Germany’s Culture Minister was booed and heckled by an angry crowd at a Jewish music competition last weekend.
Claudia Roth, of the Greens, was met with an onslaught of hooting and whistling when she took to the stage for the Jewrovision youth music competition in Frankfurt, organised by the Central Council of Jews.
The crowd was protesting about her defence of last year’s Documenta art exhibition in Kassel, which caused outrage for its use of antisemitic images.
“Get off the stage!” and “You are not welcome here” they yelled.
Roth stopped her speech, which was being drowned out by the cries of the crowd, and responded: “That’s democracy. I accept the criticism.”
Documenta was curated by Ruangrupa, an Indonesian artistic collective. One collage featured an Orthodox Jew with side-curls and an evil glare, monster-like giant sharp teeth, bloody eyes and a hat with “SS” on it.
Other images included a figure with a pig’s nose and a Star of David below, and the word “Mossad”, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, on its head.
Germany’s Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier emphasised the need to combat antisemitism at the exhibition’s opening and expressed concern over the absence of Israeli
Jewish artists. However, Roth refused to express any criticism.
In an interview with Der Spiegel, she said: “As a cultural police officer, I will not raise or lower my thumb.”
Roth has also come under fire for her association with the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) campaign.
She distanced herself from the Bundestag’s 2019 resolution classifying BDS as antisemitic. Many in the Jewish community were upset that Roth could not find any words to condemn Documenta’s antisemitic images, but found time to say that “not everyone” who supported BDS was an antisemite.
Roth has stoked further anger within the Jewish community by funding Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, the new artistic director of Berlin’s House of World Cultures (HKW), who has expressed repeated anti-Israel sentiments. He has accused Israel of “apartheid”, called for the “liberation of Palestine” and claimed parallels exist between Israeli actions and those of the Nazis.
Roth’s spokesman told the JC on Wednesday: “Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth took part in the Jewrovision event in Frankfurt am Main at the express invitation of the President of the Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster.
"There, she exchanged ideas with Mr Schuster and the young people over lunch and met some of the participating artists backstage.
"From the point of view of the minister, this was a very good exchange. During her subsequent greeting, there were a few people in the hall who loudly expressed their protest. Such expressions of protest are an expression of a vibrant democracy.
“She made it clear again and again during her speech, that she accepts such criticism and takes it seriously. She has a very good relationship with many people who represent and shape Jewish life in Germany and maintains close contact with them.”