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April 27, 2023 11:29 am

‘Dignity’ of Holocaust Victims Violated by Upcoming ‘Antisemitic’ Roger Waters Concert, Auschwitz Committee Leader Says

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avatar by Ben Cohen

Former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters on stage. Photo: Reuters/Amr Alfiky

The memory of thousands of Jews rounded up by the Nazi regime in Frankfurt in 1938 has been violated by the decision of the city’s administrative court to reverse the cancelation of a forthcoming concert by former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, the head of the International Auschwitz Committee asserted on Thursday.

The Frankfurt Administrative Court’s ruling on Monday to allow the show came two months after the city government — which jointly owns the Festhalle venue where Waters is scheduled to perform with the state of Hesse — canceled the performance, accusing Waters of being “one of the world’s best-known antisemites.” It cited his backing for the campaign to subject the State of Israel to a regime of “boycotts, divestment and sanctions” (BDS) and highlighted the use of antisemitic imagery in Waters’ past concerts, including a balloon shaped like a pig and embossed with a Star of David and various corporate logos.

Waters is currently embarking on his “This is Not a Drill 2023” tour, which includes concerts in Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne and Munich as well as Frankfurt. Politicians and Jewish leaders in all five cities have objected to the concerts, with many calling for their cancelation.

The Festhalle venue is controversial because it was the site where more than 3,000 Jews were forcibly assembled and abused by Nazi thugs following the nationwide pogrom of Nov 9-10, 1938, prior to their deportation to concentration camps.

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The court’s ruling argued, however, that the memory of the Jewish deportees would not be tainted by the singer exercising his “artistic freedom.” While the court conceded that Waters use of Nazi imagery in his stage show was “tasteless,” it was also the case that the singer did not “glorify or relativize the National Socialist atrocities or identify with National Socialist racial ideology,” a spokeswoman for the court told local media outlets on Monday. Post–war Germany instituted a series of laws that outlaw pro-Nazi organizations and their associated symbols as well as the denial of the Holocaust.

Rejecting this viewpoint, the vice-president of the International Auschwitz Committee — a voluntary body created by survivors of the extermination camp after the war — charged that the court had insulted the memory of the deported Jews.

“The court’s finding that the concert in the Festhalle did not violate the human dignity of the Jewish men who were arrested there in 1938 and exposed to the antisemitic hatred of the Nazis is a renewed attack on the dignity of these people and the memories of their families,” Christoph Heubner told the t-online news outlet.

Heubner added that the decision in favor of Waters along with the series of antisemitic scandals around Germany’s prestigious Documenta art show in 2022 demonstrated that “parts of this society and some of its institutions are unwilling to protect [the Jewish community.]”

“This is a bitter situation for Germany,” he said.

The Central Council of German Jews also condemned the court’s decision. “It is inexplicable how an obvious reference to National Socialist symbolism should not have any legal consequences,” the Council’s president, Josef Schuster, said in a statement. “Incitement to hatred is unconstitutional and never just tasteless.”

Uwe Becker — the state of Hesse’s commissioner for combating antisemitism — said that he was “very much in favor of exhausting all legal options” to prevent the concert from going ahead at the Festhalle on May 28. The decision can still be appealed at the Administrative Court for the state of Hesse.

Should the performance go ahead, Becker urged a “broad civil society mobilization” that would send a “strong signal” against Waters.

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