If the law says a Judensau can’t be removed – then the law must change

The Judensau at Wittenberg. (Wittenberger Judensau (Wolfgang Meissner 1596. Source: German wikipedia, original upload 18. Jun 2005 by de:Benutzer:Finanzer via Jewish News)
The Judensau at Wittenberg. (Wittenberger Judensau (Wolfgang Meissner 1596. Source: German wikipedia, original upload 18. Jun 2005 by de:Benutzer:Finanzer via Jewish News)

I don’t suppose the name Michael Düllmann means a lot to you. He’s a German Jew who has just lost a court case in Wittenburg in Germanty. The local magistrate has decided that a 13th century sculpture in the local church can’t be removed. So what’s that got to do with you? Mr. Düllmann is up in arms because the sculpture is of rabbis fornicating with a pig. It’s called a Judensau. There used to be a large one travellers passed on their way across the bridge into Frankfurt.

The Wittenburg magistrate said it was part of the church history, but a prominent member of the Berlin Jewish community correctly labelled the effigy “unseemly, obscene, insulting, offensive and libellous”. Which is still, in my book, pretty generous. It seems to be forgotten that, as the New Testament portrays Jesus as a rabbi, the effigy is a gross insult to him as well.

Lets complicate matters a little more. You may not have heard of Wittenburg which is best explained as the Lutheran Jerusalem. That was where Luther pinned his famous 95 Theses to the local church wall in 1517, attacking the Catholics and getting Protestantism on its way. But Martin Luther was both a hero to the anti-Catholics and a raving anti-semite. It depends on which of no less than three sides you supported.

One of the Wittenburg churches is now on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the Martin Luther University is in the town. The World Jewish Congress believe 25% of Germans are still anti-semitic, which means that 75% aren’t. Mr. Düllmann is a mere 77 years old, not discouraged, and is thinking of going to the European Court of Human Rights. This case seems likely to run and run.

Now, those opposed to such a grossly offensive effigy want it lost in a local museum, but that shouldn’t end the argument because I have another problem for you. You can find the same effigies in Germany in the cathedrals in Cologne, Brandenburg, Magdeburg, Regensburg, Xanten and other churches.

Don’t think, though, that the Judensau is only in Germany. There are similar depictions in the cathedrals in Basel (Switzerland), Metz and Strasburg (France), Uppsala (Sweden) and a church in Aerschot (Belgium), besides a couple of dozen of other European churches. So it’s high time you dropped that note to the appropriate ambassadors or heads of state of those countries and complained.

Of course you won’t find a single similar effigy anywhere in Britain. Admittedly, in 1144 we were accused of the ritual murder of St. William of Norwich, and July 27th is the Saints Day of Hugh of Lincoln, who we were accused of ritually murdering in 1255. In 2019 the Church of England issued a 100 page report apologising for their historical anti-semitic actions. They’ve done as much in Wittenburg, but the effigy remains on the wall.

I’m a great believer in the words of a Bishop of Brentwood, who said “Right is right even if nobody’s right, and wrong is wrong even if everybody’s wrong. There are, however, two sides to many questions, though in the case of the Judensau there aren’t. If the German law says it can’t be moved, change the law. Particularly with the horrors of the Holocaust still fresh in its unspeakable horror after 75 years.

Some in Wittenburg won’t agree though, and people stick to their guns for the most unlikely of reasons. There’s a school in York that has always taken its right to individuality to heart. It was founded in 627, so in a few years it”s going to celebrate its 1400th anniversary, and St. Peter’s has a ban on conflagrations on Bonfire Night. The whole country sets off fireworks but not St. Peters; Guy Fawkes was an Old Boy. The fire brigades union would, no doubt, want this anti-Catholic demonstration abandoned as well, but who can defend an attempt to blow up parliament.

I admit I’m not a great one for crusades. You won’t find me on the barricades defending the badger and I won’t be around when the Greenland Ice Cap melts. Even so, the Judensau image, as it is called, is a disgrace. Mr. Düllmann should get the same international support that is so popular at the moment. Have you got the time to write a letter?

There’s a Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussauds and a Black Museum at Scotland Yard. A museum in their own country is where all the Judensau belong. The German ambassador is Andreas Michaelis, the Belgian, Rudolf Huygelen, the French, Catherine Colonna, the Swedish, Torbjõrn Sohiström and the Swiss, Alexandre Fasel.

About the Author
Derek is an author & former editor of the Jewish Year Book