Campaigners in Germany are calling for the removal of an antisemitic sculpture ahead of the 500th anniversary of the Christian Reformation next year.
The Judensau, or “Jewish pig”, is on the façade of Wittenburg’s main church.
It shows Jews suckling at the teats of a sow, while another lifts the tail of the animal to look up its backside.
Sister Joela Krüger, a member of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, a Lutheran group, is leading the campaign for the removal of the sculpture. She told website Christianity Today: “The Judensau grieves people because our Lord is blasphemed. And also the Jews and Israel are blasphemed by showing such a sculpture.
“We don’t want to distance ourselves from Luther’s wrongs, but to identify, grieve, and ask for forgiveness.”
Wittenburg was the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation, which was initiated in 1517 by Martin Luther, an inhabitant of the town.
The Judensau was installed in 1305, but Luther discusses it in one of his antisemitic works, Vom Schem Hamphoras, in which he suggests that Jews sourced their holiest name for God — their “Shem Hamphoras” — from the backside of a pig.
The words “Rabini Schem Hamephoras” were added above the sculpture after Luther’s death.
However, Max Privorozki, a local German-Jewish leader, told Christianity Today that the sculpture should not be removed, saying it “represents a testimony of medieval thinking and Christian architectural tradition.
“There is no doubt that the Judensau sculpture is unseemly, obscene, insulting, offensive, libelous, a portrayal of hate speech and antisemitism and that it defames Jewish people and their faith. However, it should be seen within the context of the time period in which it was made.”
A plaque was added beneath the sculpture in 1988, quoting the beginning of psalm 130 in Hebrew (“From the Depths I cry to You”), as well as the following inscription:
“The true name of God, the maligned Schem Hamphoras, which Jews long before Christianity regarded as almost unutterably holy, died with six million Jews under the sign of the cross.”
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, Chief Rabbi of Moscow and President of the Conference of European Rabbis, said: “Removing statues can be, on the one hand, symbolic. On the other hand, it might not be enough.
“The question is, to what extent the Protestant churches have gone through their history, liturgy, statements and religious texts to distance themselves from teachings which have elements of antisemitism.”