(Bloomberg) -- After at least five artists returned their Echos--Germany’s equivalent of a Grammy--to protest the award being given to a rap album with anti-Semitic lyrics, the label behind the songs says it will finance a campaign to combat hatred aimed at Jews.
Bertelsmann SE’s BMG on Thursday said it will spend 100,000 euros ($123,000) on a program fighting anti-Semitism in German schools. BMG co-released the album by rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang that won an Echo last week. The award has been condemned by artists, business leaders and politicians including the country’s foreign minister.
The album, which has sold more than 200,000 copies, includes lyrics that make degrading references to the Holocaust and the Auschwitz death camp. Giving the album a prize has sparked a debate across the German music industry about anti-Semitism, homophobia, and sexism in hip hop songs.
“BMG is utterly opposed to anti-Semitism,” as are the artists who performed the song, BMG’s Chief Executive Officer Hartwig Masuch said in a statement. “Kollegah and Farid Bang have repeatedly made it clear on the internet and speaking in public that they are not anti-Semitic, and they have apologized for any distress caused by the lyrics.”
Since the award, artists including singer Marius Mueller-Westernhagen have returned their Echos in protest. The award ceremony was organized by German music industry association BVMI, which had criticized the lyrics yet defended its decision to give the rappers the prize, citing artistic freedom and the album’s sales figures.
BMG is seeking to avoid fallout from a scandal that’s expanding beyond the music industry, with Jewish groups warning they’re increasingly unsafe in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday vowed that her government would fight hatred directed at Jews “with full force” after a video surfaced showing a young man speaking Arabic attacking another young man wearing a Jewish skullcap in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district.
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