AMSTERDAM — The ancient chestnut tree that cheered up Jewish teenager Anne Frank as she hid from the Nazis is dying, but thanks to a planting campaign now under way its descendants will live on around the globe.
Amsterdam city councilwoman Marijke Vos on Friday planted the first of 150 saplings from the tree that will go into the Amsterdamse Bos park.
Vos said the tree was "a symbol of hope and freedom that we can share by planting seedlings all over the world."
Other saplings have gone to several of the 200 schools around the world that are named for Frank. Last month, 11 sites were selected in the U.S. to eventually receive saplings, including the White House and the Sept. 11 memorial in New York.
For Frank, the chestnut tree was a rare connection to nature during the two years her family hid in cramped conditions above a canalside warehouse during the German occupation of the Netherlands.
She wrote of the tree's beauty several times, including in a memorable passage from Feb. 23, 1944.
"From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, and at the seagulls and other birds gliding on the wind and looking like silver in the sun," she wrote.
And later in the same passage, "The best remedy for those who are afraid, alone or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God."
The Frank family was betrayed a half year later. Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945, aged 15.
The massive 150-year-old chestnut is now afflicted with fungus and other diseases. It has been kept alive with an elaborate system of physical supports since last year. It will eventually be replaced with one of several clones that have been taken from it.
Hans Westra, director of the Anne Frank House Museum, said Frank associated the tree with nature and freedom, and she would have been pleased to know of how it is being preserved and propagated.
"I think she would have been a big fan of the idea," Westra said.
Jakob de Windt, one of several Dutch Jews who survived World War II and attended Friday's planting, said it was "important to give the tree to posterity."