Branching into Heritage: The Genesis of the Anne Frank Tree and its Multiplications

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This ethnography contributes to the field of Holocaust heritage studies by exploring the paradoxical tendencies of memorial proliferation and oblivion. The topic of investigation is the genesis and multiplications of the so-called ‘Anne Frank Tree’, the horse chestnut tree behind the Secret Annex that Anne Frank wrote about in her diary. Fungus-infected, the tree fell in 2010. The Anne Frank Tree testifies to both the terrible fate of the European Jews and the shelter offered to some. Therefore, its eventual safeguarding, whether by conservation or multiplication, became a topic of concern worldwide. Following the roots and routes of the Anne Frank Tree legacy (stump, seedlings, grafts, wood, and chestnuts), this article examines the processes of sacralization that have stirred the material's vivid proliferation and, importantly, the burden which the accumulating material subsequently imposes on the people in charge of it. The case sheds light on the tendency of the sacred to proliferate, often to the extent of excess. Paradoxically, this tendency threatens to undo the sacrality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-382
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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