Anti-Jewish Medieval Sculpture Can Stay on Church, Germany's Top Court Rules

Germany’s highest court denies request to have anti-Jewish relief sculpture removed from Wittenberg church. It depicts a large pig with two people sucking on her teats, who can be identified as caricatures of Jews by their pointed hats

Reuters
Reuters
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
The so-called 'Judensau' or 'Jew pig' sculpture is pictured on the facade of the Stadtkirche, Town Church, in Wittenberg, Germany, in January 2020.
The so-called 'Judensau' or 'Jew pig' sculpture is pictured on the facade of the Stadtkirche, Town Church, in Wittenberg, Germany, in January 2020.Credit: Jens Meyer/ AP
Reuters
Reuters

Germany's top court has rejected an attempt to have an anti-Jewish relief sculpture removed from the facade of one of the country's most historically important churches.

The so-called "Jewish sow" sculpture on the church in Wittenberg, where the father of the Reformation Martin Luther once preached, can stay in place, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Tuesday.

By adding a bronze baseplate and a nearby display with an explanatory text, the church had transformed the 13th-century sculpture into a "memorial," Germany's highest civil judges found.

Although anti-Semitic when seen in isolation, the additions by the church meant that an unbiased observer would see the sandstone sculpture as "a memorial for the purpose of commemorating and remembering the centuries-long discrimination and persecution of Jews up to the Shoah [Holocaust]," the BGH ruled. Therefore, the judges ruled, there was no legal obligation to remove it.

The relief depicts a large pig with two people sucking on her teats who can be identified as depictions of Jews by their pointed hats.
Another figure, considered to be a rabbi according to the court, raises the animal's tail and looks into its anus.

Pigs are considered unclean in the Jewish faith, and the whole motif—found on many churches in Germany and in other places in Europe—associating Jews with pigs was designed in the Middle Ages to be deeply insulting.

The Jewish plaintiff who wanted the anti-Jewish depiction removed brought the case to the highest court after failing in the lower courts.
The Wittenberg City Church is considered the mother church of the Reformation, due to its connection with Martin Luther. Just a short walk away is the church where Luther is said to have pinned his famous 95 Theses.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Election ad featuring Yair Lapid in Rahat, the largest Arab city in Israel's Negev region.

This Bedouin City Could Decide Who Is Israel's Next Prime Minister

Dr. Claris Harbon in the neighborhood where she grew up in Ashdod.

A Women's Rights Lawyer Felt She Didn't Belong in Israel. So She Moved to Morocco

Mohammed 'Moha' Alshawamreh.

'It Was Real Shock to Move From a Little Muslim Village, to a Big Open World'

From the cover of 'Shmutz.'

'There Are Similarities Between the Hasidic Community and Pornography’

A scene from Netflix's "RRR."

‘RRR’: If Cocaine Were a Movie, It Would Look Like This

Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Yair Lapid's Journey: From Late-night Host to Israel's Prime Minister