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Smithsonian article on centuries old anti-Semitic Judensau sculpture in Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Discussion in 'The Kitchen Sink' started by essentialsaltes, Sep 28, 2020.

  1. essentialsaltes

    essentialsaltes Stranger in a Strange Land

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    Smithsonian has a well-rounded article focusing on an anti-Semitic sculpture in Wittenberg at a church where Luther preached. New signs have helped put the image in context, but it remains a controversial, if historic, display.


    Around the back of the Stadtkirche, in a carved sandstone sculpture set into the facade, a rabbi lifts the tail of a pig to look for his Talmud. As he stares, other Jews gather around the belly of the sow to suckle. Above this scene is written in flowery script: “Rabini Schem HaMphoras,” a mangled inscription intended to mock the Hebrew phrase for the holiest name of God.

    Today, more than 20 Judensau sculptures are still incorporated into German churches and cathedrals, with a few others in neighboring countries. At least one Judensau—on the wall of a medieval apothecary in Bavaria—was taken down for its offensive nature, but its removal in 1945 is thought to have been ordered by an American soldier. The Judensau in Wittenberg is one of the best preserved—and one of the most visible. The church is a Unesco World Heritage site.


    Luther himself praised the sculpture on his home church in a 1543 text called “Of the Unknowable Name and the Generations of Christ.” Throughout the tract, he denounced Jewish beliefs about a hidden, powerful name for God—a kabbalistic teaching that Jews refer to as the “Shem HaMephorash” (the explicit name). “Here in Wittenberg, in our parish church,” Luther wrote, “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 Schem Hamphoras from that place.” The inscription “Rabini Schem HaMphoras” was installed above the sculpture 27 years later, in Luther’s honor.
     
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  2. Bob Crowley

    Bob Crowley Well-Known Member Supporter

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  3. ananda

    ananda Early Buddhist

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    Is this an example of anti-Semitism, or is it really anti-Judaism?
     
  4. Bob Crowley

    Bob Crowley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    What's the difference? It was anti-Semitism, or anti-Judaism. Take your pick - whatever you fancy.

    William Shirer, the American author of "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" and a Protestant to boot, wrote in the early part of that book that if he had to nominate an evil genius who prepared the German people and mind for Hitler, he would have to nominate Martin Luther.

    He described him as a "passionate anti-Semite".

    This is one quote from his book -

    And another ...

    Luther set the scene not only for the Jewish Holocaust (mind you the Catholic Church hadn't been much better in other centuries) but also for the concept of absolute obedience to the state.

    I've got my own opinion where the business of absolute obedience to the state came from, but I'll keep that to myself.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2020
  5. ananda

    ananda Early Buddhist

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    The former refers to a race of peoples, the latter to a religion. They're not one and the same, and should not be conflated as is now regularly the case.

    Wholesale approval or disapproval for a race of people is wrong; criticism of a religion is not necessarily wrong, if said criticism is based on truth and fact.
     
  6. Bob Crowley

    Bob Crowley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Judaism and Semitism are pretty much one and the same. The Jews identify as both a people and a religion.

    Sure, there are wide shades of opinion amongst modern Jews -

    Jews in Israel are divided into very different groups

    There's an article here which has some bearing on the matter -

    Opinion | Noah Berlatsky: Judaism is not a race but Jewish people can be targeted for racism. Here’s why.

    Technically there are no different races, since humans share such a common gene pool.

    How Science and Genetics are Reshaping the Race Debate of the 21st Century - Science in the News

    It is the Jewish religion, not genetics, which determines their "Judaism" regardless of the fact they have so many flavours. For the Nazis, and for Martin Luther, there would have been no distinction between Judaism and Semitism.
     
  7. ananda

    ananda Early Buddhist

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    Do you believe that one can legitimately criticize a religion without an intention to criticize a race of people?
     
  8. Bob Crowley

    Bob Crowley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Luther may have been primarily interested in a religious motive; Hitler certainly wasn't. He wasn't interested in Christianity either and would have tried to destroy it if he'd won the war. For him the Jews were scapegoats for Germany's defeat in World War I, and allegedly the controllers of German wealth during the Depression and Weimar years.

    The fact is most German Jews were middle class, or eked out a meagre living doing menial jobs.

    He was also able to play on a strong streak of anti-Semitism which already existed, for which Martin Luther may have had some responsibility. And once again, there would have been no distinction between a perception of their religion or their "race".

    Either way, whether the motive was religious intolerance or racial stereotypijng, the outcome would have been the same - the Jews would have been persecuted.

    As for legitimately criticising a religion without an intention to criticise a race of people, a more relevant equivalent would be the current Western perception of Moslems.

    In this case "race" might be seen as equivalent to "religion". But persecutors won't make any distinction.
     
  9. ananda

    ananda Early Buddhist

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    Is that a "no" answer to "Do you believe that one can legitimately criticize a religion without an intention to criticize a race of people?"
     
  10. essentialsaltes

    essentialsaltes Stranger in a Strange Land

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    .
     
  11. Bob Crowley

    Bob Crowley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    You can, but when emotions are running high, the two usually go together.
     
  12. ananda

    ananda Early Buddhist

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    Thank you. Would you agree with me that criticism of a religion does not automatically equal criticism of a race of people, and that it is reprehensible to cry "racism!" when a religion is criticized without reference to race?
     
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