A relief showing a sow with two Jews hanging from its teats has been emblazoned on the Wittenberg town church since the 13th century. Another Jew looks into the sow’s anus. The inscription explains what he is looking for there: “Rabini Shem HamPhoras”. Shem Hamphoras is the rabbinic term for the name of God that cannot be spoken.
Martin Luther, who often preached in the town church, must have been very impressed by the “Judensau” relief. In 1543 he wrote the pamphlet “Vom Shem Hamphoras”, in which he claimed that the Jews were “the devil’s people”.
A line leads from the Catholic to the Protestant to the National Socialist hatred of Jews: “By defending myself against the Jew, I fight for the work of the Lord,” wrote Adolf Hitler in “Mein Kampf”.
In Europe’s churches, countless anti-Semitic works of art document how mendacious the talk of “Judeo-Christian heritage” is. The Wittenberg relief is “anti-Semitism set in stone,” said Stephan Seiters, a judge at the Federal Court of Justice (BGH).
The court ruled on the application of an old leftist and Zionist who had converted to Judaism – yes, there is! – to decide to remove the relief. The BGH now ruled against the plaintiff. The “illegal state” of the insult can be remedied by “distancing and contextualizing”.
In this way, a “substantive discussion can be made possible in order to counter exclusion, hatred and defamation”. A wise decision that should be observed wherever supporters of “cancel culture” wish to eliminate offensive still images, street names and the like. Lutherstadt did not deserve to be freed from this shame.
Of course, one has to ask whether the memorial erected in 1988 allows “a substantive discussion”. Four bronze slabs are embedded in the floor, the joints form a cross. The surrounding text reads: “God’s real name / the reviled Shem Ha Mphoras / whom the Jews before the Christians / held almost unspeakably holy / died in six million Jews / under a sign of the cross.”
Whether the name of God died in the victims of the Holocaust and what the Nazi “sign of the cross” has to do with the cross on which the Jew Jesus died remains unexplained. According to the BGH ruling, more information and less murmuring could be expected from the churches, not only in Wittenberg.