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BMG says “nie wieder” with campaign against antisemitism

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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Germany’s Echo Awards axed amid antisemitism row

The Echo Music Prize, the German recording industry’s highest accolade, will not return in 2018, organisers have announced, amid a controversy over antisemitism that has left the awards’ reputation “so badly damaged that a completely new beginning is necessary”.

The Echos were criticised worldwide after handing 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”.

Additionally, the ceremony honouring Bang (real name Farid El Abdellaoui), of Moroccan origin, and Kollegah (Felix Blume), a Muslim convert, took place on 12 April, International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah).

The awards were greeted with outcry by Jewish groups, including the International Auschwitz Committee and the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and number of previous awards winners have since given back their Echos, including conductors Daniel Barenboim, Christian Thielemann and Enoch zu Guttenberg, singer Marius Müller-Westernhagen, pianist Igor Levit and record producer Klaus Voormann

Campino, lead singer of acclaimed German punk band Die Toten Hosen, also criticised the duo’s win in his acceptance speech, and received a standing ovation from the crowd.

The row comes at a time of heightened concern over the resurgence of antisemitism in Germany, after a man wearing skullcap was attacked by a Syrian in Berlin last Wednesday.

“The Echo brand is so badly damaged a completely new beginning is necessary”

Jewish organisations in Germany have also expressed concern over a rise in the bullying of Jews in schools, which has been condemned by chancellor Angela Merkel as “another form of antisemitism”.

Florian Druecke, chairman of the BVMI (Bundesverband Musikindustrie, Federal Music Industry Association), said last week it had been a mistake to give the award to El Abdellaoui and Blume and apologised to Germany’s Jews and “anyone else whose feelings were hurt by this”.

But the damage had been done: In a statement released today, the BVMI says the awards have, by their association with the rappers, been tainted with “antisemitism, contempt for women, homophobia and the promotion of violence” and must be brought to an end.

Unlike the main Echo Awards – whose nominees were largely based on sales – sister prizes Echo Klassik and Echo Jazz are decided solely by a jury, the statement continues, and the new pop music prize should be, too. The BVMI will invite input from the industry as to the format of the replacement awards, as well as the make-up of the jury, in January.

Echo Jazz will go ahead as planned on 31 May, it concludes, but will no longer be broadcast on television: “The focus will be on the artists and their music.”

 


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