Antisemitic sculpture can remain in church, German court rules | Germany

Germany’s highest court has rejected a Jewish man’s attempt to have a 700-year-old anti-Semitic statue removed from a church where Martin Luther once preached.

The federal court of justice upheld rulings by lower courts on the Judensausculpture on the town church in Wittenberg – one of more than 20 such relics from the Middle Ages that still adorn churches across Germany and elsewhere in Europe – pointing to the addition in recent decades of a memorial and an information sign.

Placed on the church about 4 meters (13 ft) above ground level, the sculpture depicts identifiable people as Jews suckling the teats of a sow while a rabbi lifts the animal’s tail. In 1570, after the Protestant Reformation, an inscription referring to an anti-Jewish tract by Luther was added.

The plaintiff argued that the sculpture was ‘a defamation of, and insult to, the Jewish people’. Photograph: Jens Meyer/AP

The case went to the federal court after courts in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt ruled in 2019 and 2020 against plaintiff Michael Duellmann. He had argued that the sculpture was “a defamation of, and insult to, the Jewish people” that had “a terrible effect up to this day,” and has suggested moving it the nearby Luther House museum.

In 1988, a memorial was set into the ground below, referring to the persecution of Jews and the 6 million people who died during the Holocaust. In addition, a sign gives information about the sculpture in German and English.

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