UI instructor leads initiative to bring sapling from Anne Frank tree to campus

The University of Iowa will plant a sapling from Anne Frank’s tree in a ceremony that will take place in April 2022


Jerod Ringwald

University of Iowa lecturer Kirsten E. Kumpf Baele poses next to a tree on Friday, June 18, 2021.

Meg Doster, News Reporter

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect USA is giving the UI a sapling of the chestnut tree Frank wrote about in her famous diary. The planting will happen on April 29, 2022, at the center of the UI’s campus, the Pentacrest.

University of Iowa German instructor Kirsten Kumpf Baele developed the course, Anne Frank & Her Story, in 2017.The course analyzes Anne Frank’s diary, media adaptations, and anti-Semitism and prejudice during Frank’s life. Kumpf Baele’s class, along with her own research into the didactic function of trees in accounts of the Holocaust, led her to discover the Sapling Project.

Kumpf Baele wrote a request for the sapling to the Anne Frank Center in 2018. Her request for Iowa City to receive a sapling was accepted in 2020.

“I’m honored, and I’m still pinching myself that this happened,” Kumpf Baele said. “I wanted to share my enthusiasm, my teaching, my research interests, and how fitting it would be for the tree to come to Iowa City.”

The chestnut tree that Frank wrote about in her diary died in 2010, but not before saplings were collected and distributed.

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Twelve sites across the United States are home to saplings from the original chestnut tree. The sapling to be planted in Iowa City will be the thirteenth.

The Washington State Holocaust Resource Center in Seattle planted its sapling in 2015, nine years after Ilana Cone Kennedy, the director of education at the Holocaust Center for Humanity, submitted her proposal.

“I feel in so many ways in the spirit of Anne Frank and her ability to bring people together,” Cone Kennedy said. “I hope this tree does the same thing for your community, your campus. It becomes a spot where people can be and accept each other.”

Cone Kennedy sent her sapling proposal shortly after she witnessed a shooting at the Jewish Federation in Seattle in 2006.

“This tree was a continuation of bringing all of these different parts of the community together,” Cone Kennedy said.

Cone Kennedy said the Seattle Holocaust Center would’ve applied for a sapling anyway, but after the shooting, receiving a sapling took on a whole new meaning for the Jewish community.

John Kenyon, the executive director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, said he wrote in his support for Kumpf Baele’s proposal.

“It sounded like a wonderful program and a great addition to campus, into our community,” Kenyon said. “We’re so pleased that Iowa City was selected to be the home of the next sapling.”

Kumpf Baele reached out to Kenyon, among others, to ask to support her sapling proposal. Kenyon said he was happy to do so.

“We are excited about the various things that the community can do to celebrate that, both when it is planted and in the future, as folks figure out ways to leverage it to raise awareness,” Kenyon said.

The planting of the UI’s sapling will be an in-person event hosted by the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies.

The Anne Frank Center’s website said the large chestnut tree that Frank saw represented freedom and the nature that “she longed to enjoy again.”

Kumpf Baele said her project, Anne Frank Tree: Taking Root in Iowa, will be a series of events that aims at recognizing the power of nature.

“The tree continues to serve as an education tool that keeps the story of Anne and the story of the Holocaust alive, while also spreading new seeds of hope,” Kumpf Baele said.