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In Memoriam: Anne Frank Is No 'Belieber'

Francesca Bessey |
April 15, 2013 | 12:30 a.m. PDT

Deputy Opinion Editor

Our society does not take great responsibility for humanitarian disasters.

Confronted with the mass murder of millions, Bieber talks of fandom. (Oh-Barcelona.com, Creative Commons)
Confronted with the mass murder of millions, Bieber talks of fandom. (Oh-Barcelona.com, Creative Commons)

Thankfully, mostly due to a perpetual effort by the Jewish survivor community, most people can at least tell you what the Holocaust is. Most people are aware that six million Jews were murdered, and countless others incarcerated, abused or forced into hiding, at the hands the Nazi regime in 1940s Germany. Most people realize that this atrocity was the result of ethnic and religious intolerance taken to the most heinous extreme. Most people understand that this was an instance of genocide and that genocide could always happen again.

And yet, every time it does, or every time another conflict erupts in which massive numbers of innocent civilians are raped, killed or displaced from their homes, most people stand by.

It has puzzled me for a long time why so many people can so blatantly ignore such horrific violence. But the message left by Justin Bieber in the guestbook at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam has brought me one step closer to the truth.

“Truly inspiring to be able to come here,” wrote Bieber when he visited the historical site Friday. “Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

Confronted with the reality of the murder of millions, Bieber talks of fandom. He encounters a global tragedy and subordinates it to his own narrative of success. Bieber ignores the opportunity to react and respond to the Holocaust, to remind the world that Anne Frank is important independent of his fame, to take a stand against the ethnic violence that continues to devastate communities in many parts of the world.

He gives us no reason to believe that he knows anything about Anne Frank, including that she and six million like her were murdered by people who also saw themselves as more important than her. Part of the evil of the Holocaust is the way it silenced its victims and witnesses—not only during, but for decades afterward. By demonstrating such trivial concern for this catastrophe, Bieber is contributing to a cultural message that perpetuates that silence today.

And Bieber’s age is no excuse. Despite the museum's commendation of a young man like Bieber's decision to even visit in the first place, we can and should expect more from our teenage idols—and from our young people in general. Bieber is 19, six years older than Frank was when she first went into hiding, and plenty old enough to comprehend the gravity of the Holocaust. Anne Frank and millions of children like her grew up pretty fast when the Nazis took power.

Furthermore, Bieber’s young age does not mean he lacks the power to influence the way millions of young people think—his many fans and followers nation and worldwide. As such, it is not only alarming, but our responsibility to address the fact that Bieber cannot respond to the Holocaust in a manner that shows sensitivity and critical thought. If we do not, Bieber will continue to perpetuate a culture of ignorance of and apathy towards genocide.

In this case, it seems Bieber is so used to commanding the attention of young women that he allowed Frank’s importance as a witness to genocide to be overshadowed by his own fame—in a house dedicated to Frank’s memory.

Believe it or not, Bieber, not all 14-year-old girls exist for you. In her too-short time on this earth, Anne Frank served a much higher purpose than being your fan.

I don’t foresee myself becoming a “belieber” any time soon—at least, not until I can “believe” that Bieber recognizes Frank for being much more than a potential fan. Not until Justin Bieber gives us something worthy of having faith in. Not until I am convinced that he deserves to make statements that influence public opinion on issues as serious as genocide.

May Anne Frank and the millions of victims of genocide worldwide rest in peace. May their memories not be forgotten or trivialized. May stories like Frank's always speak louder than voices of dismissal.


Reach Deputy Opinion Editor Francesca Bessey here; follow her here.



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