Roger Waters: Pink Floyd star's This is Not a Drill 2023 tour Abu Akleh live concert controversy explained

In a written statement issued at the start of the show, Waters said 'a court in Frankfurt has ruled that I am not an antisemite'

Roger Waters on stage in Paris, on 3 May 2023 (Photo: ANNA KURTH/AFP via Getty Images)Roger Waters on stage in Paris, on 3 May 2023 (Photo: ANNA KURTH/AFP via Getty Images)
Roger Waters on stage in Paris, on 3 May 2023 (Photo: ANNA KURTH/AFP via Getty Images)

Former Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters has been catching attention during recent live performances in Germany by reportedly performing in an outfit highly reminiscent of a Nazi SS officer.

Wearing such an outfit is considered highly culturally sensitive in Germany due to the country's history and the atrocities committed during the Nazi regime. Germany has made significant efforts to reckon with its past, acknowledging the immense suffering caused by the Nazi regime and aiming to prevent the resurgence of any form of fascism or anti-Semitism.

As a result, the display of Nazi symbols, including uniforms associated with the SS, can be deeply offensive and evoke painful memories for many Germans and Jews who were affected by the Holocaust. It is seen as a violation of Germany's laws and societal norms that aim to combat hate speech, incitement and the glorification of Nazi ideology.

What else happened during the show?

As part of his show, Waters also displayed the name of Anne Frank, along with a series of other contemporary figures like George Floyd and Shireen Abu Akleh, on a large screen.

Anne Frank was a Jewish girl who gained worldwide recognition for her diary, which she kept while in hiding during the Holocaust. The Diary of a Young Girl chronicles her experiences, thoughts and emotions during this time, and has become one of the most renowned and widely read accounts of that dark period in history.

Abu Akleh, a correspondent for Al Jazeera, tragically lost her life when she was shot and killed during her coverage of an Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) raid on a Palestinian refugee camp last year, with the blame for her killing initially attributed to Palestinian shooters.

Multiple independent investigations conducted by reputable sources then concluded that Akleh's death resulted from actions taken by Israeli forces, claims which Israel refutes. The decision by Waters to juxtapose the names of Anne Frank and Abu Akleh has sparked controversy, with some labelling the comparison as "antisemitic."

Is Roger Waters anti-Semetic?

The bizarre scenes were preempted by a written statement given at the start of the show, which read: “On a matter of public interest: a court in Frankfurt has ruled that I am not an antisemite. Just to be clear, I condemn antisemitism unreservedly.”

Earlier this year, Jewish organisations urged for the cancellation of Waters' scheduled performances in Germany, with Frankfurt city council deciding to call off a planned event featuring the artist, citing concerns that he is widely regarded as “one of the most far-reaching antisemites in the world”.

Waters, who has consistently denied such claims, decided to pursue legal action against the decision. Frankfurt's administrative court ruled that he had the right to hold the event, despite conceding that some sections of his show were "tasteless" and blatantly relied on iconography influenced by the Nazi regime.

What else has he said?

It's not the first time this year that the ageing prog-rocker has courted controversy this year. In February, Waters re-recorded Pink Floyd’s ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ without his other band members, and claimed ownership of the original album in a bizarre interview with the Daily Telegraph.

The veteran rocker also described Ukraine as “not really a country at all” and “a patchy sort of vague experiment.” Waters also made an unexpected virtual appearance during a UN Security Council meeting, during which he "condemned" the Russian invasion of Ukraine while simultaneously criticising the "provocateurs" he believed were to blame for prompting it.

Reflecting on the war, he called for a ceasefire but said: “the Russian invasion of Ukraine was not unprovoked. So I also condemn the provocateurs in the strongest possible terms.” In the Daily Telegraph interview, Waters said the idea that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “unprovoked” was “f***ing insane”, claiming that “Nazis” are “in control of the [Ukrainian] government.”