Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Anne Frank’s ailing chestnut tree

As I read Ms Geeta Balachandran’s article in the Deccan Herald, Saving Anne's tree , I experienced the same intensity of emotion as I had while reading Anne Frank’s diary, some decades back. Geetha’s article says viewing the chestnut tree from the window of her Amsterdam attic brought comfort to Anne Frank. For some years now, the 150-year old chestnut tree that brought such joy to Anne's soul, has been battling fungus and a moth infestation. Deccan Herald photo

The City of Amsterdam, which had initially planned to chop it, has now reached an agreement with conservationists on the measures to be taken to preserve the tree.
The plan is to build, by May-end , a metal supporting structure around the tree, enabling it to remain standing, for five to ten years. The Anne Frank Tree Foundation is funding the conservation measures. The flexible support structure, designed by architects and engineers, will hold the trunk in place in case it were to give way and crack down , but it will not be in direct contact with the tree, so its growth will not be impeded. The status of the tree will continue to be monitored by a group of tree specialists.Photo, published in Spiegel, shows ropes slung from the tree to the building where Anne Frank. with her family,was in hiding from the Nazis till 1944.

Like most others the world over, I was touched by the concern and commitment of the people and authorities in Holland to preserving all that is associated with Anne Frank. In a sense, they are responding to the Anne’s urge “to go on living after my death”. In a way, Holland seem to be comforting Anne Frank, whose infatuation with Nature is reflected in her writings. ”Go outside, to the fields, enjoy nature and the sunshine, go and go try to recapture happiness in yourself and in God. Think of all the beauty, that is still left in and around you and be happy (Tuesday, 7 March, 1944)…Is there anything more beautiful in the world than to sit before an open window and enjoy nature, to listen to the birds singing” -----(Wednesday,19 April, 1944)

Here was a Jewish teenager, recording her impressions so vividly, subsisting under extraordinary conditions, as Anne Frank did, - going into hiding, celebrating her thirteenth and fourteenth birthday, cloistered in an old building, cut off from outside world, facing hunger, boredom, and cruelties of living in confined quarters , with the ever present threat of being found out by Nazis. Anne died in the ghastly concentration camp in Bergen-Belsen in Germany, ( where the Frank Family was packed off from Holland ) in March 1945, two months after Holland was freed, and three months before what would have been her sixteenth birthday.

Anne Frank survives not only between the covers of a small red checkered cloth-covered classic - The Diary of Anne Frank -, but in the memorials that have come up in Holland, thanks to the Anne Frank Foundation and the people of Holland.

They are worthy of emulation by people all over the world. Here is a nation , transcending barriers of regionalism and racism, that endeavors to preserve the shining nobility of that great spirit, Anne Frank.

Visit to the Anne Frank museum and the house where she was hiding has been a moving experience, say the visitors who stand in front of Anne’s statue in hushed silence. The Montessori School in Amsterdam where she studied is now Anne Frank School. There are memorials in Germany and Israel also to atone for the unsung grave at Belsen.

In reflection in our Mahan Bharat, how many of those who sacrificed their lives for the cause of the Nation, or those whose writings enriched our lives have memorials built for them, leave alone their heritage, by way of a tree or lake with which their memories are associated, preserved ?

Cross posted: Blog-Krishna Vattam

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