Police in Germany have launched an investigation into Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters after he fired an imitation machine gun while wearing a Nazi-inspired uniform at a concert in Berlin.
The British bassist and singer was filmed wearing a long black coat and red armband – featuring crossed hammers instead of swastikas – as he pretended to shoot the fake weapon during a skit between songs.
Germany has strict rules against the use of Nazi imagery – punishable by up to three years in prison – although its laws do allow exceptions for artistic or educational reasons.
Video clips and photos of the show, at the German capital’s Mercedes-Benz Arena on 17 May, have sparked outrage.
Another image of the concert shows the name of Holocaust victim Anne Frank in large letters as a backdrop.
Critics include Israel’s Foreign Ministry. It wrote on Twitter: “Good morning to every one but Roger Waters who spent the evening in Berlin (Yes Berlin) desecrating the memory of Anne Frank and the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.”
US campaign group StopAntisemitism also accused Waters of “denigrating” the murder of Frank.
It added: “Great news! Berlin police have launched a criminal investigation.”
Berlin Police Chief Inspector Martin Halweg confirmed to Sky News that officers had “initiated criminal investigation proceedings in the case regarding suspicion of incitement of the people”.
He added: “The context of the stage clothes worn is likely to condone, glorify or justify the Nazi dictatorship and arbitrary rule in a way that violates the dignity of the victims and thereby disturbs public peace.
“All incriminating and exculpatory evidence will be collected for the preliminary investigation and will be used in the proceedings.”
Prosecutors will consider any possible charges once police have concluded their investigations.
‘It’s a parody’
But fans of the singer said his performance was a recreation of a scene in Pink Floyd‘s 1982 film The Wall, based on the hit album of the same name.
The movie features a character, played by singer Bob Geldof, who is shown imagining he is a fascist dictator who uses crossed hammers as a symbol.
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Waters has also defended his long-time use of such imagery and says it is intended to criticise groups such as the Nazis and show how “it’s very easy for populist politics to develop into fascism”.
Earlier this month, before the concert, he told the Katie Halper Show podcast: “It’s theatre darling. The idea that no one can dress up in a f****** Nazi uniform ever, to do anything, in a theatre or a film, is ludicrous, obviously… it’s a parody.”
He added: “I think antisemitism is odious and racist and I condemn it unreservedly.”
It comes after Waters won a legal battle with officials in Frankfurt, who tried to cancel his planned concert in the city this Sunday, 28 May.
Frankfurt city council and the Hessian state government banned the show in a bid to “set an example against antisemitism“.
The ban was overturned following a legal appeal by Waters.
The solo star also had two planned shows in Poland cancelled last year, reportedly over his views on the war in Ukraine.