German police probe Roger Waters for incitement after Nazi costume at concert

Rock star sparks outrage by wearing fascist uniform during show in Berlin, projecting Anne Frank’s name to compare Israel to Hitler’s Germany

Roger Waters on stage in Berlin, May 2023 (Twitter screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the copyright law)
Roger Waters on stage in Berlin, May 2023 (Twitter screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the copyright law)

Police in Germany have launched a criminal investigation into Roger Waters after he appeared to dress as a Nazi during a concert in Berlin earlier this month.

Berlin police are investigating the co-founder of Pink Floyd for suspected incitement, the UK’s Jewish News reported on Thursday.

“The context of the clothing worn is deemed capable of approving, glorifying or justifying the violent and arbitrary rule of the Nazi regime in a manner that violates the dignity of the victims and thereby disrupts public peace,” police chief inspector Martin Halweg said.

Germany has strict laws against incitement to racial hatred, a reaction to the country’s Nazi past.

Waters at times dons a uniform resembling SS garb, with a long black jacket, black gloves and a red armband, and symbolically shoots a gun into the crowd during the shows. He reportedly did so at a May 17 concert in Berlin.

Waters, a leader in the boycott Israel movement, has also sparked outrage by projecting Anne Frank’s name at recent concerts to draw comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany. Such comparisons are considered antisemitic under the widely-used IHRA definition of antisemitism.

During his current tour, Waters has lumped Frank together with Palestinian Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in on-screen projections. Abu Akleh was killed on an assignment in the West Bank last year.

Waters has also put a Star of David on the side of an inflatable pig during recent shows.

Waters has recently performed concerts in Berlin and Munich, and is scheduled to appear in Frankfurt on Sunday.

The Jewish community of Frankfurt has organized a protest against the performance.

The Frankfurt municipal government and Munich’s mayor unsuccessfully attempted to block Waters from performing in their cities.

The city of Frankfurt had called Waters “one of the most widely spread antisemites in the world,” over imagery and Israel critique at his past concerts.

Waters is also scheduled to perform at a series of concerts in the UK starting next week. He will appear in Birmingham, Glasgow, London and Manchester.

The Jewish Representative Council for Greater Manchester and the Region said in a statement that Waters is “synonymous with spreading deeply troubling political views that will rightly concern Jewish and other communities.”

“Allowing Waters to perform risks damaging community cohesion with the possibility of an increase in hate crimes targeting Jewish people,” the council said on Wednesday.

A member of the UK parliament, Christian Wakeford, called on Manchester’s AO Arena to cancel the Waters performance due to his “vile comments towards the Jewish community with his performances used to dehumanise Jewish people, peddle conspiracy theories, and promote antisemitism.”

Wakeford, a member of the Labour party, said the leader of the UK’s House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt, was aware of the issue and would be informing the Home Office.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said Thursday that it was “very concerning” that Waters will be performing in the UK, calling his concerts “political rallies.”

“Waters has a long history of vile comments relating to the Jewish community, from his talk of ‘the Jewish lobby,’ to his comments that some Jewish people in the UK and America bear responsibility for the actions of Israel,” the group said.

In a Sunday Facebook post, written while he was in Munich, Waters doubled down on his anti-Israel rhetoric and again compared the Jewish state to Nazi Germany.

Waters said Germans had been forced to “stand by silent and indifferent” — an allusion to a quote from Holocaust survivor and author Eli Wiesel — while Israel commits “institutionalized murder.”

“The tyrannical racist regime is the State of Israel,” Waters said, likening the Jewish state’s treatment of Palestinians to the Holocaust.

He accused the “Israeli lobby” of manipulating attempts to cancel his shows. References to Jews and Jewish lobbies wielding disproportionate power are viewed as antisemitic because they conjure age-old tropes and conspiracy theories about Jews controlling the levers of power from the shadows.

“I feel sorry for you having to live, or at least live with, the lies we are all fed by The Powers That Be,” he wrote to his fans.

The Biden administration’s antisemitism envoy, Deborah Lipstadt, and the European Jewish Congress also condemned Waters this week. Lipstadt called the performances “despicable Holocaust distortion.”

The EU’s point person for fighting antisemitism, Katharina von Schnurbein, said she was “sick and disgusted” by the concerts.

“Enough is enough. Holocaust [trivialization] is criminalized across the EU,” she said.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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