German rappers accused of antisemitism over Auschwitz lyric

Rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang were recently forced to defend their controversial lyrics.

By JTA
April 14, 2018 17:32
2 minute read.
German rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang at the Echo Awards

German rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang at the Echo Awards. (photo credit: POOL)

 
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German rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang have been accused of antisemitism due to a provocative verse on their new album in which they compare themselves to prisoners at Auschwitz.

“My body is more defined than those of Auschwitz inmates,” the rappers croon on a new track, before calling for “another Holocaust; let’s grab the Molotov [cocktails].”

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Since causing a stir, the two have offered free lifetime tickets to their Jewish fans for their concerts.

The duo recently received the Echo Award for best hip hop artist in a ceremony that coincided with Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day on April 12. After criticism, the Echo organizers justified their decision to grant the prize to the rappers by citing “freedom of artistic expression.”

In response to the move, World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder told the German Bild daily that “In Germany, we now get rewards... when we exalt violence and mock the victims of Auschwitz.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the “antisemitic provocations... [are] simply repugnant,” and added that it is “shameful that the prize was given on Holocaust Remembrance Day.”

A German-Jewish leader also condemned the music award given to two popular rappers as a “devastating” example of the normalcy of antisemitism in today’s society.

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Charlotte Knobloch, the head of the Jewish community of Munich and Bavaria, was one of numerous public figures in Germany who criticized the award. The album, whose title in English is Young, Brutal, Good Looking 3, won the award for best hip-hop/urban, national album.

Knobloch, in a statement, blasted the jury for promoting lyrics that evidence antisemitism and a lack of understanding of history.

“Anti-Jewish prejudices are not art,” she said, noting that the two rappers “reach millions of people, most of them young.”

In fact, the award was delivered with a verbal slap, which brought audience members to their feet.

Taking the stage before the presentation, another German pop star, Campino, of the punk rock band Die Toten Hosen (Dead Pants), said he likes provocation as much as the next guy. But “for me personally, misogynistic, homophobic, right-wing extremist and antisemitic insults cross the line [of acceptability].”

The audience gave Campino a standing ovation.

Organizers of the Echo Awards had been advised against the nomination, including by the Catholic Church delegates to the Echo Awards ethics board.

When Focus magazine asked the artists how they viewed the criticism, they responded by joking about their failure to work out before the ceremony.

In a televised commentary, Udo Grätz, the deputy editor-in-chief of the WDR public broadcasting company, said he “couldn’t care less what a rapper like Kollegah thinks about Jews. But if hundreds of thousands of young people find his music cool, despite – or because of – the fact that it promotes antisemitic clichés, then I do have a problem.”

A statement from Yad Vashem noted that the “utilization of the terminology or images outside of their historical context” is an affront to the memory of the Holocaust.

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