Biden Administration Calls Roger Waters’ Recent Performances “Deeply Offensive” and “Antisemitic” 

The Biden Administration has called Roger Waters‘ recent performances in Germany part of a “long track record of using antisemitic tropes,” which included “imagery that is deeply offensive to Jewish people and minimized the Holocaust,” according to the U.S. Department of State.

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The concerts being referenced took place on May 17 and 18 in Berlin, Germany. The shows featured a number of antisemitic imagery, including Waters firing an imitation gun, dressed in a Nazi-style trench coat with a red armband, featuring a swastika-like emblem made of two crossed hammers.

Waters wore the outfit during his performance of The Wall song “In the Flesh.” The same outfit was worn by Bob Geldof in Pink Floyd‘s 1982 film, The Wall, as he performed the same song. Waters also wore a similar get-up during his The Wall Live Tour, 2010-2013, which also included several concerts in Germany.

Along with Waters’ Nazi-style uniform, was a segment in the show featuring the names of activists killed by authorities, including George Floyd, Anne Frank, anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl, and Mahsa Amini, who was killed by Iranian morality police. The shows also featured a Star of David, which Waters has been using on stage since 2010, and Third Reich-style banners.

“I am sick and disgusted by Roger Waters’ obsession to belittle and trivialize the Shoah and the sarcastic way in which he delights in trampling on the victims, systematically murdered by the Nazis,” wrote Katharina Von Schnurbein, the European Commission (EU) coordinator on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life, in a Twitter post. “In Germany. Enough is enough. Holocaust trivialization is criminalized across the EU.”

In response to Von Schnurbein’s tweet, said Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. special envoy to combat antisemitism, tweeted: “I wholeheartedly concur with [Katharina von Schnurbein] condemnation of Roger Waters and his despicable Holocaust distortion.”

The department released a statement in response to the exchange on Twitter without mentioning Waters by name.

“Special Envoy Lipstadt’s quote-tweet speaks for itself,” said the State Department. “The concert in question, which took place in Berlin, contained imagery that is deeply offensive to Jewish people and minimized the Holocaust. The artist in question has a long track record of using antisemitic tropes to denigrate Jewish people.”

Following Waters’ Berlin concerts, Berlin police opened an investigation of the Pink Floyd co-founder on suspicion of incitement over the clothing he wore on stage.

“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,” wrote Waters in response to the criticism following the shows. “Attempts to portray those elements as something else are disingenuous and politically motivated. The depiction of an unhinged fascist demagogue has been a feature of my shows since Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ in 1980.”

Waters added: “I have spent my entire life speaking out against authoritarianism and oppression wherever I see it. When I was a child after the war, the name of Anne Frank was often spoken in our house, she became a permanent reminder of what happens when fascism is left unchecked. My parents fought the Nazis in World War II, with my father paying the ultimate price. Regardless of the consequences of the attacks against me, I will continue to condemn injustice and all those who perpetrate it.”

Photo: Brian Lima / Rogers and Cowan

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