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Artists return German music award over rappers’ Holocaust lyrics

Record label announces campaign to combat anti-Semitism amid backlash over prize to duo who compared themselves to Auschwitz prisoners

German rappers Kollegah & Farid Bang perform during the 2018 Echo Music Awards ceremony on April 12, 2018, in Berlin (AFP PHOTO / AXEL SCHMIDT)
German rappers Kollegah & Farid Bang perform during the 2018 Echo Music Awards ceremony on April 12, 2018, in Berlin (AFP PHOTO / AXEL SCHMIDT)

Several artists have returned their Echo Awards in Germany to protest the award won by two rappers whose lyrics boasted of having “bodies more defined than Auschwitz inmates.”

In response to the award controversy, BMG, which distributes releases by Kollegah and Farid Bang, has announced a campaign against anti-Semitism.

At the awards ceremony on April 12, a speaker condemning the rappers received a standing ovation.

The award recognizes sales, not the content of the album, but the awards committee has pledged to rethink how it chooses winners, according to Variety.

Kollegah and Farid Bang won the Echo Award for having 2017’s best-selling hip-hop album, “Young, Brutal and Handsome 3.”

In their lyrics, along with the boast about their physiques, they call for “another Holocaust; let’s grab the Molotov” cocktails.

The BMG campaign is focused on teaching schoolchildren about anti-Semitism. The distributor has pledged 100,000 euros, about $123,000, to the campaign.

Recent news reports have produced shocking evidence of a new wave of anti-Semitism in German schools,” read a statement by BMG Worldwide CEO Hartwig Masuch. “BMG is utterly opposed to anti-Semitism.”

But Masuch also said the artists in question are not anti-Semitic.

“Kollegah and Farid Bang have repeatedly made it clear on the internet and speaking in public that they are not anti-Semitic, and they have apologized for any distress caused by the lyrics in question,” he said. “BMG stands for values such as artistic freedom, creativity and diversity.”

The lyrics have sparked a heated debate in Germany, which is still haunted by lingering memories of Nazi crimes.

Last week, Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas called the lyrics “simply repugnant,” and Jewish groups strongly criticized the use of Auschwitz imagery in the song.

Before the rappers won the Echo prize, an organization made up of Auschwitz survivors called the line “heartless” and a “cheap provocation.”

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