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Roger Waters triggers incitement investigation in Berlin after Nazi-inspired display

Roger Waters stands onstage holding a microphone with two hands as a face is projected in red behind him
Outspoken musician Roger Waters is being investigated by German police over Nazi-inspired imagery he used during a pair of Berlin concerts this month. (Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press)

Former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters is being investigated by Berlin police after wearing what appeared to be a Nazi-inspired ensemble while performing last week in Germany, where it is illegal to display Nazi symbols.

Berlin police said Friday that they opened an investigation into the musician on suspicion of incitement, the Associated Press reported. The move comes after images and footage of the 79-year-old rocker hit social media showing him wearing a long black coat with a red armband and imitating firing a machine gun.

German authorities said Waters' clothing resembled the clothing of an SS officer and the display could constitute a glorification, justification or approval of Nazi rule and therefore a disturbance of the public peace.

After the investigation, the case will be handed to Berlin prosecutors who would decide whether to pursue any charges against Waters. A spokesperson for Waters did not immediately respond Friday to The Times' request for comment.

Displaying Nazi symbols, flags and uniforms is prohibited in Germany, the BBC said, but there are exceptions to the law allowed for artistic or educational reasons. Some of the symbols in question during Waters' Berlin show are similar to those appearing on costumes in his 1982 film, "Pink Floyd: The Wall."

The Grammy-nominated musician is in Europe on his This Is Not a Drill tour, a politically charged farewell tour molded by his views. Waters billed the show, which made its way through North America last year and was broadcast into cinemas from Prague on Thursday, as a "a stunning indictment of the corporate dystopia in which we all struggle to survive."

"The Dark Side of the Moon" and "The Wall" singer has been criticized for his support of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that calls for an end to international support of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians, and has been dubbed an antisemite — a characterization he has repeatedly rejected.

The Munich city council in April also said that it had tried to ban his concert there last Sunday, but wasn't legally able to cancel the contract with the organizer. That show was met with demonstrations by the local Jewish community's leader, AP said. Frankfurt authorities also tried to block Waters' upcoming Sunday concert there but the musician successfully challenged them in local court. During his two-night stint at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin on May 17, he reportedly took the stage with a message about the Frankfurt pushback.

"The show will start in 10 minutes and a court in Frankfurt has ruled that I am not an antisemite … just to be clear, I condemn antisemitism unreservedly," an on-screen message read, according to Billboard. Later, segments of the show bore references to the Holocaust, and the Jerusalem Post reported that the singer repeatedly employed "antisemitic dogwhistle[s]." He allegedly compared Jewish teenager Anne Frank, who died in a concentration camp during World War II, to Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

That portion of the show also included the names of other activists and figures killed by authorities, such as anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl, Iran's Mahsa Amini and George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police in 2020.

Israel's foreign ministry later criticized Waters on social media, tweeting on May 24: "Good morning to everyone but Roger Waters who spent the evening in Berlin (Yes Berlin) desecrating the memory of Anne Frank and the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust."

In a lengthy Sunday Facebook post that touched on the plight of Palestinians and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Waters and his wife paid their respects at the graves of members of the White Rose Movement, a resistance group during the Nazi period. He also thanked those who attended his shows in Germany but lambasted "some in power in Germany and some at the behest of The Israeli Lobby" for attacking him.

"Walking around Munich yesterday afternoon I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was in the presence of Big Brother. It leaves a bad taste," he wrote. "I am very proud of all my brothers and sisters here, in BDS or not, who stand up for human rights. You all carry the torch of Sophie and Hans Scholl and the rest of the White Rose movement. But the whole experience of coming here to Germany these last five years fills me with sorrow. I feel sorry for you having to live, or at least live with, the lies we are all fed by The Powers That Be."

After Frankfurt, Waters is set to play shows in Birmingham, England; Glasgow, Scotland; London; and Manchester in June before taking the summer off and heading to South America in October.

Last year, the Polish city of Krakow canceled Waters' concerts because of his support of Russia during what he has repeatedly called a "provoked" invasion of Ukraine.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.