Berlin police investigate Roger Waters over Nazi-style uniform

German police are investigating the case of Roger Waters, founder of the Pink Floyd group, who has been a long-time critic of Israel after he performed in Berlin last week wearing a Nazi-style costume similar to the one he used to criticize fascism in The Wall. “

Mister. Waters, who has made anti-Israel statements in the past that many consider cross the line of anti-Semitism, has successfully fought two attempts by German courts to bar him from German concert venues in the past.

The investigation focuses on Mr. Waters was dressed during a performance of Pink Floyd’s 1979 song “In the Flesh” from their original album The Wall, in which the rock star presents himself as a fascist dictator. A similar setting was used in the 1982 film Pink Floyd: The Wall, starring Bob Geldof.

During parts of the concerts in Berlin on 17 and 18 May, Mr. Waters was wearing a black cloak with epaulettes and a red armband. videos posted on social media and witnesses. Accompanied by men dressed in costumes reminiscent of Nazi stormtroopers, he fired at the audience with a rifle machine gun. Mister. Waters wore similar costumes to concerts outside of Germany for years for a routine he called satire.

The Berlin authorities will have to determine to what extent the display of Nazi images is protected by freedom of artistic expression. Displaying Nazi symbols such as the swastika or SS regalia, justifying or downplaying the Holocaust, and anti-Semitic acts are illegal in Germany.

“Freedom of expression is not a license to incite hatred,” Nicholas Potter, a researcher at the Amadeu Antonio Foundation in Berlin, a group that tracks neo-Nazism, right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism in Germany, wrote in an email exchange.

“Artistic freedom is often used as an argument to express anti-democratic or hateful views, including anti-Semitic ones, but this does not always mean that it is applicable – the context is crucial,” he added. Mister. Potter attended one of the Berlin shows and wrote about it in foundation news blog.

Mister. Waters initially agreed to be interviewed by The New York Times about the investigation, but then declined. A spokesperson wrote: “We don’t want to comment if the intention is to make this fabricated news story even more sensational.”

A Berlin police spokesman said the investigators would present their findings to the Berlin state prosecutor within the next three months. The state’s attorney will decide whether to charge Mr. Waters.

Mister. Waters is an ardent supporter obd., a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that, among other demands, pushes foreign governments, businesses, and actors to sever ties with Israel until it ends its occupation of the territories it seized in 1967.

Mister. Waters has used a floating pig balloon in past concerts that has a Star of David on it. He defended this act saying in 2013 on Facebook that “like it or not, the Star of David represents Israel and its politics and is legally subject to any and all forms of non-violent protest.”

In a Sunday Facebook post on the controversy surrounding his concerts in Germany, he criticized German legislators who denounced the BDS, saying they “anchored the German people’s ‘silence and indifference’ recommendation” to the “legalized killing” of the Palestinian people by the “tyrannical racist regime” which it said was the State of Israel. .

On giant billboards at the concert the name Anne Frankone of the most easily recognizable victims of the Holocaust, during which more than 6 million Jews were killed by the Germans, has been associated with the name of Shirin Abu Akle, a Palestinian American television correspondent who was shot dead by Israel Defense Forces soldiers during a raid on the West Bank last year.

On Wednesday morning, the Israeli Foreign Ministry posted on twitter: “Good morning to everyone except Roger Waters, who spent the evening in Berlin (Yes, Berlin) defiling the memory of Anne Frank and the 6 million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust.”

On Wednesday, the Simon Wiesenthal Center publicly called on the German authorities to investigate the concert in Berlin. “There are few performers whose anti-Israeli rage can match Waters,” the center wrote. in a statement. “Despite his protests against it, Waters crossed the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism for many years.”

Any accusations stemming from the concert will come as Germany faces a more general debate about the rise of anti-Semitism in the country 78 years after the end of the Holocaust. In addition to the general increase in the number of anti-Semitic crimes reported in the country, there were wide-ranging discussions after a group of heads of cultural institutions published an open letter condemning not only the BDS, but also a parliamentary resolution declaring the BDS antisemitic at its core. And an art installation with a picture antisemitic cartoons in Documenta The Kassel Arts Festival last year led to another round of soul-searching among the cultural elite.

The city of Frankfurt tried to stop Mr. Waters from performing at the Frankfurter Festhalle this coming Sunday, a venue partly owned by the city. In November 1938, thousands of Jewish men were brought to the arena after a night of pogroms known as “Kristallnacht” and then sent to concentration camps. But the judge in Frankfurt supported Mr. Waters, who on Monday filed an emergency injunction against the city, citing a constitutional right to creative freedom and the fact that there was no evidence that Mr. Waters would have broken the law.

In March, the Munich city authorities determined that they could not legally terminate the musician’s contract for a show he played at the Olympiastadion last week. Instead, the city decided to allow organized protests outside the venue on the day of the concert.

Alex Marshall provided a report from London.