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An arboreal memorial to Anne Frank stands in one of the busiest corners of Covent Garden.
I've walked through Covent Garden a thousand times and never spotted this memorial to Anne Frank.
Anne was, of course, the young Jewish diarist who evaded the Nazis for two years by hiding with her family in an attic. Tragically, the family was eventually discovered and sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to be murdered with so many others.
Her memorial takes the common form of a street tree. An Italian alder, to be precise. It grows from the pavement outside the Roundhouse pub, on the corner of Garrick Street and New Row. I'd guess that thousands of people walk past every day and never realise that it is a tribute to Anne Frank.
A plaque attached to the pub gives some context. It is so well-buffed and reflective that it's impossible to photograph, so here is a transcription:
Anne Frank has served as an inspiration to millions around the world and her life warns us of the dangers of intolerance. This tree is dedicated as a place to reflect on all the children who have died owing to the wars and persecution in the last century, and this site serves as an inspiration to us all to work together towards a better world, free of bigotry in this century.
The plaque further attests that the tree was planted on 22 October 2001 — just weeks after the 9/11 attacks had emphasised the "dangers of intolerance". Actors Hannah Taylor Gordon and Sir Ben Kingsley — who starred in award-winning miniseries Anne Frank: The Whole Story — attended the planting, which also marked the 10th anniversary of the Anne Frank Trust UK.
The tree really should stand out to us more. The streets between St Martin's Lane and Covent Garden piazza are almost entirely bereft of proper trees — largely thanks to the narrow, busy pavements. A tree is a rarity in these parts. Yet, somehow, I've walked past countless times and never really noticed it before. Now, having found it, I'm going to make a point of crossing over to say hello, whenever in the area.
This is not the only memorial to Anne Frank in London. Another tree stands in the grounds of the British Library, while a bust (above) can be found inside. Meanwhile, a horse-chestnut cultivated from the tree Anne could see from her attic window stands in Highbury Fields. Yet another tree, planted by Michael Winner in 2008, can be found in Holland Park.
All images: Matt Brown