Roger Waters has provoked the ire of Israeli authorities after a pair of concerts last week in Berlin during which the former Pink Floyd leader displayed Nazi-like symbolism and made what is described as offensive comments about Holocaust victim Anne Frank. “Good morning to every one but Roger Waters who spent the evening in Berlin (Yes Berlin) desecrating the memory of Anne Frank and the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust,” read a tweet from the State of Israel’s official account on Wednesday (May 24).
During a two-night (May 17-18) stand at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, the singer reportedly took to the stage with a message that read, “The show will start in 10 minutes and a court in Frankfurt has ruled that I am not an antisemite… just to be clear, I condemn antisemitism unreservedly.” In April, a court in Frankfurt ruled that the city could not cancel a planned May 28 show by Waters after city officials dubbed the singer “one of the most widely known antisemites in the world.”
Waters lyrics and in-concert imagery have long trafficked in transgressive and provocative imagery, especially on Pink Floyd’s lacerating 1979 album The Wall, a commentary on isolation and emotional numbness whose film version featured disturbing figures that mocked fascist ideology of the sort that the bassist/singer uses to this day. The employment of those tropes — especially the Holocaust references in Berlin — reportedly offended some, seemingly due to their proximity to the epicenter of the Nazi’s murderous seat, with the Jerusalem Post reporting that the singer repeatedly employed images of “humanoid pigs and shady businessmen… pulling the strings” that activists condemned as clear “antisemitic dogwhistle[s].”
Perhaps most offensive was a segment of the show featuring the names of activists killed by authorities, including anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl, Mahsa Amini, who was killed by Iranian morality police, George Floyd and Anne Frank, the Jewish teenager murdered by the Nazi regime at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
The latter’s name was listed just before Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian-American journalist who is thought to have been killed last May by shots from Israeli soldiers during a shootout with Palestinian militants. The paper reported that the juxtaposition sparked “outrage from Israeli and Jewish activists and officials around the world.”
After an intermission, Waters reportedly returned to the stage wearing a costume similar to a Nazi SS soldier’s uniform with a red armband while pointing a fake rifle at the crowd. The set piece also included a giant inflatable pig with a variety of symbols and words on it — including a prominent Jewish star — that floated over the crowd as “banners in the style of the Third Reich but with crossed hammers instead of swastika” hung from the ceiling.
The show took place in the city where more than 60,000 Jews were deported to their deaths during WWII and which was the site of the Nov. 1938 “Kristallnacht” purge, in which most of Berlin’s synagogues were burned down and Jewish-owned stores and homes were vandalized and robbed. It is against the law in Germany to display Nazi symbols or memorabilia.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned the concert in a tweet, writing, “Shame on Frankfurt authorities and Mercedes Benz arena in Berlin — a place from where Jews were deported by the Nazis — for providing anti-Semite #RogerWaters this venue for his concert with no concern/care for the Jewish community.” In a follow-up tweet the leading Jewish human rights organization asked, “Will Germany prosecute #RogerWaters for Holocaust distortion or will promoters rush to book the anti-Semite for more lurid 3-D anti-Israel + #Antisemitic hatefests masquerading as concerts?”
At press time a spokesperson for Waters had not returned Billboard‘s request for comment. Waters has repeatedly been condemned for making what many consider to be anti-semitic comments on the state of Israel, including comparing the actions of the Israeli government to that of South Africa under the apartheid regime and Nazi Germany, as well as questioning Israel’s right to exist.
See the tweets below.