University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


Anne Frank's Tree Falls As Holocaust Denial Rises

Anne Frank's Tree Falls As Holocaust Denial Rises

By Bonnie Erbe
Posted: August 23, 2010

How sad and odd, that the so-called Anne Frank tree in Amsterdam should fall at a time when Holocaust denial is growing, especially in the Arab world, according to one White House official.

Hannah Rosenthal, U.S. special envoy to combat anti-Semitism, told the Jerusalem Post that the Obama administration is working hard to combat anti-Semitism but despite that, Holocaust denial is on the rise, especially in the Arab world.

Rosenthal recently led a trip of eight influential imams. After visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp with Ms. Rosenthal, the imams signed on to a declaration regarding the Holocaust. According to the Post,
"We bear witness to the absolute horror and tragedy of the Holocaust where over 12 million human souls perished, including 6 million Jews." It continues, "We condemn any attempts to deny this historical reality and declare such denials or any justification of this tragedy as against the Islamic code of ethics. We condemn anti-Semitism in any form. No creation of Almighty God should face discrimination based on his or her faith or religious conviction."

I applaud the Obama administration and the imams for doing this, even at a time when many American Jews are sorely disappointed with the president's stand on Israel. Many are hopeful that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's bid to reopen peace talks will produce something of value. But they do not believe the Obama administration to be as Israel-friendly as prior administrations have been.

All of this comes as I return home from a reunion of some 35 descendants of Russian-Polish Jews from the tiny town of Dokshitzy (which is located in what is now Belarus). My grandmother was born in that town and my grandfather in another town or "shtetl" some eight miles away. My grandmother was one of 11 children. She emigrated to the United States but the large family she left behind did not and they perished.

There was a poor but thriving Jewish community in Dokshitzy prior to World War II. Jews comprised half the town's population of 6,000 people before the war. Most of them never made it to the Nazi concentration camps. The Nazis came through Dokshitzy in the early 1940s, forced most of the men into hard labor and cordoned off a Jewish ghetto for the families. After the Nazis had ransacked the town, they lined up residents in front of pits, shot them down, and filled in the pits with dirt. They burned all the houses and desecrated the graveyards, as if to erase the memory of what they had done. At least in the latter part, they did not succeed.

Which brings me back to Anne Frank's tree. The world-famous diarist created the most widely-read account of the Holocaust while she and her family hid from Nazis in Amsterdam for more than two years. The teenager and her family were discovered by the Nazis and arrested in 1944. Anne Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945.

Dutch officials have gone out of their way to preserve the 150-year-old Chestnut tree outside of the house in which she was hiding. The tree gave her hope during her two year residence in an attic as it was just about the only thing she could see from the attic's window. Now it is gone, as Holocaust denial increases, just when we need it most.