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Martin Luther: People's Hero – Anti-Semite – Hate Preacher

Giordano Bruno Stiftung publishes critical brochure on the Luther Year

For Adolf Hitler, Martin Luther was "a great man, a giant," who saw "the Jew," "as we only begin to see him today." The Protestant state bishop Martin Sasse, who in 1938 (after the Reichspogromnacht) published the booklet "Martin Luther über die Juden: Weg mit ihnen!" (Martin Luther on the Jews: Away with them), also saw the Reformator as a shining example, the "greatest anti-Semite of his time, the warner of his people against the Jews".

For Adolf Hitler, Martin Luther was "a great man, a giant," who saw "the Jew," "as we only begin to see him today." The Protestant state bishop Martin Sasse, who in 1938 (after the Reichspogromnacht) published the booklet "Martin Luther über die Juden: Weg mit ihnen!" (Martin Luther on the Jews: Away with them), also saw the Reformator as a shining example, the "greatest anti-Semite of his time, the warner of his people against the Jews".

The National Socialists put into practice what Luther had demanded 400 years earlier in his inflammatory writing "On the Jews and their Lies", i.e. forced labour and forced settlements for Jews as well as the burning down of their synagogues. The Nazis also adopted the motto of their inflammatory paper "Der Stürmer" from Martin Luther: "The Jews are our misfortune!" No wonder, then, that "Stürmer" editor Julius Streicher defended himself at the Nuremberg Trial in 1946 with reference to Martin Luther: "Dr. Martin Luther would certainly be sitting in my place in the dock today if this book were considered by the prosecution. In the book 'The Jews and their Lies' Dr. Martin Luther writes that the Jews are a snake breed. Their synagogues shall be burned, they shall be destroyed."

Most Protestant theologians are well aware of these historical connections, which is why they certainly admit to critical questions that Martin Luther had "dark spots" and "shameful statements". However, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) attaches great importance to ensuring that this does not damage the reformer's public image. Therefore, the preoccupation with Luther's "dark spots" should be reserved as far as possible for expert circles, while for the general population a hymn is sung to the proclaimer of the "freedom of the Christian" - enriched with all sorts of harmlessly funny Luther merchandise such as "Luther lollies", "Luther candies" or "Luther Playmobil figurines".

The Giordano Bruno Stiftung would like to counteract this uncritical Luther image, which distorts history. To this end, it lets the reformer speak for himself in the brochure. This shows that Luther was not only a particularly vehement religious Jew-hater (anti-Judaist), who popularised the term "Judensau" ("Jews' sow") like hardly anyone else, but that he also agitated against "the Jews" in the form of a pre-modern racism (anti-Semitism). Thus, Martin Luther wrote in 1543: "The Israelite blood has been mixed, impure, watered down, and left wild. [...] This cloudy sediment and stinking scum, this mouldy leaven and swampy mire of Judaism should have deserved the fulfillment of the Messiah, but is nothing more than a lazy, stinking, rotten sediment from the blood of their fathers?"

In addition to Luther's unbridled hatred of Jews, the gbs brochure also documents the Reformer's inhumane positions towards women, "witches", disabled people, and rebellious peasants. However, a 12-page brochure can only provide a brief introduction to Luther's worldview. Therefore, the text refers to the current three-volume edition of Luther's anti-Jewish writings, edited by Karl-Heinz Büchner, Bernd P. Kammermeier, Reinhold Schlotz, and Robert Zwilling (all members of the gbs regional group Rhine-Neckar). The brochure also refers to the exhibition "From Golgatha to Auschwitz" conceived by gbs-Rhein-Neckar as well as to the book of the same name by Reinhold Schlotz. The book and exhibition classify Luther's thinking historically and, based on numerous sources, prove that Christian hostility towards Jews was not sufficient, but a necessary precondition for the Holocaust.

Those who would like to distribute the brochure "Martin Luther: Volksheld - Antisemit - Hassprediger" in the Luther Year or use it as a corrective to the official EKD materials in class may order printed copies free of charge from the foundation secretariat via this form. The online version of the Luther brochure is now available as a pdf file on the gbs website.    

 

(Please click the picture to download the pdf-file)