UI prepares for Anne Frank tree sapling to arrive on campus

The UI will put an iron cage and other safety precautions in place to protect the Anne Frank tree sapling arriving in April.


Gabby Drees

Arborist Andy Dahl poses for a portrait at the Pentacrest at the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. The tree pictured is the same type as the one that will be placed in honor of Anne Frank across from Philips Hall. “It’s really cool that we’re doing this,” Dahl said.

Emily Delgado, News Reporter

A sapling commemorating Anne Frank will soon take root on the Pentacrest, but fears of anti-Semitism and vandalism mean the tree will be guarded by an iron cage.

The sapling comes from the famous chestnut tree that Anne Frank wrote about in her diary 80 years ago. Fears of the tree getting vandalized are on the minds of the Anne Frank sapling team, said UI arborist Andy Dahl, as anti-Semitic actions have happened in other parts of Iowa, and in Iowa City.

“We want to ensure that every precaution is taken to protect it,” Dahl said.

A tree planting ceremony is scheduled for April 29, Arbor Day, outside MacBride Hall. The ceremony will feature speeches from UI President Barbara Wilson and Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Liz Tovar, along with music and spoken-word poetry.

The best way to prevent anti-Semitic actions toward the tree is to have a strong Jewish community at the UI, said Ashley Holt, Iowa Hillel House’s executive director.

“This tree will serve as an important reminder to reject hatred toward Jews and others,” Holt said. “We hope this tree symbolizes growth not just for Jewish students on campus, but for all students to learn and grow together.”

The UI was gifted the tree by the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect USA in June 2021. The project is headed by Kirsten Kumpf Baele, a UI German instructor.

Kumpf Baele has also been the driving person behind bringing the exhibit Let Me Be Myself: The Life Story of Anne Frank to the UI. The exhibit is currently on display in the Old Capitol Museum and is open to the public.

“A dream developed: to bring one of Anne Frank’s saplings to the University of Iowa in Iowa City—the UNESCO City of Literature,” Kumpf Baele wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “I composed numerous emails, I picked up the phone and spoke with the CEO, with the board of directors — I was transparent about my wishes.”

Kumpf Baele heard back from the Anne Frank Center USA in May saying that the UI and Iowa City will be the location for the sapling, making it the 13th location in the country to have an Anne Frank sapling.

“Selectively chosen from among significant historical sites, institutions, and communities dedicated to the preservation of human rights, our campus and our city will be the 13th sapling to be planted in this country,” Kumpf Baele wrote.

Dahl said the team behind bringing the Anne Frank sapling to the UI campus currently has no protection mitigation except the iron cage. He said they plan to have more protection put in place soon and are working with UI security to keep the tree safe while it is on campus grounds.

“We have had a cage fabricated that goes with other hardscape materials on the Pentacrest so it blends with the benches and trash cans that will be around it to keep people away from it, and then we are looking at some other options right now,” Dahl said.

The iron cage will allow for the tree to grow and will be looked after by Dahl and his team.

“It’ll go around the trees and give it more space to grow, it will keep people away from the tree and it will keep the mowers away,” Dahl said.

Dahl said his team is very excited to have such a special tree on the Pentacrest.

According to Kumpf Baele, the Pentacrest is the ideal spot for the Anne Frank sapling as it is a place that represents free speech and protest.

“Our campus has been heralded as a leader in university arboretums. Moreover, the sapling’s new home is a space of free speech and protest. I am certain that Anne would be proud,” Kumpf Baele wrote.

The tree will be planted on the Northeast side of the Pentacrest, close to Phillips Hall, Kumpf Baele wrote.

“By sharing Anne’s story and the stories of individuals today who experience discrimination, the exhibit helps people understand better the dangers of racism, antisemitism, and all forms of prejudice,” Kumpf Baele wrote.