Weekly Gem #100 Not just any old tree
Location: This 'hidden gem' is located at 770 S 8th St. in Boise, ID (see Clue Me! Map). In Amsterdam, it's common to construct buildings edge to edge around the entire circumference of a city block, but leave the center open, with lots of trees and flowers, creating a small park-like courtyard. The parent of this tree was in one of those courtyards, just outside the hidden rooms where Anne Frank's family lived for two years, and where she wrote her diary. This is one of many saplings that were distributed around the world to serve as reminders, since it's so easy to forget.
Here are some things Anne might want us remember when we look at this little tree. How some individuals can so easily claim superiority over others, and through abuse of power, trample the rights and freedoms of entire groups based on religion, ethnicity, etc. How much easier it is to stop this sort of abuse when we all open our eyes and put a stop to it early. How strong and resilient people can be, recognizing the beauty around them and always keeping hope, even in the face of incredible hardship.
It's only through some luck that we're able to get a glimpse through her eyes. To keep her diary safe, she had her father, Otto, lock it in his briefcase each night. On the morning of August 4, 1944, the Gestapo had been tipped off, and raided their rooms, taking Anne, her sister Margot, her parents, and four other occupants away. The Gestapo saw the briefcase, opened it, and dumped the contents on the floor so they could use it to carry 'important' items with them. Miep Gies, one of the people who had helped the families stay hidden saw the diaries, collected them, and hid them in her desk. A week later, the Gestapo cleaned out the hidden rooms completely, but Anne's diary was secure.
The only survivor of the eight was Otto, who returned to Miep's house when he was liberated from Auschwitz. That was the first time he read the diary, and realized its importance. He first published part of the diary in 1947, and since then it has been translated into over 60 languages and sold millions of copies.
Much of the time, Anne's approach to her diary was to write it as if she was writing letters to "Kitty." Not so much, dear diary, but Dear Kitty. For example:
Wednesday, February 23, 1944
My dearest Kitty,
The weather's been wonderful since yesterday, and I've perked up quite a bit. My writing, the best thing I have, is coming along well. I go to the attic almost every morning to get the stale air out of my lungs. This morning when I went there, Peter was busy cleaning up. He finished quickly and came over to where I was sitting on my favorite spot on the floor. The two of us looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls and other birds glinting with silver as they swooped through the air, and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn't speak. He stood with his head against a thick beam, while I sat. We breathed in the air, looked outside, and both felt that the spell shouldn't be broken with words. We remained like this for a long while, and by the time he had to go to the loft to chop wood, I knew he was a good, decent boy. He climbed the ladder to the loft, and I followed; during the fifteen minutes he was chopping wood, we didn't say a word either. I watched him from where I was standing, and could see he was obviously doing his best to chop the right way and show off his strength. But I also looked out the open window, letting my eyes roam over a large part of Amsterdam, over the rooftops and on to the horizon, a strip of blue so pale it was almost invisible.
"As long as this exists," I thought, " this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?"
The best remedy for those who are frightened, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere they can be alone, alone with the sky, nature and God. For then and only then can you feel that everything is as it should be and that God wants people to be happy amid nature's beauty and simplicity.
As long as this exists, and that should be forever, I know that there will be solace for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances. I firmly believe that nature can bring comfort to all who suffer.
Oh, who knows, perhaps it won't be long before I can share this overwhelming feeling of happiness with someone who feels the same as I do.
Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.
"As long as this exists, how can I be sad?" ~Anne Frank
Anne Frank's White Horse Chestnut Tree sapling
Why It's Interesting
This sapling is from a chestnut tree in Amsterdam - the tree that Anne Frank mentions in her diary. Watching the chestnut tree, birds and looking at the sky from the attic was her only way to experience nature... and freedom. Old and diseased, Anne's tree collapsed in 2010. By then it was more than 170 years old. Luckily seeds from her tree had been sown before it died. The Wassmuth Center for Human Rights in Boise was considered worthy enough to receive one of the 11 saplings sent to the U.S.