Berlin (AFP) – German hardrock band Rammstein sparked protests from politicians, historians and Jewish groups Thursday with a video showing band members dressed as concentration camp prisoners with nooses around their necks.
Critics accused the Berlin-based group of a cynical publicity stunt playing with Nazi-era imagery to generate media hype and online clicks for their new single.
No strangers to controversy, the band has long employed dark militaristic imagery and in a 1998 video used footage from Leni Riefenstahl’s 1936 Nazi propaganda film “Olympia”.
“With this new video, the band has crossed a line,” said Charlotte Knobloch, ex-president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
“The instrumentalisation and trivialisation of the Holocaust shown in the images are irresponsible,” she told Bild daily.
“Rammstein is misusing the suffering and murder of millions for entertainment purposes in a frivolous and repulsive way.”
The industrial metal band founded in 1994 is known for their grinding guitar riffs, taboo-breaking antics and theatrical stage shows heavy on pyrotechnics.
Their songs have dealt with subjects from cannibalism to necrophilia, and the band name itself evokes the 1988 Ramstein air show disaster that killed 70 people and injured more than 1,000.
Frontman Till Lindemann, 56, asked in a 2006 interview whether the band would again dabble in Nazi themes, said: “No. Because I am fed up with allegations of being a rightwing band.”
However, in the new promotional clip, the band members are dressed in black-and-white striped concentration camp garb and seemingly awaiting their execution by hanging.
Lindemann is shown bleeding from a facial cut and guitarist Paul Landers, 54, wears a Star of David.
At the end of the 35-second clip, the song title “Deutschland” (Germany) appears in Gothic letters.
Bild quoted a line-up of politicians who voiced anger and disgust, with Jewish historian Michael Wolffsohn labelling it “a new form of desecration of the dead”.
Germany’s anti-Semitism commissioner Felix Klein called it “a tasteless exploitation of artistic freedom” that “represents the transgression of a red line”.
A year ago, German rappers Farid Bang and Kollegah sparked outrage with lyrics boasting that their bodies were “more defined than Auschwitz prisoners”.
The scandal spelt the end of the German music industry’s sales-based Echo prize which had been awarded to the duo and helped spark large rallies calling for solidarity with Jews in Berlin and other cities.