Police in Germany have launched a criminal investigation into Roger Waters, the co-founder of Pink Floyd, after he appeared dressed in a costume resembling a Nazi uniform during two concerts in Berlin last week.
Waters was wearing the costume while performing from Pink Floyd’s 1979 concept album “The Wall,” in which the album’s protagonist hallucinates that he is a fascist dictator. The satirical routine has been a part of Waters’ solo shows for at least 30 years, including a famous live performance of the album in Berlin in 1990. This week appears to be the first time the German government has launched a criminal investigation following his performance, however.
Berlin police spokeswoman Jennifer Bähle confirmed to CNN Friday that Waters is being investigated for suspected incitement during two concerts in the city last week, on May 17 and 18. ”We have received information from the public including pictures and videos which according to the external appearance are suitable for fulfilling the offence of incitement to hatred,” she said.
”The State Security Department at the Berlin State Criminal Police Office has initiated a criminal investigation procedure regarding the suspicion of incitement of the people (140 Paragraph 4 of the German criminal Code),” a statement by Berlin police sent to CNN reads.
”The context of the clothing worn is deemed capable of approving, glorifying or justifying the violent and arbitrary rule of the Nazi regime in a manner that violates the dignity of the victims and thereby disrupts public peace,” the statement went on to say.
”After the conclusion of the investigation, the case will be forwarded to the Berlin Public Prosecutor’s Office for legal assessment,” the police statement ended.
In a statement posted to Facebook dated May 20, Waters criticized the German Bundestag’s 2019 vote to designate the pro-Palestinian “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement as antisemitic. Waters has been a frequent proponent of the BDS movement, and a vocal critic of the Israeli state’s treatment of Palestinian people.
A video posted and shared on social media from Waters’ performance at the Mercedes-Benz Arena last week shows the musician in a costume with a red armband emblazoned with two crossed hammers – an image from Pink Floyd’s album “The Wall” that has been appropriated by racist skinhead groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The video shows Waters pretending to shoot into the crowd with a prop machine gun. According to the Berlin police, this depiction is likely to glorify the rule of the National Socialists.
The performances in Germany were the subject of profound controversy before Waters arrived. He has consistently denied that he is antisemitic. In his May 20 statement, the singer said he visited the graves of anti-Nazi activists Sophie and Hans Scholl while on tour in Munich last week.
Waters is scheduled to perform in Frankfurt on Sunday.
City authorities in Frankfurt demanded that the venue cancel his concert there, but according to a report in The Guardian, a German court ruled in April that while his performance uses “symbolism manifestly based on that of the National Socialist regime,” the musician’s work “did not glorify or relativize the crimes of the Nazis or identify with Nazi racist ideology.”
Frankfurt’s Jewish community has organized a protest against his upcoming performance. ”On this day, the concert by the musician Roger Waters known for his anti-Semitic stage shows and statements, will take place. We do not want to stand by idly when a well-known anti-Semite and conspiracy theorist is given a stage in Frankfurt, ” the Jewish community said in a statement on Instagram.
According to Waters’ show schedule, he is also expected to perform in a series of concerts in the UK next week, including in Birmingham, Glasgow, London and Manchester.
In an interview with podcaster Katie Halper posted online on May 6, Waters said: “I can be allowed to do a show because it’s theatre darling. The idea that no one can dress up in a f**king Nazi uniform ever, to do anything, in a theatre or a film, is ludicrous, obviously.”
His comments came shortly after he won a legal battle to revoke Frankfurt city council’s ban on his upcoming concert.
“You don’t dress up like him, in a pro-Himmler or pro-Nazi way,” said Halper. “It’s a scathing critique, you are playing a villainous character.”
“It’s a parody,” Waters replied.