Anne Frank and Tina Strobos: Jewish Life Under the Chestnut Tree

Dr. Tina Strobos in her Westchester apartment. Chester Higgins Jr./The New York TimeAnne here, with a quick and lovely story about Dr. Tina Strobos, 89 and a recently-retired psychiatrist, living in Westchester County, New York.

Dr. Strobos is not Jewish, but 70 years ago as a medical student in Amsterdam, she worked with her mother, to hide over 100 Jews saught for extermination by the Nazis.

That sanctuary, which included an attic lair that was never discovered, was just a 10-minute stroll from a more famous hideout: Anne Frank’s at 263 Prinsengracht. Indeed, the question of why the Franks did not have an escape hatch for when the Gestapo barged in gets her fairly worked up. via NYTimes

Dr. Strobos at left in 1941 with Abraham Pais and her mother, Marie Schotte, with whom she housed scores of Jews.In a related story that impacts my neighborhood, Dr. Strobos’s neighbor Anne Frank often gazed on a horse chestnut tree from her window in Amsterdam.

via“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 sea gulls and other birds as they glide on the wind,” she wrote in her diary on Feb. 23, 1944, six months before her hideout was discovered. “When I looked outside right into the depth of nature and God, then I was happy, really happy.”

She died of typhus at 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. via NYTimes

Anne Frank’s beloved, 15-year-old chestnut tree is battling a lethal fungus. Before it dies, saplings descended from the chestnut tree are making their way to historic sites around the workd, including my World Trade Center site.

The samplings will be planted at the White House, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis;  to Little Rock High School (where the Little Rock Nine black students integrated an Arkansas high school in 1957; the William J. Clinton Foundation in Little Rock; Bostom Common; Seneca Falls as home to the American women’s rights movement, and to Holocaust centers in Seattle, Farmington Hills, Mich; Sonoma State University; and to Boide, Idaho, whose statue of Anne was vandalized by a white supremacist group. via New York Times

Anne Frank Festival in Liverpool,

Anne Frank & The Chestnut Tree

Note from Anne: I have a personal objection to the use of ‘heroes’ today to describe ordinary people. There was a sign near my apartment in lower Manhattan, saying that union members are heroes. Getting up in the morning and making breakfast for our kids is somehow considered heroic.  I find this concept so offensive.

Dr. Strobos is a true hero, having saved the lives of 100 Jews, in an act that continually put her at risk and death. 

Perhaps Madison Avenue can invent a new word for people who act apart from selfish interests to protect people, on the basis of Cultural Creative principles that govern every human life and not only those in our tribe our herd.