A Catholic bishop has added his voice to the growing controversy after one of Germany’s most important music awards was given to a pair of rappers for an album and song that included references to the Holocaust and Nazi concentration camps.
The Echo award was given to rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang at Germany’s equivalent of the Grammy’s on 12 April. In their prize-winning studio album “Jung, brutal, gutaussehend” (“Young, brutal, good-looking”), Farid Bang boasts about his training regime saying “my body is more defined than an Auschwitz prisoner’s”.
Awarding the prestigious annual Echo pop music prize to the duo, who make fun of Holocaust victims, has been sharply condemned by Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg who is responsible for World Church affairs in the German bishops’ conference. He said it was a “big mistake” on Twitter on 16 April.
“Antisemitism must on no account be allowed to become presentable once again,” he warned. “The Holocaust must always remain a warning and must not be belittled in anyway.”
The president of the Central Council of German Jews, Josef Schuster, told the Passauer Neue Presse that many in Germany were very ignorant about anti-semitism. Its dangers were not recognised by a “sizeable percentage” of German society, he warned.
The Jewish rapper Ben Salomo, who was born in Berlin, told the “Watson” news portal after the award ceremony that he was leaving the German rapper scene. “I was repeatedly confronted with anti-semitism not only in song texts but backstage.” Many rappers were genuine antisemites and were glad of the opportunity to express their anti-semitic prejudices in their song texts, he said.
Several well-known singers and musicians, including the conductor Daniel Barenboim, have now handed their Echo awards back. Kollegah and Farid’s texts were “antisemitic, misogynist and homophobic”, Barenboim said.
"Decency and humanity" must outweigh "commercial interests", he added, explaining his move to return Echo Music Awards that he has won.
Kollegah and Farid Bang have since said they are not anti-Semitic, inviting Jewish fans to attend their concerts for free. The pair were due to perform at Schaffhausen in Switzerland at the beginning of May. Their concert has now been cancelled
Posting on Twitter in German, the foreign minister, Heiko Maas, wrote: “Anti-Semitic provocations do not deserve awards, they are simply disgusting.”
German Minister of Justice, Katarina Barley, told the Funke media group that in Germany antisemites must reckon with the full rigour of constitutional law and that included immigrants from Arab countries where anti-semitism was widespread.
According to Berlin’s Research and Information Centre, which records incidents of anti-Semitism in the German capital, 947 occurred last year, a 60 per cent increase from 2016.
PICTURE: Rappers Kollegah (r) and Farid Bang receive the Echo award for Album of the Year at the 27th German music awards ceremony ©PA