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Vandals destroy tree memorializing Anne Frank in Coeur d’Alene park

UPDATED: Fri., April 17, 2020

Coeur d’Alene officials say vandals have destroyed a tree that was planted in 2006 to honor Holocaust victim Anne Frank. The tree was accompanied by a small plaque in G.O. Phippeny Park, seen Thursday. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Coeur d’Alene officials say vandals have destroyed a tree that was planted in 2006 to honor Holocaust victim Anne Frank. The tree was accompanied by a small plaque in G.O. Phippeny Park, seen Thursday. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Coeur d’Alene officials say vandals have destroyed a tree that was planted in a public park in 2006 to honor Holocaust victim Anne Frank.

The small tree, a Japanese stewartia, was accompanied by a plaque memorializing Frank in G.O. Phippeny Park, at Eighth Street and Montana Avenue.

Nick Goodwin, the city’s urban forester, said a park maintenance crew discovered the tree in two pieces Wednesday morning, snapped near the base of the trunk. They believe it was vandalized the previous night and have filed a police report.

Goodwin said he called the person who donated the tree 14 years ago and learned this is the third time it has been intentionally damaged or destroyed. The donor wishes to remain anonymous, he said.

Tony Stewart, a founder of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations – which was formed in the 1980s to oppose local hate groups like the Aryan Nations – believes the vandalism was motivated by anti-Semitism.

“Here’s another example of how hate has continued to be a problem all over the world, and it never ends,” Stewart said. “But it’s very important for us to be outspoken in the strongest terms about how atrocious it is, and how much it violates every principle of dignity and human rights and equality for everyone.”

Frank was the daughter of a Jewish businessman who chronicled her childhood in hiding before she was captured by Nazis and perished in a concentration camp in 1945. Her diary, discovered after her death, is standard reading in Holocaust education around the world.

Goodwin said the city will work with the original donor to replace the tree. The new tree might be a sturdier variety, and it might be planted in a more visible location to discourage future instances of vandalism, he said.

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