The Sonoma County Gazette: Community News Magazine
Sonoma County Gazette
| more

Photo Gallery

Planting of Anne Frank Sapling at SSU Opens to Public


Planting of Anne Frank Sapling at SSU Opens to Public
Ceremony Scheduled for Sunday, April 14 

The courage and inspiration of Anne Frank will be honored in mid-April as SSU plans to plant the sapling taken from the mother chestnut tree that often gave Frank hope as she hid from the Nazis in World War II.

SSU is one of only 11 recipients of the Anne Frank tree saplings in the United States. They will be planted in sites across the country beginning this year.

The planting ceremony at Sonoma State University is scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 14 at the Erna and Arthur Salm Holocaust & Genocide Memorial Grove near the campus lakes.

A reception follows in the Commons at 2 p.m. Tours of the Grove where the sapling is planted will be offered beginning April 22.

The ceremony will also honor Helena Foster, a Holocaust survivor who has donated a circle of 18 trees to be planted near the sapling.

"The addition of the Anne Frank tree will solidify the SSU campus as a major center on the West Coast for the study of the Holocaust and genocide," says Leeder. 

"It will eventually  provide a vast canopy under which the University Holocaust Lecture Series and the academic and educational programs throughout Northern California will continue for generations."


Ard van der Vorst, Deputy Consul General of the Netherlands, is the keynote speaker of the day. 

Other speakers include: 

Hilary Eddy Stipelman, 
The Anne Frank Center, USA  
Dr. Ruben Arminana, SSU president
Dr. Elaine Leeder, Dean of the School of Social Sciences
Hans Angress, a classmate of Anne Frank 
David Salm, co-founder of the Erna and Arthur Salm Holocaust & Genocide Memorial Grove
Jann Nunn, SSU sculpture professor
Myrna Goodman, Director of the Holocaust and Genocide Center and Lecture Series
Christopher Dinno, Senior Director of Capital Planning, Design and Construction

For almost three years, SSU has nurtured the quarantined sapling that arrived from the Netherlands in late 2009. It has been growing in a special shade house supervised by Sam Youney, SSU Director of Landscape Services, an expert in plant diseases and pest control.

The sapling is being planted in a grove that features a ten-foot tall light tower sculpture created by Professor Jann Nunn. Railroad tracks, symbolic of the Nazi deportations, radiate from the tower. Engraved in the glass tower’s base are the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Bricks laid between the rails are inscribed with names and places of those who endured the horrors of genocide including Native American, Armenian, Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur. Signage near the tree will carry the words written by Frank in her diary: "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

Why was SSU chosen? Yvonne Simons of  
The Anne Frank Center, USA told SSU that:

"The panel felt that your site 'connected all the dots' by writing an inspiring proposal, drawing all aspects of tolerance together. Your Center for the study of the Holocaust, created by Dr. John Steiner (Dachau and Auschwitz survivor), your membership including Hans Angress, a Berlin Jew who attended school with Anne Frank, and your inclusion of educational programs on other genocides in the world. We particularly like the concept that the sapling would be placed near the Martin Luther King sculpture - and the fact that both were born in 1929, both slain by ignorance and hatred - both lives committed to contribute to human dialogue.”

More details and photos about the Grove can be found at

In association with the planting, the University Library is currently offering an exhibit on its main floor called Anne Frank: A History for Today through April 22.

The exhibit and education program features the story of Anne Frank and her family juxtaposed against world events before, during and after the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. 

The exhibit includes photographs of the Frank family and the other occupants of the Secret Annex and shows how people were persecuted by political decisions and by the actions of individuals. Implicit in the exhibit are the themes of scapegoating, bullying, anti-Semitism, racism, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. 

The Anne Frank Sapling Project came to life in 2009, when The Anne Frank Center USA awarded eleven sites a sapling derived from the nearly 200 year-old horse chestnut tree that towered behind the Secret Annex, where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis from 1942-44. 

As Anne gazed out the attic window, the tree not only comforted her through their seasons in hiding, but stood as a symbol of all that she was missing in the outside world. Despite efforts to shore it up, the aged, diseased tree toppled in a windstorm in 2010. 

The White House, Liberty Park (former site of the World Trade Center) and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis were initially designated to receive one of the eleven saplings. Thirty-four organizations responded to the Center’s 2009 request-for-proposals. 

The winning locations were selected because they embody Anne’s unwavering belief in equality; because they demonstrate the horrific consequences of intolerance in all of its forms; or because they showcase historic events in civil rights and social justice in the US. 

“We are excited that we can now move forward with planting the saplings and launching a national education initiative called Confronting Intolerance Today: Lessons from Anne Frank,” says Simons of Anne Frank USA. “As the saplings take root, they will become living symbols of justice and tolerance in America for many years to come.” 

“The message of tolerance will spread from these eleven communities across the country, joining these historical examples of hatred and discrimination with contemporary issues,” Simon says. More information on the Sapling Project can be found at
For information about the April 2013 planting, contact Dr. Elaine Leeder, Dean, School of Social Sciences,, (707) 664-2120.

Reservations for tours of the Grove and the sapling can be made with Andrea Rodriquez-Jereb,, (707) 664-2018.

A YouTube video of the mother chestnut tree outside the Secret Annex can be found at