German court rules anti-Semitic church carvings can stay

Written Leanne Kolirin, CNN

Germany’s highest court of appeal ruled that medieval the sculpture may remain outside the church in Wittenberg, eastern Germany, despite the recognition that it antisemitic.

A sandstone carving that has been part of the exterior of the Wittenberg City Church since about 1290 depicts two people, identified as Jews by their pointed hats, feeding a pig, considered unclean in the Jewish religion. Another man, a caricature of a rabbi, lifts the pig’s tail and looks into its rear.

The case was brought by Michael Dietrich Duhlmann, a 79-year-old retired psychiatric nurse who converted to Judaism in the 1970s. Dühlmann has long advocated the removal of the “Judensau” or “Jewish pig,” which he says is not only offensive but also “dangerous” at a time when politicians are warning of rising anti-Semitism in Germany.

Wittenberg is the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation, where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Catholic Church in 1517. – Luther’s Semitic text — was placed above the pig carving.

Dühlmann has been fighting a legal battle for years to remove a thread about 13 feet from the ground.

But on Tuesday, a federal court upheld decisions from lower courts that closed the case, saying there was no violation of the law.

He admitted that the nature of the sculpture was offensive up until November 1988, when a bronze plaque was erected as part of the Kristallnacht 50th anniversary celebrations when the Nazis set fire to and destroyed Jewish property throughout Germany.

The plaque mentions Luther’s writings and other examples of anti-Jewish sentiment in Germany over the centuries, in addition to a reference to the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Dühlmann told CNN his latest courtroom defeat was “scandalous”, saying he now plans to appeal to Germany’s Constitutional Court.

Speaking by telephone from Bonn, Dühlmann said the court’s decision was an “underestimation of the real danger” of the sculpture.

“You can’t neutralize it by just putting a simple sign next to it saying what it means,” he told CNN, adding that similar “propaganda” can now be found in more than 30 churches across Germany.

“Judensau is not only an insult, it is much more – it is a call to kill Jews,” he said.

“No institution but the church, and no man but Martin Luther, did more to prepare the German people for Auschwitz. Auschwitz did not emerge from a vacuum. It was the result of centuries of agitation against the Jews.”

He said that rising levels of anti-Semitism pose a “real danger” in Germany today, and that far-right demonstrators have turned up at every court hearing he has held so far.

“I am very concerned about the situation here and I think that intellectuals and politicians underestimate the dangers. They are ready to make concessions to the right wing.”

Determined to fight, he added: “I want to go to the Constitutional Court and keep fighting this, and if I lose, I will go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.”

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, stated on his organization’s website that the decision was “understandable” but added that “neither the main plate nor the explanatory oblique display contained an unambiguous condemnation of anti-Jewish work.” art.”

He said: “Both the church community in Wittenberg and the churches in general must find a clear and appropriate solution to combat sculptures that are hostile to Jews. The defamation of the Jews by the churches must once and for all be a thing of the past.”

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