Justin Bieber, my successor as Canada’s teen heartthrob, is currently touring Europe. Passing through Amsterdam, he was taken to visit the Anne Frank House and afterwards signed the guest book. “Anne was a great girl,” he wrote. “Hopefully, she would have been a belieber” — the term used by devoted fans of young Justin. Miss Frank did not live to become a belieber because she was shipped off to Belsen concentration camp and died of typhus in 1945. But had she lived I feel it safe to say she would have regarded Justin’s oeuvre as complete bilge: As a teenager, she liked Liszt, so she was a beliszter; she belonged to the franz club. Anyway, Justin’s poignant message set off a Twitterstorm of criticism at what the Washington Post called “the insensitivity and the sheer ego” of it.
I’m inclined to cut him some slack here. As the years go by, Anne Frank’s supposedly inspiring story makes me a little queasy. Europe venerates its dead Jews even as a resurgent anti-Semitism chases out its living ones. Everyone loves Jews as victims. In other roles, not so much.