Published April 04, 2008
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Work to preserve the monumental chestnut tree that comforted Anne Frank while she was in hiding from the Nazis began Friday and is expected to last a week.
The tree, which has a lethal fungus, had been slated to be cut down last year until a judge ordered a last-minute reprieve.
Workers knocked down a wall in a neighboring backyard to gain access to the garden and cleared away debris in the garden that houses the tree.
Under a plan approved in January, the tree will be trimmed and encased in a large steel tripod, with rings around its base and the trunk 25 feet from the ground.
The tree stands in a courtyard behind The Anne Frank House museum, which includes the tiny apartment where the Jewish teenager and her family hid from the Nazis for 25 months during World War II.
Anne Frank referred to the tree several times in her diary. She could see it through the attic skylight, the only window that was not blacked out.
The family was betrayed and deported, and Anne Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945.
The City of Amsterdam issued a felling order last year for the 27-ton tree, saying its trunk was half rotted and the tree was in danger of toppling and causing damage or serious injury.
The owner, museum and the city thought it should be cut down. But neighbors protested, saying the museum and others failed to appreciate the tree's value as a symbol of freedom. They argued the tree, which is more than 150 years old, was worth making extraordinary efforts to preserve.
Amsterdam District Court agreed and ordered all parties to participate in working out a plan to save it.
Sylvio Mutal, the wall's owner, displayed copies of the architectural plan to preserve the tree and said he was no longer worried it would be cut down.
"It's a monumental tree, a tree of memory ... of Anne Frank and the people that were hiding there in World War II," he said.