BERLIN, Germany (AP) — Several Jewish groups, politicians, and an alliance of civil society groups gathered for a memorial ceremony and a protest rally against a concert by Roger Waters in Frankfurt on Sunday evening.
They accuse the Pink Floyd co-founder of antisemitism – an allegation he denies. Waters has also drawn their ire for his support of the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel.
Frankfurt authorities had initially tried to prevent the concert from taking place, but Waters successfully challenged the move in a local court.
The concert is taking place in the city’s Festhalle, where in November 1938 more than 3,000 Jews were rounded up by the Nazis, beaten and abused, and later deported to concentration camps.
“Against this historical background, the concert should not have taken place under any circumstances,” said Sacha Stawski, a member of the Frankfurt Jewish community and head of the group Honestly Concerned, which helped organize the protests.
“It’s very frustrating” that the concert is going ahead as scheduled even though Frankfurt officials and many others tried to prevent it, Elio Adler, the head of the Jewish group WerteInitiative which supports the protest, told The Associated Press.
Great news! Berlin police have launched a criminal investigation into Roger Waters following his concert in which he dressed like a Nazi SS officer holding a gun and denigrated the murder of Anne Frank.
— StopAntisemitism (@StopAntisemites) May 25, 2023
“His words and imagery spread Jew-hatred and are part of a trend: to normalize Israel-hatred under the protection of freedom of speech or art,” Adler added.
Last week, police in Berlin said they had opened an investigation of Waters on suspicion of incitement over a costume the Pink Floyd co-founder wore when he performed in the German capital earlier this month.
Images on social media showed Waters firing an imitation machine gun while dressed in a long black coat with a red armband. Police confirmed that an investigation was opened over suspicions that the context of the costume could constitute a glorification, justification, or approval of Nazi rule and therefore a disturbance of the public peace.
Waters rejected those accusations in a statement on Facebook and Instagram, saying that “the elements of my performance that have been questioned are quite clearly a statement in opposition to fascism, injustice, and bigotry in all its forms.”
He claimed that “attempts to portray those elements as something else are disingenuous and politically motivated.”
During Sunday’s ceremony and protests, which took place in front of the Frankfurt concert venue before Waters’s concert was set to begin, protesters read out loud the names of 600 Jews who were rounded up at the Festhalle on November 9, 1939, the so-called Kristallnacht — the “Night of Broken Glass” — when Nazis terrorized Jews throughout Germany and Austria.
The organizers also held a joint Jewish-Christian prayer for the victims of the Nazi terror in Frankfurt. The city’s mayor as well as the head of the local Jewish community were set to speak at the protest.
In addition, some of the around 400 protesters handed out flyers to concertgoers and waved Israeli flags. Others held up banners with slogans such as “Israel, we stand with you” or “Roger Waters, wish you were not here” in reference to Pink Floyd’s famous song “Wish You Were Were,” German news agency dpa reported.
Protesters in Munich rallied against a concert by Waters earlier this month, after the city council said it had explored possibilities of banning the performance but concluded that it wasn’t legally possible to cancel a contract with the organizer.
Last year, the Polish city of Krakow canceled gigs by Waters because of his sympathetic stance toward Russia in its war against Ukraine.