Anne Frank's tree, now dying, still inspires hope and new life

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This is a story about a girl and her tree -- a tree that helped keep hope alive, even as the world closed in on her.

Three times in Anne Frank's widely read diary, the young Holocaust victim wrote about a tree. She could see it from the attic window of the secret annex where her family hid for two years, before being betrayed.

The tree that reminded Frank of the promise of life still looms high above the courtyard behind the Anne Frank House, now a museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, that just marked its 50th anniversary. But at about 170 years of age, Anne Frank's tree is dying.

The tree has been sick for 10 years; a fungus has left two-thirds of it hollow, said Anne Frank House spokeswoman Annemarie Bekker.

A battle began in late 2007 between city officials who wanted to chop it down and activists who insisted it stay. But a court injunction, a second-opinion analysis and a committee mobilization later, it still stands, barely alive and supported by steel.

About five years ago, the museum began collecting chestnuts from the tree to grow seedlings, so that pieces of the original tree could take root and flourish elsewhere. The tree is a horse chestnut, which is often called a buckeye tree in the United States and a conker tree in the United Kingdom.

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