This was reported at The Daily Beast today:
[Justin] Bieber visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam this weekend, where he is performing a concert, and wrote a humble little note in the museum’s guest book: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”
(Beliebers, as what Bieber’s alarmingly devoted fans call themselves, are all furiously googling “Who is Anne Frank?” right now.)
The Anne Frank House, understandably touched that an international pop supernova like Justin Bieber would stop by the museum, posted Bieber’s note on its official Facebook page. BBC correspondent Anna Holligan discovered the post and spread it through Twitter, eventually tracking down the museum’s press office to confirm that he really did write the statement in the guest book. As the Bieber’s quote spread, so did incredulous indignation that the singer would venture that the global icon, had she not died at a concentration camp in 1945, would turn to writing “I❤ Justin” in her diary.
My head is spinning (and not from Justin Bieber fandom). For a bit of perspective, here’s Anne with other Jewish children posing in a Purim holiday photo, February, 1934:
Anne Frank is the little girl to the left (in a dress in the front row). Margo Frank, Anne’s older sister, is with the taller kids in the back row, and is wearing a dress similar to her sister’s. Margo is the one on the right. Both Anne and Margo died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in March, 1945. Bergen-Belsen is near Hanover, in northwest Germany.
Here’s an image from Bergen-Belsen (taken in 1945):
In a bit of defense of Justin Bieber, perhaps his comment was an inarticulate way of saying that he’d like to think that Anne Frank would have been happy with the global pop culture and optimistic about our collective human future. We’ve come a long way since the 1930s and 40s. At least it would seem so. Whether we are brown, red, Asian, black, white, Jewish, atheist, etc., we can all hold aloft our cell phones together at a Justin Bieber concert, sway beneath the evening stars, and be happy together–be “beliebers.” 21st century irony and superficiality is kind of comforting after the unironic and ideology driven horrors of the 20th century. A Justin Bieber concert is certainly a better sign of a culture’s health than a Nazi night rally, that’s for sure.
On the other hand, how do you end up with leaders like Hitler in the first place? Don’t they arise by manipulating masses happy to be group-thinkers (believers)–people content not to think for themselves, to think neither critically nor historically, but to follow the same earnest fellow that everybody else is?
My sense is that if Anne Frank were a teenager alive today, she wouldn’t be a follower of anybody.
Source for both photos: U.S. Holocaust Museum Photo Archive