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Associated Press – November 19, 2007

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Conservationists seeking to save the chestnut tree that comforted Anne Frank as she hid from the Nazis said Monday it is strong enough to withstand a storm, and urged the city to delay its order to fell the tree later this week.
The massive 150-year-old tree suffers from a fungus that has caused more than half its trunk to rot, and the city has declared it a hazard and ordered it cut down on Wednesday.
The conservationists, led by the Netherlands’ Trees Institute, say it is a monument to the memory of the Jewish teenager whose wartime diary has been read by millions, and they are assembling evidence that the tree can be supported and saved.
A court will hear the two sides on Tuesday.
The tree stands in the courtyard behind the building where the Frank family hid for two years during Nazi Germany’s occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.
In Monday’s test, workmen slung a rope around the tree’s trunk about 10 meters (33 feet) high and pulled at it with a machine, using a digital meter to measure the amount of movement in the trunk.
Trees Institute spokesman Edwin Koot said his organization already suspected the tree was stable, and the test showed “that appears to be true.”
“There is no acute danger, so there’s time to investigate alternatives,” he said.
The city’s regular arborist said in a September appraisal that, with almost three quarters of the tree’s trunk rotten or damaged, it could fall at any time.
The city says it would be irresponsible to let the tree stand, arguing that if it fell it could cause casualties or severely damage nearby buildings – including the Anne Frank Museum housing the apartment where the Franks stayed.
The museum already has taken grafts and plans to replace the tree with a sapling from the original.
Frank mentioned the tree several times in her diary, saying she enjoyed looking at it from the attic window, the only window that wasn’t blacked out in the tiny “secret annex” where the family hid.
“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, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind,” she wrote on Feb. 23, 1944.
“As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.”
Her diary was preserved after her family was arrested in August 1944. She died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945, aged 15.
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