A dense forest is a beautiful landscape that provides a home for countless living things. Rainforests, deciduous, and evergreen forests are all unique in how they affect the environment as a whole. A single tree from those forests may not have a noticeable impact on the environment itself, but a single tree can have a huge impact on human lives—both individually and collectively.
Through the window in the secret annex where the Frank family hid for over two years, Anne would often look out and see a beautiful white horse chestnut tree. The white horse chestnut was one of the few things Anne could see outside the small space she shared with her family and four others who were also forced into hiding. She references the tree several times in her famous diary, which chronicled her personal thoughts, feelings and experiences during the holocaust.
In Anne’s writings, it’s clear that she viewed the white horse chestnut as her sole connection with nature, that the tree became a symbol of her longing for freedom. “As long as this exists,” she wrote of the tree, “how can I be sad?” It’s easy to imagine Anne spending many an afternoon gazing out at the tree as the seasons changed—leaves growing and falling, birds nesting and hatching, the wind causing the branches to sway.
The white horse chestnut was ordered to be cut down in 2007. It was in danger of falling due to fungal and moth infestation, and had become a safety hazard. However, passionate neighbors and friends eventually stepped in and were able to save the tree by installing structural supports. Unfortunately, just a few years later, the white horse chestnut was destroyed in a storm. Now, only a stump remains at the site.
But the tree lives on.Before it died, seeds were taken from Anne’s white horse chestnut; seeds that have now been gifted and planted throughout the world—including school grounds named in honor of Anne Frank. Through the enduring image of Anne’s white horse chestnut—and its many saplings—we have a physical reminder that there’s always beauty and hope to be found in the world. Even in the darkest of situations.