Bill Clinton Puts an End to the Anne Frank Tree Discussion after Eight Years

Former President Bill Clinton has brought the argument regarding the chestnut tree from the garden of Anne Frank’s house to a peaceful end after several years.

Former President Bill Clinton made it into a beautiful ceremony. He managed to relate the story of Anne Frank and the Holocaust to the dark history of his own state of Arkansas. This weekend, he spoke at the ceremony where a cutting from the Anne Frank tree was planted in the garden of the Bill Clinton Library in the Arkansas capital of Little Rock.

In his typical Clintonese, he said: “It is amazing to look at all human history and realize how much energy has been wasted by people obsessing about our differences and how vulnerable those people are to being taken advantage of by people who just really want power, money or both.”

His speech was a worthy conclusion to a matter that was heavily disputed in Amsterdam eight years ago. City residents, an action committee, tree cutters, and columnists argued with each other to no end about whether the chestnut tree, which the house’s hidden annex overlooked, was an indispensable relic in Holocaust memory, or an awkward eyesore that just stood in the way. Nature intervened when a storm felled the tree in 2010.

Race Riots of 1957

Ronald Leopold, director of the Anne Frank Foundation, introduced Clinton. He referred to the race riots of 1957, when white residents prevented nine black students, the “Little Rock 9,” from going to the local high school. “Similar to Anne Frank’s dreams, theirs was also rooted in a history of injustice and inequality,” he said.

He spoke on behalf of the Anne Frank Center USA, which launched the cuttings project in 2009. The center is an educational institution in New York which, with Anne’s diary as a guide, provides information about intolerance. The cutting was the eighth from eleven in all that the Anne Frank Center managed to secure. The idea was to plant a cutting in various locations throughout the world to keep Anne Frank’s memory alive. In the U.S., other trees were planted at the Capitol in Washington, at the Center for Human Rights in Idaho, and at the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis. The remainder of the 11 American cuttings will go to Ground Zero in New York.

It was a huge task to get the project off the ground, said project manager Hilary Stipelman. “It was a real battle with the Department of Agriculture, who simply said no.” American import regulations are extremely strict: Importing meat, flowers and plants is prohibited. In order to get 11 cuttings into the country, the Anne Frank Center had to lobby with almost every member of Congress.


The Department of Agriculture reluctantly granted the request on one condition: The young tree cuttings would be placed under quarantine for three years. “Once in a while, we called to ask how the cuttings were doing. “Yes, everything is OK,” they would then answer,” Stipelman said.

What happens when the remaining trees are planted? “The project is finished,” Stipelman says. “The Department of Agriculture’s decision is ironclad: These eleven tree cuttings are a one-time exception.”

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