Sexual abuse allegations against lead singer of rock band Rammstein revive Me Too in Germany

The singer had a system of selecting young women in the front row, who were invited for drinks and sex with him, according to dozens of testimonies gathered by the German press. He denies it and has announced that he will take legal action

Till Lindemann cantante de Rammstein
Rammstein singer Till Lindemann at a concert in 2019.CHRISTOPHE GATEAU (AFP)
Elena G. Sevillano

Till Lindemann, lead singer of the German rock band Rammstein, is facing accusations from several young women who have reported a “casting” system used to recruit fans for sex with the singer after his concerts. The scandal of alleged sexual assault and abuse of power has erupted following the testimony of an Irish woman who reported to Lithuanian police that her drink was spiked at an after-party following the band’s gig in Vilnius last month.

The allegations have gathered pace in recent days as more women began to recount how the so-called row 0 (closest to the stage) and the after-parties with Lindemann worked. Rammstein, Germany’s best-known band outside Germany, has recently started its European tour and is currently playing four gigs at Munich’s Olympic Stadium. The scandal has prompted the promoters to get rid of row 0 and ban after-show parties. Even the German government has spoken out, demanding more protection for women at such shows. Minister Lisa Paus has called for “a serious debate on the responsibility of artists and organizers towards their fans,” and has invited the music industry to join the “alliance against sexism.”

In separate statements, Rammstein has assured the public that it takes the allegations “extremely seriously,” but has denied that the events recounted by the Irish woman took place: “We can rule out the possibility that what is being claimed took place in our environment.” The group, known for its spectacular pyrotechnics and provocative lyrics, has sold more than 50 million records and filled stadiums around the world. Lindemann’s fame in Germany is more controversial than abroad, especially after he published a book of poems and a pornographic video a couple of years ago. In one of the texts, he apparently fantasizes about sexually abusing an unconscious woman. Lindemann shows sexually explicit sculptures that he designs himself at his recitals and often mimes sexual acts such as ejaculations on stage.

The publishing house Kiepenheuer & Witsch, which published the poetry anthology in 2020, has announced that it is breaking off all ties with the singer. Hundreds of the band’s fans have been trying to resell tickets for their gigs in Munich, according to the German press, which also reports that Rammstein has hired a law firm and a PR agency that specializes in crisis management. The case has revived the Me Too movement in Germany, which began six years ago to highlight the systemic nature of gender-based and sexual violence worldwide. Until now, allegations of sexism in the German entertainment industry had been limited to the world of hip hop, although the weekly news magazine, Der Spiegel, recently brought to light alleged wrongdoing by well-known actor Til Schweiger, ranging from sexism to widespread workplace mistreatment of workers in his latest production.

The first fan to speak openly about the alleged abuse by the 60-year-old Rammstein singer is Shelby Lynn, a 24-year-old woman from Northern Ireland who went to the band’s performance in Vilnius on May 23. In a series of posts on Twitter and Instagram she has been recounting her experience, in which a Russian woman named Alena Makeev allegedly played a special role in selecting young fans to introduce to the singer.

According to her account, she learned through internet forums that Makeeva — who on her Instagram page refers to herself as “Casting Director on the tour with Till Lindemann” — was the person who helped fans gain access to exclusive parties with the group before and after gigs. Lynn contacted her on Instagram and got an invitation to join her in row 0 at the Vilnius show.

During a break she claims that a crew member took her to a dressing room below the stage where she met Lindemann. In her account, Lynn maintains that she told him that she did not want to have sex with him, to which the singer reacted very aggressively. The woman claims that she had only two drinks at the pre-party and that after a while she began to feel unwell. She suspects that someone may have spiked her drink, which would explain the memory lapses she has from that night.

After going public with her story, which includes photos of large bruises that she does not know how she got, the German press began to publish testimonies from women who spoke of similar experiences. In a subsequent message on May 30 the Irish fan reiterated that she has not accused the singer of rape: “Till did NOT touch me. He accepted that I didn’t want to sleep with him. I never said he had raped me.” For now, his is the only case being investigated. Lithuanian police officers took her statement as a possible victim of a sexual assault over five hours. The Public Prosecutor’s Office has not yet decided whether to open a criminal investigation.

Stories published in the German media describe a system apparently designed to choose women to have sex with the singer from among Rammstein’s fans. Stories published in Die Welt, which claims to have signed statements from several women, correspond with the scenes described by the Irish fan: Makeeva selected the young women for row 0. Once there, they were photographed and filmed as if they were in a model casting. Before, during or after the concert, they were offered to meet the band backstage, their cell phones were taken away, and they were invited to drink alcohol.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung has published the testimony of a woman who went to one such party after the Rammstein concert in Vienna in 2019. She claims she drank alcohol and passed out. When she regained consciousness, she found herself in a hotel room with Lindemann: “He was on top of me.” In her account, she says the singer asked if she wanted him to stop and left the room. The newspapers will probably need to make use of the women’s signed statements, because Rammstein announced on Thursday that it will take legal action against the publications. In various media and social networks “it has been claimed on several occasions that women at Rammstein concerts had been drugged with GHB or alcohol in order for our client to perform sexual acts with them,” the band’s lawyers state. “These allegations are invariably false,” they add.

Dozens of women

The newspaper and NDR television have published a joint investigation talking to dozens of women who have shown them screenshots of chats in which Makeeva asks them if they know of other girls who want to meet Lindemann or sleep with him. They state that there were two types of parties, some with the group, and others that were encounters only with the singer. The Russian woman, herself a Rammstein fan, was neither hired nor paid to do this screening work, German media report. The “casting director gave them directions on how to dress: “Sexy-elegant, not all in black,” read some chats. The group has announced that it has banned her from its concerts.

“The question is whether all the women who end up with Lindemann are in a position to regain control of the situation at any time or later recall what happened. Or if the whole process is so asymmetrical, so manipulative from the outset, that there can be no question of voluntariness,” the Süddeutsche Zeitung writes.

Shelby Lynn told Die Welt that she had received more than 1,500 messages after her first publication and that about half were supportive, 20% hostile and the rest told of similar cases. Some sent her photos of bruises and said that, like her, they were invited to row 0 and then to have drinks that had an effect that was not like being under the influence of alcohol.

A well-known 21-year-old German influencer said on Tuesday that Makeeva also invited her to a band after-party with other young women. She claims that the Russian was very friendly with them and that she asked them to put their cell phones away “for privacy reasons.” They were taken to a locker room — it was a sports stadium — where there were two black leather sofas, a table and two coolers with alcoholic drinks and several girls who looked drugged, “like zombies.” She claims she got such a bad impression that she left immediately.

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