German court rules 13th century antisemitic carving shouldn’t be removed
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German court rules 13th century antisemitic carving shouldn’t be removed

'Judensau' will not be taken off the Church building because the parish placed a memorial with information so visitors understand its significance

The Judensau at Wittenberg. (Wittenberger Judensau (Wolfgang Meissner 1596. Source: German wikipedia, original upload 18. Jun 2005 by de:Benutzer:Finanzer )
The Judensau at Wittenberg. (Wittenberger Judensau (Wolfgang Meissner 1596. Source: German wikipedia, original upload 18. Jun 2005 by de:Benutzer:Finanzer )

A court in Germany had ruled that an antisemitic carving in a church wall dating from the 13th century should not be removed because the parish had placed a memorial and information sign so visitors could understand it in context.

The stone carving of a rabbi peering into a pig’s anus while other Jewish figures suckle its teets – known as Judensau (Jews’ sow) – is a bar-relief on a church in Wittenberg associated with Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism.

The judges’ ruling in Naumburg, which can still be appealed to the country’s highest court, concurs with an earlier lower court ruling. The case was brought by a local Jewish man who said it should be removed because it “harmed Jews’ reputations”.

Saxony-Anhalt state judges disagreed, pointing to the parish’s extensive efforts to explain that it was an historical example of a time when many churches in the Middle Ages had similar carvings, to symbolise that Jews were not welcome.

Last year, as news of the legal challenge emerged, Jewish historians around the argued that the carving should stay in-place, including Abigail Morris at the Jewish Museum in London.

“The decision to force the removal of the Wittenberg Judensau essentially amounts to an erasure and denial of an antisemitic past,” she said.

“In the current climate, people urgently want to understand the history and causes of antisemitism. Rather than removing this difficult past we should be exploring it, using it as the basis to challenge racist attitudes then and now, to create a better future.”

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