Sapling from tree at Anne Frank's home joins SSU memorial

  • Guests were encouraged to shovel or toss hands full of dirt during the public Anne Frank Tree Sapling Planting in the Erna & Arthur Salm Holocaust & Genocide Memorial Grove on the Sonoma State University Campus in Rohnert Park on Sunday April 14, 2013. (Scott Manchester/The Press Democrat)

The sapling was about 5 feet tall and surrounded by towering fir and cypress on the Sonoma State University campus, and its variegated leaves glowed an almost electric green in the unobstructed sun.

Cut from the horse chestnut that stood outside the house in Amsterdam where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis for 25 months, the slender tree is now a keynote of Sonoma State University's 30-year effort to mark and memorialize the Holocaust and other genocides.

One of 11 such saplings in the United States, it was ceremonially planted Sunday at an event attended by about 200 people including a handful of Holocaust survivors.

Lillian Judd lived through Auschitwz but lost her family there. Sitting in the Erna and Arthur Salm Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Grove listening to speakers recount Frank's story of persecution, hope, fear and courage, was for her a moment of mixed emotion.

"I felt I was there in that same place with Anne, back in that time," Judd said. "And then it goes away. The thing is, I don't want to forget. I forgive certain people, but I do not want to forget."

The original, massive chestnut tree was visible from the attic where the the teenage Frank and her family hid until they were betrayed. It was her only real marker of the passing seasons, a glimpse of the world that lent her hope.

"Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs," she wrote in her diary in 1944. "From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind.

"As long as this exists . . . and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies -- while this lasts I cannot be unhappy," she wrote.

Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945. She was 15. Her diary, translated into more than 70 languages, became one of the most read documents of the Holocaust.

Cuttings were taken from the chestnut when it became clear it was ill -- a 2010 storm felled it -- and awarded to sites dedicated to fighting intolerance.

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