Anne Frank's Chestnut Tree....

“Our chestnut tree is in full blossom. It is covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year…” – Anne Frank, 13 May 1944

Anne Frank’s 150-year-old chestnut tree is dying, a fungus turning its beautiful green leaves to a crisp, lifeless brown. Braving the rats in the attic of her secret annex, Anne spent rare moments of solitude looking out the window into the leaves of the lush tree, in what was to be her only glimpse of nature in the two years she spent hiding. I doubt those moments were relaxing, the gravity of her situation, a heavy burden, never far from her thoughts, must have served to intensify, with each subtle color shift of sky, or slight nuance of light playing off leaves, her observation powers of nature – of man, creation and God.

The popular notion is that the fruit born of Anne’s diary is that of a young victim, a child representing a universal teenage experience, filled to the point of brimming with pent-up perspectives on purpose, meaning, courage, happiness, freedom, giving, and human rights.

Perpetuating this coming-of-age angst, an electronic version of Anne’s soon-to-be-removed tree, (replaced with a grafted sapling) will live in perpetuity, no longer simply Anne’s tree, but instead, a universal touchstone, each leaf open for inscription poignant messages generated by ”….a community of people and schools who feel connected to Anne Frank. For she symbolizes the hope of a world in which people live together respectfully and in freedom, regardless of origin, faith or political beliefs…”

I think Anne’s father, informed of her death and the collection of writings she’d left behind, offers a more accurate, honest insight as to Anne’s being the “hope of the world” ignored by secular teachers, and playwrights:

I had never imagined how intensely Anne had occupied her mind with the problem of Jewish suffering over the centuries, and the power she had gained through her belief in God, this was a surprise to me.”

I could end my thoughts on this particular item, expressing sadness that a father would not have known this about his daughter while she lived. Perhaps, this is the universal message that needs to be shared – that parents need to be actively, intimately involved, having a cognitive awareness of what occupies their child’s mind.

While an Adamic father’s lack of closeness to his daughter is an issue that is of vital importance, Anne’s words tell me there’s another possible universal message of even greater importance. Hers was not a one-world, one-hope, one-in-purpose humanist perspective of peace, reliant on the power of the human spirit, but instead, she offered a lineage viewpoint of suffering, with a clear perspective on the Origins of pain:

Anne Frank, diary entry, 11th April, 1944

Who has inflicted this upon us? Who has made us Jews different to all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now? It is God that has made us as we are, but it will be God too, who will raise us up again.”

Who inflicted them? Who inflicts us? Anne learned and accepted the answer as fact, and it is that answer that should become the universal theme, connectedness, if you will, of the leaf-writers: “It is God”.

But for what purpose? Was it for the creation of a universal community wherein accumulated good thoughts mystically sent across continents or a bevy of wishes for a better tomorrow would somehow transform world-wide strife into a reign of peace?

The universal “connectedness” that Anne discovered is the same struggle of all creatures in need of reconciliation, not with each other, but with their Creator-God. There are moments when Anne’s faith skips across the water alternating between the God of her people perhaps using their suffering for His own good purpose…..

Anne Frank, diary entry, 11th April, 1944If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will then be held up as an example.”

….and the religion of her people….

Anne Frank, diary entry, 11th April, 1944Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason and that reason only do we have to suffer now.

…arriving at a conclusion that there is indeed a participatory relationship…..

I know I am not safe. I am afraid of prison cells and concentration camps, but I feel I’ve grown more courageous and that I am in God’s hands.”

Her voice rings true and clear in recognition of Divine Providence, an example for Jew or non-Jew alike….

Anne Frank, diary, 21st July, 1944

I’m finally getting optimistic. Now, at last, things are going well! They really are! Great News! An assassination attempt has been made on Hitler’s life, and for once not by Jewish Communists or British capitalists, but by a German general who’s not only a count, but young as well. The Fuhrer owes his life to ‘Divine Providence’: he escaped, unfortunately, with only a few minor burns and scratches. A number of officers and Generals who were nearby were killed or wounded. The head of the conspiracy has been shot.

This is the best proof we’ve had so far that many officers and generals are fed up with the war and would like to see Hitler sink into a bottomless pit, so they can establish a military dictatorship, make peace with the Allies, rearm themselves and, after a few decades, start a new war. Perhaps Providence is deliberately biding its time getting rid of Hitler, since it’s much easier, and cheaper, for the Allies to let the impeccable Germans kill each other off. It’s less work for the Russians and British, and it allows them to start rebuilding their own cities that much sooner. But we haven’t reached that point yet, and I’d hate to anticipate the glorious event.”

In the end, the message that has been ignored, in the heavily-edited versions Anne’s father provided to the public, was that of Anne’s struggle with her relationships – to her parents, her people, and her God.

I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me!

The real Anne Frank continues to live on through her diaries – the unedited versions. Unfortunately, I doubt Anne would recognize herself, if she were to read the watered-down, heavily-edited version of her thoughts in a “Diary of a Young Girl”, or any number of teacher lessons plans which relegate her life to that of an inspirational victim.

Her reaction would be similar to a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau touring the quarantine block, 30 years after their release, gasping in surprise at the beautiful, lush grass covering the exercise yard, “Grass? There was never any…there. We would have eaten it.”

Anne tells us that her voice was that of a Jew living God-ordained suffering because of their faith. Her voice was not the voice of universal connectedness clamoring for positive thoughts, no matter how many try to pervert her intentions. Let her speak.

If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” Isaiah 48:18

(C) Sharon Ericson 2007

Resources to Learn More:

Anne Frank and the Holocaust –

Anne Frank’s Electronic Tree – An Interactive Monument (Be prepared to turn speakers down!)

Secret Annex Web Cam –

Anne Frank House, Visit the Museum, Amsterdam –

Netanyahu, Arafat and the ‘Diary of Anne Frank’ – Yassir Arafat wrong to visit the Holocaust Museum – The Last Word – Column –

Auschwitz-Birkenau Photo Essay –

Anne Frank: the Cultivation of the Inspirational Victim –

Fox News Article, “Anne Frank’s Tree is Slowly Dying” –,2933,262525,00.html

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