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The planting of a tiny tree on Boston Common Tuesday carries big significance.
The sapling is the offspring of an old chestnut tree that stood for some 200 years outside of "the secret annex" in Amsterdam. That's where Anne Frank chronicled her family's experience hiding from the Nazis during World War II. A Boston-area girl, about the same age as Frank was when she wrote her diary, helped bring the tree to Boston.
The young Frank, coming of age in the hiding place with her family during the Holocaust, often wrote in her diary about the comfort she felt gazing out at the horse chestnut tree — her only touchstone to the natural world.
That diary was discovered after Frank and most of her family — all but her father — were killed by the Nazis. "The Diary of Anne Frank" has since been translated into dozens of languages, and read by schoolchildren everywhere.
One of those schoolchildren is 15-year-old Aliyah Finkel, of Newton.
"I took a trip to the Anne Frank house when I was 10 years old and I felt a very deep connection to her and to the building and everything," Aliyah said.
So she asked her parents if she could celebrate her Jewish rite of passage, her Bat Mitzvah, in Amsterdam to honor Frank's memory. While planning the event, efforts in Amsterdam to shore up the diseased old chestnut tree failed. Three years ago it toppled over.
But caregivers with foresight saved chestnuts from the tree and planted them to create a new generation of saplings. Eleven were earmarked for the United States. Aliyah prompted Boston to request a tree.
"When I was 12 and I was looking for a Bat Mitzvah project," she said, "I heard about the saplings and I sent a proposal to the mayor and he approved it."
On Tuesday, a sun-splashed ceremony was attended by dozens of schoolchildren. Dignitaries wielding shovels planted the tiny tree — no more than a couple of feet tall. It stands now on Boston Common, not far from where the gallows once stood where Puritans hanged the Quaker Mary Dyer, and not far from the recent Boston Marathon bombings.
"The tree will be a symbol of hope for the people and for the history of Boston, which has gone through some terrible things in the past, and also recently," Aliyah said, "and it will help Boston move forward from all of the tragedies — just as the tree was a symbol of hope when Anne Frank was going through such a terrible time."
Anne Frank was Aliyah's age — 15 — when she died in a Nazi concentration camp. Had Frank lived, next week she would have marked her 84th birthday.
This program aired on June 4, 2013.
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