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Anne Frank tree falls over in wind, heavy rain

The monumental chestnut tree that cheered Anne Frank while she was in hiding from the Nazis was toppled by wind and heavy rain on Monday.
Image: Anne Frank's chestnut tree falls
The splintered trunk of the monumental chestnut tree that comforted Anne Frank while she hid from the Nazis during World War II is seen Monday after it fell.Evert Elzinga / AP
/ Source: news services

The monumental chestnut tree that cheered Anne Frank while she was in hiding from the Nazis was toppled by wind and heavy rain on Monday.

The once mighty tree, now diseased and rotted through the trunk, snapped about 3 feet  above ground and crashed across several gardens. It damaged a brick wall and several sheds, but nearby buildings — including the Anne Frank House museum — escaped unscathed. No one was injured, authorities said.

"It broke off like a match. It broke off completely about one meter off the ground," the spokesman for the museum told Reuters.

A global campaign to save the chestnut, widely known as The Anne Frank Tree, was launched in 2007 after city officials deemed it a safety hazard and ordered it felled. The tree was granted a last-minute reprieve after a battle in court.

The 150-year-old tree suffered from fungus and moths that had caused more than half its trunk to rot.

Support system
Two years ago city workmen encased the trunk in a steel support system to prevent it from falling, but that failed under windy weather Monday.

The Netherlands' Trees Institute, one of the most prominent supporters of the preservation project, said it was "unpleasantly surprised" by the news of the tree's fall early Monday afternoon.

"On the advice of experts in tree care, it had been calculated that the tree could live several more decades" with the support structure, the institute said in a statement.  "Alas, in the event it seems that nature is stronger."

FILE - In this April 7, 2008 file photo cranes carrying workers stretch over towards a chestnut tree in a courtyard behind The Anne Frank House museum as work to prop up the tree that once comforted Anne Frank began in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The monumental chestnut tree has fallen over on Monday, Aug. 23, 2010, a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank Museum says. The 27-ton tree was encased in a steel tripod as a precaution of the danger it might fall. The tree's trunk snapped close to the ground and it toppled into neighboring gardens, damaging several sheds. No one was hurt. (AP Photo/Evert Elzinga, File)Evert Elzinga / AP

The institute said it didn't know why the support structure had failed.

Parts of the tree were later being offered for sale on Dutch auction website The highest offer was 10 million euros ($12.7 million), Reuters reported.

Many clones of the tree have been taken, including 11 planted at sites around the United States and 150 at a park in Amsterdam. It is not clear whether a new tree will replace the original one on the same spot, since it rests on property belonging to a neighbor.

'Little raindrops shine'
The Jewish teenager made several references to the tree in the diary that she kept during the 25 months she remained indoors until her family was arrested in August 1944.

"Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs," she wrote on Feb. 23, 1944. "From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind."

"Our chestnut tree is in full blossom. It is covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year," she wrote in May 1944, not long before she was betrayed to the Nazis.

Anne Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945. Her diary was recovered and published after her death. It has become the most widely read document to emerge from the Holocaust.