

The local tree is being housed away from other plant life and is at an undisclosed location because of threats made against it, said Sam Youney, director of landscaping at SSU.

Officials there are monitoring the tree to make sure it doesn't show signs of disease that crippled the original tree in recent years.

Officials in Amsterdam in 2007 had identified the Anne Frank chestnut for cutting down when it became weakened by disease. A public outcry led to stabilization efforts that proved futile Monday.

“We know that (the sapling) came from a tree that had major problems over its life, irregardless of whether it was taken care of,” Youney said.

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