Anne Frank Tree: Taking Root in Iowa

Authored on:

Apr 30, 2021

On April 29, 2022, the University of Iowa will welcome a remarkable new tree to the Pentacrest: a sapling propagated from the old chestnut tree that grew behind the Amsterdam annex where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II. Although the tree died a number of years ago--at an estimated 170 years old--it lives on through saplings that have been planted in such as places as the Boston Commons and Liberty Park, a site memorializing the September 11th attacks.

UI faculty member Kirsten Kumpf Baele (German, CLAS) secured this tremendous honor for the University of Iowa, one of only thirteen U.S. sites so far approved to host an Anne Frank sapling. Kumpf Baele, a Holocaust scholar and instructor of the popular undergraduate seminar Anne Frank and Her Story, submitted a lengthy proposal to the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect’s Sapling Project for the UI to receive a tree, including letters of support from the local Jewish community, the UNESCO City of Literature, and UI campus leaders. Her application was approved in 2020, and in Spring 2022—following a wait due to COVID—this living symbol of Anne’s spirit and humanitarian message will be planted at the UI during a public ceremony. 

Kumpf Baele, who was a member of the Obermann Faculty Institute, is partnering with the Obermann Center to coordinate a yearlong series of public events—broadly titled “The Anne Frank Tree: Taking Root in Iowa”—aimed at recognizing the power of nature and the written word to provide hope and resiliency in difficult times. Other partner involved in the growing series include The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect; The UI Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures; the UI Department of German; and UI Landscape Services. The events so far include a public reading of Anne Frank’s diary, a writing contest co-sponsored with the Iowa Youth Writing Project, an exhibit, and a documentary film screening. We’ve just launched a website, uiannefranktree.com, containing a provisional schedule of events; information about the Amsterdam horse chestnut and its saplings; and growing list of resources for educators, students, and the media.

Share your ideas

All who are interested in this program are invited to join Kumpf Baele and Obermann staff at a virtual “town-hall” meeting on Thursday, May 13, 2021, to learn about our plans for these events and to brainstorm additional ideas—specifically, ways that other campus units and community organizations can become involved. We especially welcome the voices of campus partners and community members who share an interest in Anne Frank and public memorials. Both town halls are virtual and open to the public, but registration is required. Please choose the meeting time that best suits your schedule:

Please visit uiannefranktree.com for more information, and join our Anne Frank Sapling e-mail list to receive news and updates about the events.