Martin Luther and antisemitism  

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Martin Luther (1483—1546), a German Reformation leader, had a significant influence on German antisemitism by his harsh anti-Jewish statements and writings.

Contents

Anti-Jewish works

Luther's main works on the Jews were his 65,000-word treatise Von den Juden und Ihren Lügen (On the Jews and Their Lies) and Vom Schem Hamphoras und vom Geschlecht Christi (Of the Unknowable Name and the Generations of Christ) — reprinted five times within his lifetime — both written in 1543, three years before his death. Margaritha, a convert to Christianity who had become a Lutheran, published his antisemitic book in 1530 which was read by Luther in 1539. Margaritha's book was decisively discredited by Josel of Rosheim in a public debate in 1530 before Charles V and his court, resulting in Margaritha's expulsion from the Empire.

On the Jews and Their Lies

On the Jews and Their Lies

In 1543 Luther published On the Jews and Their Lies in which he says that the Jews are a "base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth." They are full of the "devil's feces ... which they wallow in like swine." The synagogue was a "defiled bride, yes, an incorrigible whore and an evil slut ..." He argues that their synagogues and schools be set on fire, their prayer books destroyed, rabbis forbidden to preach, homes razed, and property and money confiscated. They should be shown no mercy or kindness, afforded no legal protection, and these "poisonous envenomed worms" should be drafted into forced labor or expelled for all time. He also seems to advocate their murder, writing "[w]e are at fault in not slaying them."

Vom Schem Hamphoras

Vom Schem Hamphoras

Several months after publishing On the Jews and Their Lies, Luther wrote Vom Schem Hamphoras und vom Geschlecht Christi (Of the Unknowable Name and the Generations of Christ)', in which he equated Jews with the Devil:

"Here in Wittenburg, in our parish church, there is a sow carved into the stone under which lie young pigs and Jews who are sucking; behind the sow stands a rabbi who is lifting up the right leg of the sow, raises behind the sow, bows down and looks with great effort into the Talmud under the sow, as if he wanted to read and see something most difficult and exceptional; no doubt they gained their Shem Hamphoras from that place."

The English translation of Vom Schem Hamphoras is contained in The Jew in Christian Theology, by Gerhard Falk (1992).

Warning against the Jews

Warning Against the Jews (1546)

Shortly before his death on February 18, 1546 Luther preached four sermons in Eisleben. To his second last sermon he appended what he called his "final warning" against the Jews. The main point of this short work is that authorities who could expel the Jews from their lands should do so if they would not convert to Christianity. Otherwise, Luther indicated, such authorities would make themselves "partners in another's sins."

Luther began by saying,
We want to deal with them in a Christian manner now. Offer them the Christian faith that they would accept the Messiah, who is even their cousin and has been born of their flesh and blood; and is rightly Abraham’s Seed, of which they boast. Even so, I am concerned [that] Jewish blood may no longer become watery and wild. First of all, you should propose to them that they be converted to the Messiah and allow themselves to be baptized, that one may see that this is a serious matter to them. If not, then we would not permit them [to live among us], for Christ commands us to be baptized and believe in Him, even though we cannot now believe so strongly as we should, God is still patient with us.
Luther continued, "However, if they are converted, abandon their usury, and receive Christ, then we will willingly regard them our brothers. Otherwise, nothing will come out of it, for they do it to excess." Luther followed this with accusations,
They are our public enemies. They do not stop blaspheming our Lord Christ, calling the Virgin Mary a whore, Christ, a bastard, and us changelings or “meal calves” (Mahlkälber). If they could kill us all, they would gladly do it. They do it often, especially those who pose as physcians—though sometimes they help—for the devil helps to finish it in the end. They can also practice medicine as in French Switzerland. They administer poison to someone from which he could die in an hour, a month, a year, ten or twenty years. They are able to practice this art.
He then said,
Yet, we will show them Christian love and pray for them that they may be converted to receive the Lord, whom they should honor properly before us. Whoever will not do this is no doubt a malicious Jew, who will not stop blaspheming Christ, draining you dry, and, if he can, killing [you].

See also




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