Two German rappers who have been under fire for song lyrics that lightheartedly referred to Auschwitz inmates are going to pay a visit to the former death camp in formerly Nazi-occupied Poland.
The Bild newspaper reported Thursday that rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang have accepted an invitation from the International Auschwitz Committee to visit the memorial on June 3 to learn more about what took place there.
Some 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, were killed at Auschwitz and the adjoining Birkenau camp.
The two have been widely criticized for a track on their new album that contains the phrase “my body more defined than Auschwitz inmates.” They’ve defended the line as artistic freedom and not political opinion.
Dusseldorf prosecutors said this week that individuals have filed legal complaints against the rappers and they have opened obligatory preliminary investigations of them.
The pair has come under pressure from Holocaust survivor groups as well as from within the artistic community. A speaker who condemned the stars at April’s Echo Award ceremony received a standing ovation from the audience, and several artists returned their gongs in protest after Kollegah and Farid Bang won the award for having 2017’s best-selling hip-hop album, “Young, Brutal and Handsome 3.”
The award ceremony was held as Israel marked Yom HaShoah, its Holocaust Remembrance Day, dedicated to the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II.
In the wake of the controversy BMG, which distributes releases by the rappers, announced a campaign focused on teaching children about anti-Semitism.
“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.”