Anti-Semitic church carvings may remain, rules Germany’s top appeals court

written by Lian Kolirin, CNN

Germany’s highest appeals court has ruled that a medieval The sculpture may have remained outside a church in Wittenberg, East Germany, despite the acceptance that it is anti Semitic,

The sandstone carvings, which have been part of the Wittenberg Stadtkirche – or the exterior of the town’s church – since about 1290, show two men identified as Jews sucking a pig out of their pointed hats – known as Considered unclean in Judaism. Another man, a caricature of a rabbi, lifts the pig’s tail and looks at its back.

The case was brought up by Michael Dietrich Dulman, a 79-year-old retired psychiatric nurse who converted to Judaism in the 1970s. Dulman has long campaigned for the removal of “Judeansau” or “Jew Bo”, which he believes is not only offensive but “dangerous” when politicians warn of increasing anti-Semitism in Germany. are giving.

Wittenberg is the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation and where Martin Luther conducted 95 theses on the doorstep of the Catholic Church in 1517. In 1570, the inscription “Rabini Shem Hemaphorus” – a redundant phrase that the court said was based on an anti-Semitic text by Luther – was placed over the engraving of the sow.

Dulman has been fighting a legal battle for years to remove the carving, which is located about 13 feet off the ground.

But on Tuesday the Federal Court of Justice upheld the decisions of lower courts, which dismissed the case, saying there was no violation of the law.

It acknowledged that the nature of the sculpture was offensive until November 1988, when a bronze plaque was installed as part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, when the Nazis brought to light and destroyed Jewish property throughout Germany. .

Luther’s writings and other examples of anti-Semitic sentiment in Germany over the centuries are mentioned on the plaque, as well as references to the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Dulman told CNN that his latest court defeat was “reprehensible”, adding that he now plans to appeal to the German Constitutional Court.

Speaking by telephone to Bonn, Dulman said the court’s decision had “underestimated the real danger” of the sculpture.

“You can’t neutralize it by putting a simple plaque with it,” he told CNN, adding that this kind of “propaganda” can be found in more than 30 churches across Germany today.

“Judensau is not only a disgrace, it is too much – it is a call to murder of Jews,” he said.

“No institution other than the Church, and no one other than Martin Luther, did much to prepare the German people for Auschwitz. Auschwitz did not come from a vacuum. It was the part of a centuries-long movement against the Jews.” The result was.”

He said rising levels of anti-Semitism are a “real threat” in Germany today and that far-right protesters have attended every court hearing so far.

“I am very concerned about the situation here and I think intellectuals and those in politics are underestimating the dangers. They are willing to make concessions to the right wing.”

Determined to fight further, he said: “It is my wish that I go to the Constitutional Court and continue to fight it, and if I lose I will go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.”

Joseph Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said on his organization’s website that the ruling was “understandable”, but added that “neither the base plate nor the interpretive slanted display contains a clear condemnation of the anti-Semitic act of art. of.”

He added: “Both the Wittenberg church community and the Church as a whole must find a clear and just solution to deal with idols that are hostile to Jews. The defamation of Jews by churches should be a thing of the past once and for all.”