Auschwitz lyric ignites uproar against German rap duo ahead of Echo awards | News | DW | 06.04.2018
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Auschwitz lyric ignites uproar against German rap duo ahead of Echo awards

Kollegah and Farid Bang are two of Germany's most successful rappers and were recently nominated for Germany's Echo awards. But they are under fire after comparing themselves to Auschwitz inmates in one of their songs.

Kollegah and Farid Bang (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Geber/U. Düren)

Kollegah (left) and Farid Bang (right)

Germany's biggest music awards ceremony is set to take place on April 12, but this year's festivities have already been stained by an anti-Semitism controversy.

Rap duo Kollegah and Farid Bang are nominated for two awards including "Album of the Year" for the record "Jung, brutal, gut aussehend 3" ("Young, brutal, good looking 3").

Echo's organizers announced the nominations, which were based on the album's commercial success, in early March.

But Echo and the rappers, who are both Muslims, drew criticism after German daily Bild reported on an anti-Semitic lyric from one of the album's bonus songs.

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Konzert Kollegah and Farid Bang at a concert in Berlin (picture-alliance/Eventpress Hoensch)

The duo compared their muscle definition to the emaciated body of an Auschwitz inmate

Auschwitz comparison

In the song "0815" the duo sings: "My body is more defined than those of Auschwitz inmates."

Nazi Germany killed more than a million inmates, the majority of them Jews, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during the World War II. Many were found starving and emaciated when they were freed at the end of the war.

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Jewish groups respond

The lyric's allusion to the suffering at Auschwitz sparked strong condemnation from Jewish groups.

"[Holocaust] survivors feel especially that the lyric … is not just crude and undignified, but also scorns them and their murdered relatives," Christoph Heubner from the International Auschwitz Committee told Bild.

The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dr. Josef Schuster, also criticized the line, telling the newspaper: "While we demand that immigrants accept our values, violence and intolerance is being celebrated in these types of songs."

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Kollegah, who is of German-Canadian descent, and Farid Bang, who is of Spanish-Moroccan descent, have both dismissed the criticism.

Kollegah released video on YouTube in which he accused Bild and other German "mainstream" media of impeding artistic freedom and treating his listeners as stupid.

Farid Bang however apologized in an open letter to German singer Esther Bejarano, a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor who had criticized the duo, saying it was not his intention to insult her.

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Nominations to stay

Despite the outcry, Echo said on Friday the nominations would stand after an ethical advisory board determined "0815" did not exceed the acceptable boundaries of "artistic freedom."

"After an intense and occasionally controversial discussion … the majority [of the board] has decided that elimination is not the right way forward," spokesman Wolfgang Börnsen said.

Börsen added that the board did however think the song represented an "absolute borderline case" and that the members "disapproved" of the duo's choice of words.

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