ADL pushed BMG to drop Roger Waters by threatening to weaponize company’s Nazi past


The Grayzone has obtained a private letter authored by ADL director Jonathan Greenblatt threatening to weaponize the Nazi past of the BMG music company unless executives terminated a major deal with Roger Waters. BMG has publicly denied Israel lobby influence on its decision to nix Waters’ contract.

When the Berlin-based BMG music company terminated its business relationship with Roger Waters, the Pink Floyd co-founder claimed the decision was spurred by a concerted Israel lobby-directed campaign to financially retaliate against his outspoken support for Palestine. The Grayzone has obtained a threatening private letter sent by Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt to BMG executives which confirms the musician’s accusation.

“Given the fact that your parent company, Bertelsmann Group, has made laudable and necessary efforts to repair its Nazi past,” the ADL director warned in his June 16, 2023 letter, “it would be deeply unfortunate to have those efforts continue to be tarnished by such hurtful and injurious conduct.”

In an interview with The Grayzone, Waters described the ADL’s menacing missive as the culmination of a months-long intimidation campaign which began well before the October 7 attacks in Israel. The ADL’s push resulted not only in the termination of the company’s deal to release the new 50th anniversary recording of “The Dark Side of the Moon,” he said, but in the departure of BMG’s CEO as well.

“As far as attacks on me by the ADL and and all the rest of the lobby are concerned, the jury has been out for a long time, but it’s not out anymore,” Waters commented to The Grayzone. “The contention that I’m an antisemite because I’ve stood up against the attempted genocide of the indigenous people of Palestine is dead in the water. The people of the world have seen through the wall of hatred and tissue of lies.”


ADL threat refutes BMG’s denial of Israel lobby influence

To this point, BMG has officially denied any outside influence on its decision to terminate its deal with Waters, while mainstream media has generally downplayed the Israel lobby’s influence on the move.

Reporting on BMG’s move this January, the corporate entertainment trade publication Variety painted Waters as paranoid for alleging Israel lobby role in sabotaging his contract, accusing him of spouting “conspiracies against him publicizing his beliefs.”

Meanwhile, a company source denied any outside pressure influenced BMG’s decision, insisting to Variety that “BMG does not agree with Waters’ version of events.” The source added that the firm’s CEO, Thomas Coesfeld, “certainly would have made the decision on his own.”

Citing sources inside BMG, Variety further claimed that Coesfeld “nixed” a deal to release a newly recorded version of Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” immediately “after taking up his new post on July 1, 2023.”

Yet Variety was apparently unaware of the threatening letter which ADL director Jonathan Greenblatt fired off on June 19, 2023 to Hartwig Masuch, then the CEO of BMG, and Thomas Rabe, the chairman of the board of BMG’s parent company, Bertelsmann.

Greenblatt opened his missive with a litany of dubious allegations of antisemitism towards Waters, almost all based on his public advocacy for Palestinian liberation. The ADL director then laid his demands on the table: “we believe it would be prudent for BMG Music to reconsider your ongoing business relationship with Mr. Waters and representing his catalog of music.”

Greenblatt concluded with a veiled, mafia don-like threat invoking the most sensitive – and potentially damaging – aspect of the publishing company’s history: “Given the fact that your parent company, Bertelsmann Group, has made laudable and necessary efforts to repair from its Nazi past, it would be deeply unfortunate to have those efforts continue to be tarnished by such hurtful and injurious conduct.”

Greenblatt did not respond to an email from The Grayzone requesting comment on his lobbying campaign.

ADL targets Bertelsmann’s Nazi past, recent relationship to Kanye West

During World War Two, Heinrich Mohn leveraged close relationships with Nazi officials to transform his Bertelsmann printing press from a small producer of religious tracts into a national publishing powerhouse. Though not a member of the Nazi Party himself, Mohn donated handsome sums to the SS corps of Hitler’s military machine.

Thomas Coesfeld, the current CEO of BMG, is the great-grandson of Heinrich Mohn and grandson of Reinhard Mohn, who ran Bertlesmann from the post-war era until his death in 2009.

Rabe, for his part, is no stranger to ADL pressure campaigns. In his role as supervisory chairman of Adidas, Rabe faced charges that he had moved too slowly to contain the damage when the company’s star endorser, Kanye “Ye” West, launched a series of tirades against what he called “the Jewish underground media mafia.”

On October 20, 2022, the ADL’s Greenblatt called out Rabe and Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted in a public letter. “We are surprised and concerned that Adidas – a brand that supports inclusion and diversity – continues not only to support the Ye product line, but to release new products even as he continues to espouse hateful antisemitic ideas to his 31 million Twitter followers,” Greenblatt complained.

Adidas dropped Ye within five days of Greenblatt’s statement. The following month, Rorsted was ousted as CEO.

As Waters geared up to Germany for his European tour, the ADL’s Greenblatt sensed another opportunity to extract major concessions from Bertelsmann.

As BMG prepares to sign, Israel lobbyists strike

On January 25, 2023, BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch travelled to Gstaad, Switzerland to personally attend the 50th anniversary recording of “The Dark Side Of The Moon,” which would be called “DSOTM REDUX.” “Hartwig loved the album,” Waters told The Grayzone. “And he told me, ‘Yes we at BMG definitely want to put this record out and do a deal with you.’”

With Waters set to mix the album the following month, his management team informed Masuch that “DSOTM REDUX” would premier at London’s famed Roundhouse music venue that June.

But trouble struck on February 3, when German media reported that Frankfurt, Germany, city magistrates ordered a local venue to cancel Waters’ show on the grounds that he was “one of the most widely known antisemites in the world.” The accusation was not based on any public statements by Waters, but on the German state’s semi-official policy of supporting Israel as a form of Holocaust reparations, which has led Berlin to conflate any and all statements of Palestine solidarity with antisemitism.

Waters immediately initiated legal proceedings to fight the Frankfurt cancelation.


Meanwhile, pro-Israel elements homed in on a part of Waters’ performance drawn from Pink Floyd’s famous rock opera, “The Wall,” in which Waters appears as the protagonist “Pink Floyd” in the grip of hallucinatory madness, dressed in a Nazi-like uniform and barking delirious orders at the audience. While anyone familiar with “The Wall” would recognize the shtick as mockery of an authoritarian demagogue – a clearly anti-fascist theatrical statement – Israel lobbyists cynically twisted the imagery to demonize Waters in the eyes of suggestible German authorities.

Israel lobby organizations similarly attempted to distort a visual presentation that appeared during Waters’ show which paid tribute to women killed by repressive political entities. Because Waters featured Shireen Abu-Akleh, the Palestinian journalist killed by Israeli occupation forces in Jenin in 2022, alongside numerous female martyrs including Anne Frank, the Dutch Jewish girl murdered by Nazi occupation authorities, Israel lobbyists accused him of “denigrating” Frank’s death. (Waters’ presentation also memorialized Sophie Scholl, the young German woman beheaded in 1943 by the Nazi regime for organizing resistance against Hitler’s rule).

By late April, Waters had secured his legal right to perform in Frankfurt. However, the Israel lobby was just beginning to turn the screws on BMG.

“He’s been gotten at by Jonathan Greenblatt at the ADL”

On May 3, BMG’s Masuch flew to Paris for the first of two Waters shows at The Accord Arena. The following day, he met Waters to deliver some troubling news: Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe had not yet approved the $5 million advance for “DSOTM REDUX.”

“When I asked [Masuch] why they were delaying, he told me Rabe had been gotten at by Jonathan Greenblatt at the ADL,” Waters recounted to The Grayzone. “So Rabe wasn’t just doing this out of nowhere; they were threatening him by holding the whole imbroglio with Adidas and Kanye over his head. They were basically telling him, ‘You fucked up with Kanye at Adidas, but you can make it better by nixing Roger’s record deal.’”

On May 17, Masuch abruptly vacated his position at BMG and was replaced by Coesfeld. According to the publicly disclosed terms of Masuch’s contract, he was scheduled to pass the baton to Coesfeld seven months later, on January 1, 2024. According to a carefully worded BMG press release, “due to his personal plans for the future, Hartwig Masuch had requested an earlier departure.”

Waters praised Masuch as “a stand-up guy” who had made a valiant attempt to resist the inertia of Israel lobby pressure.

The date of Masuch’s departure coincided with Water’s arrival in Berlin for a series of concerts. Israeli and pro-Israel media outlets met his appearance with a flood of clearly coordinated smears. The Israeli Foreign Ministry chimed in a week later, declaring on Twitter, “Good morning to everyone except Roger Waters.”


On June 16, the ADL escalated its sabotage operation with Greenblatt’s letter to Masuch and Rabe. The letter confirmed that Greenblatt was seeking to blackmail Bertelsmann with threats to resurface the company’s Nazi past.

Later that day, Waters learned that Masuch spoke on the phone to Greenblatt, and that Greenblatt proposed that the Pink Floyd co-founder join him for lunch in New York City. To Waters, the ADL chief’s proposal suggested a shakedown scheme was in the works – the kind of tactic the ADL has employed in the past to extract hefty donations from wealthy celebrities caught in the organization’s crosshairs.

“Even now,” Waters reflected ruefully, “I’m shaking my head in disbelief that this Israel lobbyist was licking his lips at nixing my contracts with BMG while he entertained the prospect of personally shaking me down over lunch. You couldn’t make this shit up.”

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