August 17, 2007 / 2:40 PM / 13 years ago

Ailing Anne Frank tree creates bureaucratic logjam

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A chestnut tree that gave solace to Anne Frank as she hid from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic has been given a lease of life by a bureaucratic logjam.

Damage to the 150 to 170-year-old chestnut tree that gave solace to Anne Frank as she hid from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic is seen in Amsterdam August 17, 2007. The tree has been given a lease of life by a bureaucratic logjam. In November, Amsterdam city council said the giant tree had to be felled because it was so diseased. Nine months later, the council cannot say when the order will be carried out because of delaying tactics by those upset by its decision. REUTERS/Robin van Lonckhuijsen

In November, Amsterdam city council said the giant tree had to be felled because it was so diseased.

Nine months later, the council cannot say when the order will be carried out because of delaying tactics by those upset by its decision.

“If it was a normal tree, it would have been cut down by Christmas last year,” said Amsterdam inner city council spokesman Tom Boon. “But this has somewhat mythical status.”

The Jewish teenager described gazing longingly at the tree in the diary she kept during her two years in hiding.

Anne and her family hid in an annex to a canal-side warehouse until they were betrayed and arrested in August 1944. The towering horse chestnut was one of the few examples of nature and normal life she could see.

Defenders of the tree, like the Dutch Tree Foundation, say this is why it should be allowed to live as long as possible.

“It’s a symbol of hope and life,” said Frank Moens, a spokesman for the foundation. “If the tree cannot be kept, then the symbolism is gone. You can replant it, but it will no longer be the tree her book describes.”

The tree is due to be replaced with a sapling grown from grafts off the original, which stands in a garden completely surrounded by other buildings.

Many visitors to the house where Anne Frank lived are amazed to learn the 27-tonne tree is due to come down, even though the Anne Frank Foundation has accepted it must go.

“How can they tear it down?” said Ellen Bonner, a 50-year-old tourist from Boston, Massachusetts. “It’s a part of her. It would be like destroying a part of Anne’s memory.”

APPEAL LODGED

The tree is owned by a local resident, who was advised it was unsafe, and is estimated to be 150 to 170 years old.

Although the council granted a license to fell the tree in March, those opposed to the decision were given six weeks in which to lodge an appeal.

Following an appeal hearing in May, a committee convened to consider whether the tree could be kept. It then asked for more time to discuss the petition against the felling.

“We’re still waiting for their verdict,” said Boon at the city council. “When they’ve published it, people can still start a court case against us, and I think they will do so.”

News of the planned felling has provoked two reactions, Boon said.

“One was: ‘You should be ashamed you’re cutting down the tree’. The other was: ‘It’s a shame it has to be cut, but we respect that — and can we have a piece of wood from it.’

“Someone even suggested we turn it into bird houses.”

The Frankfurt-born girl’s diary, which she began shortly before going into hiding in summer 1942, became one of the world’s most widely read books after publication in 1947.

Anne and her sister Margot died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945, just weeks before it was liberated.

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