KKL-JNF, together with World B'nai Brith, began planting the Martyrs Forest, which extends on both sides of Kesalon River in the Jerusalem Hills, in 1951. The forest is a silent, powerful and natural memorial to the millions of Jews who perished in the Holocaust. In the forest stand six million trees – one for every Jew who was killed – a living, breathing memorial to the people whose lives were brutally cut short. At its heart stands the famed "Scrolls of Fire" memorial created by the well-known sculptor Nathan Rapaport chronicling the events of the Holocaust in Europe and the revival of the State of Israel.
Anne Frank Memorial at the Martyrs Forest. Photo: Yossi Zamir, KKL-JNF Jerusalem
This beautiful forest is carpeted with colorful wildflowers according to season and provides shady tranquility in summer. Every year on Holocaust Day a memorial ceremony is held in the forest.
In the forest stands a memorial to Anne Frank, who perhaps more than anyone else, represents the horrors of the Holocaust for many people. The Anne Frank Memorial, a gift from KKL-JNF Holland, was inaugurated in Martyrs Forest on May 2, 2011, on Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day.
Anne Frank (1929-1945) hid in Amsterdam with her family during the German occupation of the Netherlands and died in Bergen-Belsen in 1945. Miep Gies, a family friend, found Anne's diary and gave it to her father after the war. It became one of the most widely read books in the world.
The memorial is a sculpture created by designer Piet Cohen, and is the form of a room made of rusted steel. In the corner of the structure sits an uncomfortably high stool, from where the viewer can see an engraved image of the famed chestnut tree which Anne Frank wrote about so lovingly in her diary. The viewing experience is meant to recreate the feeling of imprisonment, isolation and discomfort while looking longingly through a window at the world outside.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
The following words from Anne Frank's diary inspired Piet Cohen to create the memorial:
"As luck would have it, I'm only able - except for a few rare occasions – to view nature through dusty curtains tacked over dirt-caked windows; it takes the pleasure out of looking. Nature is the one thing for which there is no substitute!"
In 1960, Anne's father, Otto Frank, planted the first tree in KKL-JNF's Anne Frank Memorial Park. Several years ago, JNF Holland decided to raise funds to renew the park, to tell the story of human behavior and heroism.
At the inauguration ceremony, led by KKL-JNF Holland president Professor Moshe Kon and its CEO Mr. Eli Van Dam, KKL-JNF World Chairman Mr. Efi Stenzler read aloud the words he had written to Anne Frank:
"Dear Anne: 69 years have passed since you and your family entered the hidden apartment in Amsterdam. It may be true that the forces of evil captured your body, but they could not take your soul….I am sorry to tell you that the chestnut tree that you loved so much, which grew outside the window of your hiding place, is no more. It fell in a winter storm; perhaps it grew weak from a broken heart. But we have chosen to build a memorial for you in the heart of the forest – not just one chestnut tree, but six million trees that KKL-JNF planted in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. You are with us now in nature, which you loved so much, commemorated for all time under the cloudless blue skies of Israel."
Intensifying the Forest Experience with Anne Frank
Following the inauguration of the Anne Frank Memorial in the Martyrs Forest, KKL-JNF is planning to intensify the experience of visiting the forest and in particular the memorial, by opening the forest to visitors from all walks of life, renewing scenic routes and preventing flood damage and wildfires.
An 8-km road section will be improved for greater ease of forest management and firefighting, bicycles and hikers, in a forest section extending from the memorial eastwards.
To ensure the road is passable and safe, work will be conducted on various sections of nearby Kesalon River to repair drainage that was damaged by winter floods. The streambed will be cleared of debris and the terracing that stabilizes the slope will be repaired. Flammable vegetation along roadsides will be thinned and removed, creating firebreaks to reduce danger from wildfires.
A view of the memorial park. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
These buffer areas will be 30-m wide on each side of the road and will extend over a total of 48 hectares. A 3-km hiking trail that is part of the Israel Trail and descends from Mt. Karmila to the Anne Frank Memorial will be upgraded, as well.
Keeping the forest well maintained will ensure it remains popular and continues to attract thousands of visitors. These visitors are the links in the chain that keep Anne Frank and the Holocaust alive in all our minds.
By contributing to the maintenance and care of the Holocaust Martyrs Forest, you are participating in keeping the memory of the Holocaust and of Anne Frank, in particular, alive. The thousands of visitors to the forest will be able to reach the memorial by various means from a number of sites thanks to the improvements that will be carried out. They will also be able to enjoy the sad, but uplifting, experience of a visit to the forest and the memorial, comfortably and safely.