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Why Pink Floyd's Roger Waters Wearing a Nazi Uniform Isn't Anti-Semitic

Why Pink Floyd's Roger Waters Wearing a Nazi Uniform Isn't Anti-Semitic
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Pink Floyd front-man Roger Waters is the subject of a criminal investigation after wearing a Nazi uniform at his recent show in Berlin, Germany.

Roger Waters is the subject of a criminal investigation after wearing a Nazi uniform at his recent show in Berlin, Germany.

Waters, front-man and creative force behind acclaimed rock band Pink Floyd, has worn the costume for decades during live performances of the album, The Wall. He famously did so at a show in Berlin in 1990, and did so again last week at shows in the city.

While he faced no punishment in 1990, police are now investigating him over a German law that forbids the glorification of Nazis, including displaying swastikas, performing the Nazi salute, or wearing a Nazi uniform.

”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," police confirmed to CNN. ”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."

A show of Waters' was also protested in Frankfurt, Germany, by Jewish communities, who called him an "anti-Semite." City authorities demanded his show be cancelled, but a German court ruled 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.”

For one, Waters' uniform does not display a swastika, rather two hammers. In fact, the costume is not an exact Nazi uniform — rather a parody of one. The costume comes from The Wall — both the 1979 album and 1982 movie. While hailed as one of the greatest concept albums of all time, The Wall is also considered one of the most anti-fascist pieces of media of all time.

Both the album and movie follow the story of a fictionalized rockstar, Pink, and the compounding factors in his life that eventually lead to a mental spiral. Not always literal, The Wall uses heavy imagery to address topics such as consumerism, toxic masculinity, the criminalization of youth culture, and Nazism.

Roger Waters was born in England in 1943 — the height of World War II. His father was killed in the war, inspiring scenes in The Wall where a young Pink grapples with the loss of his own father in combat. The film version even opens with a harrowing sequence directly depicting his father being blown up by German bombs.

Fast forward to 1979 when The Wall the album was released — and Margaret Thatcher was serving her first year as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In Waters' view, Thatcher's conservatism had an iron grip on the country, through her policies of British Nationalism and isolationism. In The Wall, Waters deeply criticizes her platform of emboldening fascist ideologies.

Youth in particular fell victim to this indoctrination in Waters' viewpoint. In The Wall, faceless children at school desks are fed to a meat grinder, losing their identity and individuality (Thatcher, famously, standardized education curriculum in the UK). Students are then all the more malleable when Pink, in a hallucination sequence, imagines himself as a fascist dictator who is rallying the dejected youth.

The scene relies heavily on imagery, drawing direct parallels to the Nazis. (Seriously — it's not subtle.) The youth are mobilized to the streets, committing acts of vandalism and assault reminiscent of Kristallnacht. This conveys Waters' entire point: the country that once prided itself on beating the Nazis, has now become them.

Though it is unclear why Waters is being legally challenged for his performances now, he has repeatedly denied holding anti-Semitic values. He is a member of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement which targets Israel over its occupation of territories where Palestinians seek statehood, and their repeated human rights abuses on Palestinians. This is anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic — one could even argue it is anti-fascist.

While Waters' outfits could appear to be in violation of German law, his reason for wearing it, and his principles — and those of The Wall — are undeniable.

In an interview with podcaster Katie Halper earlier this month, Waters said of the pushback: “I can be allowed to do a show because it’s theater darling. The idea that no one can dress up in a f**king Nazi uniform ever, to do anything, in a theater or a film, is ludicrous, obviously.”

“You don’t dress up like him, in a pro-Himmler or pro-Nazi way," Halper commented. "It’s a scathing critique, you are playing a villainous character.”

To which Rogers responded: “It’s a parody."

Ryan Adamczeski is the Digital Director for The Advocate Channel. Views expressed in The Advocate Channel’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate Channel or our parent company, equalpride.

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