Anne Frank’s Musical Taste Was a Lot More Sophisticated Than Justin Bieber

Answers to your questions about the news.
April 15 2013 6:32 PM

Anne Frank Was Not a Belieber

But she was a teenager. Which pop stars did she idolize?

Anne Frank.
Anne Frank's tastes were not so different than other teens of her time.

HO Old/Reuters

Teenage heartthrob Justin Bieber continues to draw ire after his visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam on Friday. After noting in the museum’s guestbook how “inspiring” it was to visit the home where Frank and her family hid from the Nazis for two years during World War II, he went on to opine that she “was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.” Staff posted Bieber’s note to the museum’s Facebook page, prompting many to “cringe at the insensitivity and the sheer ego of” the counterfactual fan club invitation. Frank died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1945, so there is no way of knowing whether she would have enjoyed the nuanced strains of “Baby.” However, in addition to being one of the most important chroniclers of her time, Anne Frank was also a normal teenager. Was she a fan of pop culture?

Somewhat. A few clues on this front can be found in the famous diary itself. In one of the earliest entries, dated Sunday, June 14, 1942, Frank imagines what it would be like to own a pet like Rin Tin Tin and writes of her and her classmates’ enjoyment of a movie featuring the dog on the occasion of her birthday party, a few weeks before the family was forced into hiding. Frank was also fond of the young adult novels of her era, particularly the books of Cissy van Marxveldt: “I’ve read The Zaniest Summer four times, and the ludicrous situations still make me laugh.” In these preferences, Frank was like most girls her age.

Musically speaking, though, Frank’s tastes seem to have run highbrow. Along with the rest of her family, she enjoyed listening to classical music in private home performances before the war and later on the radio, and devotes much of a June 1944 entry to a loose review of a biography of Franz Liszt. Classical music also played into Frank’s nascent romantic life: “Sunday afternoon Peter came to see me at four-thirty, at my invitation. At five-fifteen we went to the front attic, where we stayed until six. There was a beautiful Mozart concert on the radio from six to seven-fifteen; I especially enjoyed the ‘Kleine Nachtmusik.’ I can hardly bear to listen in the kitchen, since beautiful music stirs me to the very depths of my soul.”

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Frank did have a touch of tabloid fever however. She was so fond of collecting pictures of actors such as Greta Garbo and Ray Milland—she laments in a May 1944 entry that her “movie stars are in a terrible disarray and are dying to be straightened out”—that, according to Melissa Müller’s biography, at least one of her childhood friends found her “flightiness and fascination” with them annoying. But even as she drew some delight from celebrity culture, Frank resisted being lumped in with young girls who, as a contemporary polemic had put it, “occupy themselves with superficial things, without giving a thought to true beauty.”

Got a question about today’s news? Ask the Explainer.

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

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