Rammstein Raise Furor Over Video With Nazi-Era Footage

Controversial imagery from German industrial-rockers' 'Stripped' clip upsets Anti-Defamation League.

The latest Rammstein video has raised the ire of the Anti-Defamation League for its inclusion of clips from a filmmaker closely associated with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, a decision that the League plans to protest for what its sees as the glorification of Nazism.

"Obviously, I'm concerned about it," said Barbara Bergen, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. "The good news is I suspect many of the viewers don't have a clue as to the source of the films.

"The bad news is the person that selects the videos in Germany clearly does and seems to find it acceptable. I expect we'll probably lodge a complaint about it in letter form. Anything that glorifies the National Socialist movement, as far as I'm concerned, is anathema."

In a video for their cover of the Depeche Mode song "Stripped" (RealAudio excerpt of Rammstein's version), the German industrial-rock sextet included footage from "Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations," a movie by filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, who was handpicked by infamous Nazi leader Hitler to film the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Images from the film were intended by Hitler as propaganda to show Nazi superiority.

The potentially offensive footage was selected by the band for the beauty of the images, not the politics behind it, according to Regina Joskow, Rammstein's publicist at Slash Records. "Rammstein essentially felt this was really beautiful art," Joskow said. "It doesn't have anything to do with their politics. They're trying to take this out of a political context."

In addition, the suggestion that Rammstein -- who have earned a reputation for setting things on fire during their concerts -- are Nazis is ridiculous, Joskow added.

"This is so absurd for anyone to suggest [Rammstein] are Nazis. Their manager [Emu Filaik] is a physically handicapped black man. No Nazi would pick him as a manager."

Formed in 1993 and mostly hailing from East Berlin, Germany, Rammstein have cultivated a reputation for their extravagant live shows that emphasize pyrotechnics. Their propensity to use fire caused fire marshals to monitor several of their performances during a recent tour of the U.S. in support of their latest LP, Sehnsucht.

Steve Martin of Nasty Little Man, the New York firm that publicizes Rammstein, declined to comment on the video. He claimed not to have seen it but said Rammstein's lyrics are not political.

"There is no political content whatsoever to their music," Martin asserted. "Their songs are about love and relationships."

A press release issued by Motor Music, the German label that commissioned the video, stressed that the video itself contains no overt Nazi imagery. "All the video 'Stripped' is about is the aesthetics of the images," the release read. "Rammstein are aware that some of the scenes were subsequently misused for propaganda purposes, with Leni Riefenstahl's consent, and that she also accepted commissions with political content. This fact, however, does not change the quality of the actual images."

Gary Richards is co-founder of 1500, the label that recently released the 16-song tribute to techno-rock pioneers Depeche Mode, For the Masses, which includes Rammstein's interpretation of "Stripped." After Richards saw a version of the video that's been airing on the German edition of MTV, he said the origin of the footage is not readily apparent but quickly added that knowing the background changes his view of the video.

"I just saw there was Olympic footage ... like the discus, javelin, people jumping off the diving board ... It seemed to work well with that song," Richards said. "They're a very visual band, and I was surprised they weren't in it. As far as source footage, I don't know. I didn't get that from watching it. If that's the case, it definitely changes my perception. It's not something I back."

Richards said the plan calls for "Stripped" to be released as single in October, but he added that it's not clear if another video will be shot for American audiences.