Less than six months before her capture by the Gestapo, Anne Frank shared a moment in reverie with her friend Peter, gazing out the back window of the secret annex.
She wrote in her diary: “The two of us looked 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.”
The chestnut tree that Frank wrote of outlived her by over 50 years. The 170-year-old tree, weakened by disease, toppled in a windstorm in 2010. However, it continues to carry Frank’s iconic message of hope all over the world: from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam to the banks of the Boise River.
The chestnut tree was a symbol of hope and inspiration for Frank during the two long years she spent in hiding with her family in Amsterdam.
“She longed for it when she felt like a bird in a cage,” said Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father, in a speech in 1968. “Only the thought of the freedom of nature gave her comfort.”
Over 100 saplings were salvaged from the fruit of the original tree. The Anne Frank Center USA, a partner of the Anne Frank House, launched the Sapling Project in 2009 to designate sites in the United States for 11 of these treasured trees.
“We really feel that there is nothing more resonant for young people around the world than to see these tiny saplings take root,” said Rebecca Faulkner, director of public programs for the Anne Frank Center. “Planting these trees is an act of remembrance. It is also an act of hope.”
The Anne Frank Center received and reviewed applications from institutions, universities, schools, museums and Holocaust centers all across the country vying for the honor.
The list of chosen sites includes Liberty Park in New York City and the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
On the list alongside these national monuments is the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, located adjacent to the Boise State campus.
“We were looking for locations that could demonstrate that they could care for the sapling adequately,” said Faulkner. “We were also looking for sites that could demonstrate through their mission a similar vision of commitment to human rights and social justice.”
According to Faulkner, the committee tasked with selecting the sites thought that the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial met all of these criteria—and then some.
“It was a fantastic application,” Faulkner said. “There was a tremendous interest in Anne Frank and her legacy in Boise. And of course, Boise is the City of Trees; so that, for us, was another wonderful aspect.”
According to Dan Prinzing, executive director of the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, Boise was a natural choice.
The Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, formerly known as the Idaho Human Rights Education Center, is located next to the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial.
“Of course, one would be going to Washington, D.C., one would go to the Trade Towers memorial in New York City. When it came to the other open sites it was a very competitive process,” Prinzing said. “We’ve gotten calls from other places, like Washington, saying, ‘How did Idaho get chosen?’ But for those who have actually visited the memorial, it becomes very apparent.”
One visitor was Buddy Elias, Frank’s last living relative, who visited the memorial last April.
“He said that there is nothing in the world that rivals this in impact because it is both a story within the Holocaust, and also reflects Anne’s broader message,” said Prinzing.
“Statewide and nationally, it is one of the very few places in the US or for that matter, the world, that has a dedicated memorial to Anne Frank and her message of hope for humanity.”
Construction for the Rose Beal Legacy Garden, in honor of Holocaust survivor and human rights advocate Rose Beal, will begin on Sept. 1 of this year.
Beal is currently a Boise resident, but originally hails from Frankfurt, Germany, the hometown of Anne Frank.
The Legacy Garden is the future home of the Boise Anne Frank sapling, which will be planted in spring 2015.