The Clinton Foundation and the Sisterhood of Congregation B’nai Israel, in conjunction with the Anne Frank Center USA, have joined together to create a new powerful exhibit, The Anne Frank Tree, located on the grounds of the Clinton Presidential Park. The permanent installation, which surrounds the Anne Frank Tree sapling, was dedicated on October 2, 2015.
In 2009, the Center was one of 11 entities in the United States to be awarded a young chestnut tree by the Anne Frank Center USA’s “Sapling Project.” The sapling was taken from the white horse chestnut tree that stood outside Anne Frank’s Secret Annex when she and her family were in hiding from the Nazis during World War II. The young writer cherished and wrote about the tree frequently in her famous diary.
“As long as this exists,” Anne wrote on February 23, 1944, “how can I be sad?” During the two years she spent in the Secret Annex, the solace Anne found in her chestnut tree provided a powerful contrast to the Holocaust unfolding beyond her attic window. And as war narrowed in on Anne and her family, her tree became a vivid reminder that a better world was possible.
Anne’s tree would outlive its namesake by more than 50 years before being weakened by disease and succumbing to a windstorm in 2010. But today, thanks to dozens of saplings propagated in the months before its death, Anne’s tree lives on in cities and towns around the world. The Anne Frank tree saplings provide an opportunity for these sites to tell the story of Anne Frank and connect it to incidents of injustice witnessed in each locale. To date, seven saplings have been planted at locations as diverse as the U.S. Capitol and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
During the dedication event, President Clinton said, “Young people should be able to go to places like this and see symbols of life, unity, and hope. And we will remember the wisdom of a 14-year-old girl, whose spirit is depending on us to redeem the years she didn’t have.”
Ronald Leopold, executive director of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands, said, "Anne Frank took great solace from the horse chestnut tree that grew outside the secret annex on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, where she, her family and four others were in hiding during World War II. To Anne, it represented life in the face of death, the freedom to blossom and prosper."
The Center’s installation consists of five framed, etched glass panels – arranged to evoke the feeling of being inside a room – surrounded by complementary natural landscaping. The two front panels feature quotes from Anne Frank and President Clinton. The three additional panels will convey the complex history of human rights in Arkansas through descriptions of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis of 1957. These panels will feature quotes from Chief Heckaton, hereditary chief of the Quapaw during Arkansas’s Indian Removal; George Takei, Japanese-American actor who was interned at the Rohwer Relocation Center in Desha County, Arkansas, in 1942; and Melba Patillo Beals, member of the Little Rock Nine.
In collaboration with the Clinton Foundation, Little Rock landscape architect Cinde Drilling and Ralph Appelbaum Associates, exhibit designer for both the Center and The National Holocaust Museum, assisted in the design of the exhibit. The installation has been made possible thanks to the support of the Ben J. Altheimer Charitable Foundation, TRG Foundation, and other generous partners.
The Center’s sapling is currently housed in a local nursery where it is acclimating to Arkansas’s environment. And although it was present during the ceremony, it was returned to the nursery where it is being cared for until it has matured and can thrive in its new home, located on the grounds of the Park. A similar chestnut tree will be temporarily planted in its place until the Anne Frank tree can be permanently transplanted.