Roger Waters, the renowned co-founder of the legendary rock band Pink Floyd, finds himself at the center of a controversy following a Berlin concert. The Berlin police have launched an investigation into Waters over a ”Nazi-style uniform” he wore during the concert.
The focal point of the investigation is a costume worn by Waters during the performance of "In the Flesh," a song from the rock opera "The Wall."
The outfit consists of a black leather trench coat and a red armband bearing two crossed hammers. Waters' character in this performance, Pink, descends into a drug-induced hallucination, visualizing himself as a fictional fascist dictator addressing a neo-Nazi rally.
According to Berlin police spokesperson Martin Halweg, the investigation was triggered by the suspicion that Waters' costume glorifies the violent and arbitrary Nazi rule in a way that disrupts public peace. Halweg also mentioned that the police will examine footage from Waters' previous shows in Germany as part of their investigation.
The controversy, however, doesn't end here. Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, has criticized Waters for featuring the names of activists killed by authorities during his concert. Danon accuses Waters of equating Israel with Nazis, due to the inclusion of names such as Anne Frank, a Holocaust victim, and Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist shot dead by an Israeli sniper in May 2022. Abu Akleh was wearing a clearly marked press vest and helmet when she was shot in the face. Israel apologized for her killing but did not investigate or punish the killer. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published a report that said it had found no accountability was taken by the Israeli military over its killings of at least 20 journalists Israeli military fire since 2001.
This uniform and its associated imagery have long been an integral part of Waters's performances. Indeed, when Waters and German band Scorpions performed the song in 1990 alongside the recently toppled Berlin Wall, he wore a similar uniform. Moreover, Waters donned a similar costume as part of his 2010-13 "The Wall Live" tour, which included nine concerts in Germany.
Supporters of Waters argue that the reason for the ongoing which-hunt which started with venues trying to cancel his shows in Germany and continuing with the performance outfit investigation, is purely because of his critique of Israel's policies towards Palestinians and his refusal to accept the dominant narrative of the Ukraine war.
In response to the controversy, Waters released a statement explaining his perspective:
"My recent performance in Berlin has attracted bad faith attacks from those who want to smear and silence me because they disagree with my political views and moral principles.
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. 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.
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."