Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

April 3, 2013

Symbol of peace blooms again at Children's Museum


INDIANAPOLIS — The horse chestnut tree that served as a symbol of inspiration and peace for Anne Frank during World War II lives on through a rare sapling to be planted at the world's largest children's museum.

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis will celebrate the planting of the descendant of the famous tree at 10 a.m. April 14.

"This is an incredible honor and an opportunity for us to continue Anne Frank's legacy," said Dr. Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis. "We hope to encourage families to be tolerant of others and inspire them to be strong no matter what obstacles confront them. This tree serves as a living reminder of hope and peace ... traits we also inspire through our permanent exhibit, The Power of Children."

The Children's Museum sapling is one of just 11 derived from the 170-year-old horse chestnut tree that will be planted at key locations across the United States. The Anne Frank Center USA chose the sapling sites based upon their historic significance and commitment to continuing education about tolerance.

In a contributing partnership, The Anne Frank Center USA and The Children's Museum of Indianapolis are also creating a teaching and discovery website. Launching in the spring, the site will share content from each location, show how locales are using the sapling project to advance tolerance and stimulate public dialogue among educators, elected officials, and civic leaders about contemporary issues of intolerance. 

"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. As the saplings take root, they will become living symbols of justice and tolerance in America for many years to come," said Yvonne Simons, executive director of The Anne Frank Center USA. "The message of tolerance will spread from these 11 communities across the country, joining these historical examples of hatred and discrimination with contemporary issues."

The original tree was blown down by high winds in a storm in August 2010. The fallen tree was estimated to weigh 60,000 pounds. Thanks to Dow AgroSciences, The Children's Museum was able to provide essential care and feeding for several of the saplings.

"Protecting and nurturing plant development is fundamental to our mission," said Gordon Slack, Dow AgroSciences global leader of finance and public affairs. "We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to lend our expertise and support to this meaningful program."

One sapling will be planted in The Children's Museum's Anne Frank Peace Park, donated by Indianapolis philanthropists Gerald and Dorit Paul.

"Being refugees ourselves and seeing Anne's picture reminds me of what I looked like as a girl and what we went through," said Dorit Paul. "There was also a big allee by the river where I grew up in Germany lined with chestnut trees and we all collected the nuts. So, the chestnut tree and Anne Frank struck a strong emotional chord with me."

The Children's Museum features an exhibit called The Power of Children, in which Anne is honored along with two other children who showed unique strength while facing unimaginable challenges. The stories of Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges (first black child to integrate a white elementary school in the segregated South), and Ryan White (the Indiana teenager barred from school for being infected with pediatric H.I.V.) exemplify how every individual can make a powerful difference in the world. The exhibit features live theater performances that bring the stories of those youth to life and includes artifacts depicting each of their experiences.

The horse chestnut tree was the only way Anne Frank could connect with nature during the two years her family hid from the Nazis during the German occupation of the Netherlands. As a Jewish teenager, she wrote about the tree's beauty several times.

In addition to the tree commemoration ceremony that is open to the public, there will also be performances of Anne's story in The Power of Children gallery and hands-on activities in the biotechnology lab at designated times throughout the day. The Children's Museum is at 3000 N. Meridian St. Call 334-3322 or visit the website ChildrensMuseum.org for more information.