German federal court rejects bid to remove anti-Semitic relic

BERLIN (AP) — A German federal court on Tuesday rejected a Jewish man’s offer to have a 700-year-old anti-Semitic statue removed from a church where Martin Luther once preached.

The Federal Court of Justice upheld lower court rulings on the “Judensau”, or “Jewish pig”, sculpture 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. Those statements pointed to the addition in recent decades of a memorial and information board.

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

The sculpture, placed about four meters above the ground on the church, depicts people recognizable as Jews suckling a sow’s teats while a rabbi lifts the animal’s tail. In 1570, after the Protestant Reformation, an inscription was added referring to an anti-Jewish tract by Luther.

In 1988, a memorial was placed in the ground below, which refers to the persecution of the Jews and the 6 million people who died during the Holocaust. In addition, a sign provides information about the statue in German and English.

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