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BMG says “nie wieder” with campaign against antisemitism

After the outcry over the Echos and amid rising antisemitism in Germany, the publisher hopes to snuff out hatred in schools with a €100,000 music biz-led initiative

By Jon Chapple on 15 Jun 2018

L–R: Mihail Groys (project coordinator, BMG), Walton, Lesser and Rotstein

L–R: Mihail Groys (project coordinator, BMG), Walton, Lesser and Rotstein

image © BMG

German music publishing and rights management outfit BMG has initiated a new campaign aimed at combatting antisemitism and hate speech in schools.

The campaign launched at Berlin’s Zoo Palast cinema on Wednesday, where Holocaust survivor Ben Lesser talked about his experience in the Nazi concentration camps, and director Emanuel Rotstein screened his film Die Befreier (The Liberators). At the end of the launch event, Lesser asked the audience to hold hands and repeat after him three times, “Nie wieder” (“Never again”).

BMG’s intervention follows the cancellation in April of the Echo Music Prize – the German recording industry’s highest accolade, equivalent to the Grammys or Brits – following worldwide criticism of the jury’s decision to hand the 2018 award for best hip-hop/urban album to rappers Farid Bang and Kollegah for 2017’s Jung, brutal, gutaussehend 3. The album includes a song, ‘0815’, where the two rap about their bodies being “more defined than Auschwitz prisoners,” while another line says they’re planning “another Holocaust, coming with a molotov”.

Commenting on the awards’ axing, organiser BVMI said the Echos had, by their association with the rappers, been tainted with “antisemitism, contempt for women, homophobia and the promotion of violence” and had to be brought to an end. Sister prize Echo Jazz was also cancelled the following month.

“We have been heartened by the incredibly positive reaction”

BMG – which severed its ties with Farid Bang and Kollegah as a result of the controversy – has committed an initial €100,000 to the campaign, which is to focus on music-related projects, and has appointed a full-time campaign coordinator to oversee the initiative.

Lala Süsskind, chairwoman of the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism (JFDA) and former chairwoman of the Jewish Community of Berlin, comments: “This was a very meaningful event. It was incredible to see the impact of Mr Lesser’s words on the schoolchildren.

“I applaud efforts to engage young people in the battle against antisemitism, and I commend the idea of a music industry led campaign to communicate with young people in the language they understand.”

“We have been heartened by the incredibly positive reaction,” adds BMG’s general counsel, Ama Walton. “The initiative will combine several elements and will set an important example against antisemitism and hate.”


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