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The Naked Luther

Action art for the Protestant Church Congress exposes the reformer's dark sides


Photo: Evelin Frerk

One day before the beginning of the Protestant Church Day 2017, the Giordano Bruno Stiftung (gbs) unveiled its action art "Die nackte Wahrheit über Martin Luther" ("The Naked Truth About Martin Luther") on Tuesday afternoon in Berlin. The sculpture, over four metres high, shows a naked Luther figure with an open coat. The inside of the coat depicts a quotation by philosopher Karl Jaspers: "Luther's advice against the Jews was precisely executed by Hitler". On the back you can read the reformer's anti-Semitic advice, including burning down synagogues, expropriation, and forced labour for Jews. The mobile sculpture "Der nackte Luther" will be on display at the Kirchentag in Berlin, Leipzig, and Wittenberg in the next few days, pointing to the dark sides of the reformer, which are all too often covered by a cloak of silence.​

"Martin Luther was one of the greatest hate preachers originiated in Christianity. The Protestant Church in Germany should have used the 'Luther Decade' to publicly bid farewell to the uncritical personality cult surrounding the reformer, and to address the contribution of Christian hatred of the Jews to the Holocaust," says Michael Schmidt-Salomon, spokesman of the gbs directorate. "Since this did not happen in sufficient clarity, we want to support the EKD (translator's note: Protestant Church of Germany) with our action art. For the same reason, we recently published the brochure 'Martin Luther: Volksheld, Hassprediger, Antisemit' ('Martin Luther: People's Hero, Hate Preacher, Anti-Semite'); its success almost overwhelmed us. Although the brochure does not contain any unexpected information for Luther experts, the public demand was so high that we had to reprint it after only a few days."

David Farago, who is responsible for the sculpture "Der nackte Luther" and who will present it in the next few days with his team in Berlin, Leipzig, and Wittenberg, is particularly displeased by the fact that the Luther celebrations are financed with public taxpayers' money: "Every year the public sector subsidizes Protestant and Catholic Church Days with around 6.5 million euro. Thus, the state regularly bears a higher share of the costs than the churches. The Kirchentag 2017 is even subsidised with around 12 million euro and for the festivities within the framework of the 'Luther Decade' the public sector pays a total of more than 250 million euro from public taxpayers' money, which is not compatible with the principle of the ideological neutrality of the state."

In order to raise awareness for the public financing of church-internal events, David Farago and his team carry a second mobile sculpture in their luggage next to "Der nackten Luther", the now infamous "Moses" with the "11th Commandment: Thou shalt pay for thy Church Day thyself!," which travelled across Germany in recent years. "We will continue the Moses campaign until this nonsense is over," says Farago. "It is unacceptable that highly indebted German cities, which can no longer raise funds for the improvement of their day-care centres, subsidize the religious festivals of multi-billion churches with sums in the millions! My taxpayers' money is no longer to be spent on such purposes - and I am convinced that today the vast majority of people in this country share this position."

Picture gallery: "Luther in Berlin" (one day before the beginning of the Protestant Church Day)

Photos: Evelin Frerk, please click for enhancement