A pig and around it humans, who suck at its teats or look into its anus. The "Jew sow" depictions have been synonymous with dull anti-Semitism since the Middle Ages. Is that why they are eliminated?
It is a cradle of the Reformation: from the Wittenberg City Church, the message of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and his comrades-in-arms went out into the world. Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) created a widely praised and famous altar for the church. Meanwhile, on the outer wall of the church, a stone carving from the Middle Ages casts a shadow on the glory of days gone by.
The sandstone relief features a rabbi lifting the curly tail of a pig. Other figures are obviously looking for the teats of the animal. The pig is considered unclean by the Jews. The picture motive "Jew sow" belongs since the Middle Ages to the vilest vituperations of Judaism. Even today, corresponding representations can be found on about 30 Protestant and Catholic churches in Germany. The list ranges from the 700-year-old choir stalls of Cologne Cathedral to two figures at St. Martin's Minster in Colmar, Alsace, to a column capital in the cloister of the cathedral in Brandenburg an der Havel.
Monument protection and commemorative culture
The controversy over the preservation or removal of these representations has rippled back and forth for years. There is now a new decision on the Wittenberg copy. On Friday, the Regional Court of Dessau-Roblau dismissed the complaint of a member of the Jewish Community of Berlin, who felt insulted by the relief.
The judges ruled that the Protestant city church congregation had neither produced the relief nor installed it itself. It was part of a listed historical building, moreover, at the foot of the city church a memorial and a commemorative plaque were attached, which were part of a "culture of remembrance. However, the verdict is not yet legally binding.
Historic preservationists and scholars also follow the debate with a portion of skepticism. Some time ago, Ursula Schirmer, spokeswoman for the German Foundation for Monument Protection, emphasized that we must learn to deal appropriately with historically charged testimonies.
Customs researcher Manfred Becker-Huberti added: "I think it is unhistorical to 'rid' historical objects of anti-Semitic representations."
It is more advisable to leave the objects in question in their context and at the same time to explain them clearly. After all, this is the only way to effectively combat anti-Semitic ideas. A "formal apology for the mistakes of our ancestors without current attitude corrections" is "nonsense," adds Becker-Huberti.
Even more oppressive than the old "Judensau" depictions is the fact that the invective is still present in the vocabulary of neo-Nazis today. In the early modern era, book printing contributed to the spread of the image. Anti-Jewish propagandists attacked it in the 19. In the Weimar Republic, politicians such as Walther Rathenau, who was murdered in 1922, were called "Jewish swine". The National Socialists and their rabble-rousing newspaper "Der Sturmer" were able to draw on a wealth of experience in this area.
According to Becker-Huberti, there are obvious reasons why "Judensaue" were already to be found in preference on the territory of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in the Middle Ages. "It was from here that crusades were organized to a significant extent, and it was here that theology had weighty 'ancestral castles' from which anti-Semitism was theologically justified."With fatal consequences: "Since this theological underpinning made it appear as official doctrine, ordinary people considered it justified."
In one of his writings, Luther also referred to the Wittenberg "Judensau," which was only later inserted into the church building.
Originally, the relief probably served as a deterrent to Jews who wanted to settle in the city. A first residence ban is documented for 1304.
The memorial below the depiction, which has now been acknowledged in the verdict, is also considered by monument conservationist Schirmer to be a sensible way of dealing with the controversial relief. Or, as theologian Friedrich Schorlemmer put it on behalf of the Wittenberg city church congregation: "History cannot simply be disposed of. It reminds us of darkness, even in the great reformer Martin Luther and his contemporaries."