From: Reuters
Published November 21, 2007 06:49 AM

Anne Frank museum says diseased tree must go

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Anne Frank museum still wants a diseased chestnut tree cut down for safety reasons, despite a court reprieve over its felling.

An Amsterdam court ruled on Tuesday the city council must work with conservationists in the coming two months to look into alternatives to the felling of the 150-year-old tree, that had been due to start at dawn on Wednesday.

Museum director Hans Westra said he would consider asking Amsterdam's mayor to overrule the court and allow the felling to go ahead if new tests confirm the tree is infected with a fungal strain that spreads quickly.

"This is no longer the tree as Anne Frank saw it," he said. "I'm much more in favor of a young tree."

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Tests showed only 24 percent of the tree was still healthy.

The teenage diarist, who died in a concentration camp in 1945, looked out on the tree as she hid from the Nazis. It stands in a private garden next to the museum.

Westra told a news conference he expected a record of just over 1 million visitors to Frank's hiding place this year and was concerned about their safety as long as the chestnut remained.

Tree conservationists who sought the injunction against the felling said their stability tests showed the 27-tonne chestnut was still safe and its life could be prolonged by decades by supporting it with steel cables.

Westra rejected that idea and said attaching cables to the museum could endanger the building.

The Jewish teenager drew comfort from the tree as one of the only signs of nature visible from her stuffy hiding place, mentioning it several times in her diary before being betrayed and arrested by the Nazis in 1944.

Council official Els Iping said she was worried the tree could topple over while talks were under way with conservationists.

Iping and Westra said they understood the global attention the tree attracted but condemned frenzied bidding for a chestnut from the tree on auction on eBay. "This is a form of commercialization that I find tasteless," Westra said.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Golnar Motevalli)

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