Former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters took to social media Friday night to defend himself – as he has in recent years – against charges of anti-Semitism, saying that “my recent performance in Berlin attracted ill-intentioned attacks from those who want to slander and silence me.” I am because they disagree with my political views and moral principles.
His statement followed an announcement by Berlin police to the media that it had opened an investigation into Waters’ behavior and his photograph at his arena concerts in Berlin. Waters did not directly refer to the news of the German police investigation into his position.
“It is quite clear that the elements of my performance that have been called into question are a statement opposing fascism, injustice and bigotry in all its forms,” Waters wrote on Facebook. Attempts to portray these elements as something else are disingenuous and politically motivated. A portrayal of a deranged fascist demagogue has been a feature of my programming since Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” in 1980.”
A police spokesman in Berlin said Waters was under investigation “on suspicion of inciting public hatred because the clothes he wore on stage could be used to glorify or justify the Nazi regime.” It is illegal in Germany to display Nazi symbolism, justify the Holocaust, or commit anti-Semitic acts. Reports of Waters wearing an identical SS uniform as part of his show are incorrect, as the costumes are similar but satirical in nature, but that would have been disturbing or inappropriate for firing a machine gun into the audience.
Berlin police also told the New York Times that investigators’ findings will be presented to the state’s attorney sometime in the next three months, at which time it will be determined whether Waters is charged.
Although the Berlin police investigation continues, the controversy over Waters’ tour is unlikely to die soon, with several local government officials in England already responding to the German controversy by saying his upcoming appearance in the UK should be cancelled.
The police action was in response to complaints of fake Nazi clothing and images during a portion of Waters’ concerts dedicated to “The Wall”. On top of that, the polarizing rock star has also been criticized for dropping the name of Holocaust victim Anne Frank along with that of Al Jazeera Palestinian journalist Shereen Abu Akle, who was identified on screen as murdered for “being Palestinian,” which some Jewish groups have said . Others claimed that Israel’s actions equated with the death camps that killed millions in Nazi Germany. (The names of others Waters believes were killed by the state have also been made public, including Americans George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.)
Waters further wrote in his Facebook post: “I have spent my entire life speaking out against tyranny and oppression wherever I see it. As a child after the war, the name Anne Frank was often uttered in our home, becoming a constant reminder of what happens when fascism is left unchecked. My parents fought The Nazis in World War II, and my father paid the ultimate price. Regardless of the consequences of the attacks on me, I will continue to condemn injustice and all those who perpetrate it.”
As the concerts kicked off in Germany, Waters posted on Facebook that while he would not speak directly about his pro-BDS and anti-Israel views during the concerts, he remained adamant that Israel is a “racist, totalitarian regime”.
Waters is next scheduled to appear in Frankfurt on Sunday night, a performance that will continue after the artist successfully appealed a court order banning the concert. Frankfurt wasn’t alone in trying to shut down Waters’ appearance. The mayor of Munich led an unsuccessful attempt to stop Waters’ performance there.
In response to repeated accusations of antisemitism, Waters has been adamant over the years that his anger is directed at Israel specifically and not Jews in general. He was a staunch supporter of the pro-Palestinian BDS movement, whose supporters distributed the material at his German concerts, even as Jewish protesters were turned away.
A standout at the Berlin shows was a theatrical piece during the song “In the Flesh” in which Waters puts on the kind of black trenchcoat and armband strongly associated with the Nazis – though the symbol for the two hammers is the swastika boot – and a machine gun is delivered as a prop, which he “unleashes” into the audience, accompanied by sound effects. This follows a spoken word in which a “faggot”, a person who “looks Jewish”, a black person (referred to as a racial slur) and a person who smokes a joint are singled out as worthy of being shot. Since 1979, Pink Floyd fans have understood the song and its presentation — and adapted it into the film version of “The Wall” — as satirical, in the context of a story about a rock star whose delusional condition leads him to become a fascist.
But some commentators said they were acutely aware of the levels of cynicism in the performance while still finding it disturbing that Waters would shoot the audience while wearing an SS uniform in Ground Zero for the Holocaust. Understanding the images is further complicated, for some, by Waters’ fierce anti-Israel statements in later years that have inflamed Jewish organizations and their supporters.
Accusations of anti-Semitism against Waters were persistent enough that he opened his Berlin concerts with an on-screen text, stated in a voice-over, looking to initially refute the accusations: “In a matter of public interest: a court in Frankfurt has ruled that I am not an anti-Semite.” The next screen reads: “Excellent. Just to be clear. I condemn anti-Semitism unreservedly.”
Writer Nicholas Potter, who attended the Berlin concert and wrote about it for Belltower News, rejected Waters’ claim of legal acquittal: “By the way, Waters’ claim that the court ruled he was not an anti-Semite is not true.” The Frankfurt Administrative Court granted the singer’s emergency application to allow her to perform at the Festhalle Frankfurt. The city had tried to prevent the ceremony at the request of the Jewish community. A move that was justified, among other things, by the historical importance of the place,” Potter added, noting that the place “was used to deport Jews under National Socialism. In Munich, too, An attempt was made to ban the concert at Olympiahalle – but this was not possible for legal reasons, according to the decision of the city council.
The controversy will soon move to England…or indeed. Christian Wakeford MP for Manchester. books On social media on Thursday, “Roger Waters has a long history of vile attacks against the Jewish people. His recent shows in Berlin show why he is not welcome in Manchester. My letter to the AO Arena explains why his concert will not continue next month. … I hope he will Sensation is seen and this man’s despicable opinions are not seen anywhere near Manchester.”
Supporters of the Palestinian movement see Waters as the rare figure of courage willing to risk the hatred of the Jewish community by wholeheartedly supporting their cause. On the flip side, Waters wasn’t helped by the fact that his former Pink Floyd partner, David Gilmour, signed a statement telling Waters he was “anti-Semitic to your rotten core.” He was penned by Gilmore’s wife, Polly Samson, who also said that Waters is also a Putin apologist, a liar, a thief, a hypocrite, a tax evader, an anti-lip, a misogynist, a sick envious, a megalomaniac. Enough of this nonsense.” Gilmour tweeted his wife’s letter, writing that he considered every word “manifestly obvious.”
Although Waters has been defiant in the face of criticism, and even boycotts or cancellations of concerts, he has changed elements of his show in the past in response to accusations of antisemitism. Specifically, after initially championing the Star of David appearing on an evil pig perched above the masses (“like it or not, the Star of David represents Israel”), he has now replaced the one on the pig with the logo of Israeli arms company Elbit Systems.
Ever willing to wade in political waters where few other stars would dare tread, Waters has sparked a geopolitical dispute that has little to do with Israel or the Palestinians either, and has regularly criticized American foreign policy, be it under Republican or Democratic presidencies. Recently, despite his anti-authoritarian state stance, he has confused many admirers by saying that Russia had historically valid reasons for waging war against Ukraine and was “provoked” into its invasion. He later said in a gushing statement to the United Nations Council, in which he appeared at Russia’s instigation, that he only wanted the two sides to work for peace.
Most Pink Floyd fans would be tempted to overlook Waters’ statements, if they didn’t explicitly agree with them, in order to hear some of the most popular material in rock history performed live, as Waters’ touring continues to thrive. There may have been some brand damage within the music industry, though, as the sale of Pink Floyd’s proposed half-billion-dollar catalog reportedly remained in limbo, with Waters’ inclination toward highly unpopular attitudes cited as one possible possible reason. Buyers may be wary of getting a bed in a bargain.