Exactly five centuries ago, Martin Luther sparked what would become the Protestant Reformation by nailing a list of criticisms on a church door in Germany.
Luther decried what he saw as abusive and corrupt practices in the Roman Catholic church — but reserved a very special kind of hatred for Jews, whom he branded an “accursed and miserable people.”
In Luther’s early years he seemed concerned with the plight of European Jews, and held out high hopes of converting them to his branch of Christianity. When wide-scale conversion failed to pan out, though, he slipped into a deep religious anti-Semitism, calling for violent persecution of Jews. Luther wrote often of Jewish worship — which he saw as devilish and repulsive, even describing Jews as worshiping and eating Satan’s feces.
Luther’s relationship with Judiam has been examined in more depth elsewhere — with some looking at how his widely distributed anti-Semitic tract “On The Jews and Their Lies” helped lay the theoretical groundwork for later waves of European anti-Semitism — even influencing Hitler and the Nazis.
Here are eight of the most notable anti-Semitic things Luther wrote.
I have published this little book, so that I might be found among those who opposed such poisonous activities of the Jews
[Set] fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians…
I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.
I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them…. [They] have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury, and by it they have stolen and robbed from us all they possess.
I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow… it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.
Accordingly, it must and dare not be considered a trifling matter but a most serious one to seek counsel against this and to save our souls from the Jews, that is, from the devil and from eternal death.
[The] Devil has emptied… his stomach again and again, that is a true relic, which the Jews, and those who want to be a Jew, kiss, eat, drink, and worship.
They are our public enemies… If they could kill us all, they would gladly do it. They do it often, especially those who pose as physicians—though sometimes they help—for the devil helps to finish it in the end… They administer poison to someone from which he could die in an hour, a month, a year, ten or twenty years. They are able to practice this art.
Sam Kestenbaum is a contributing editor and former staff writer for the Forward. Before this, he worked for The New York Times and newsrooms in Sana, Ramallah and Beijing. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum and on Instagram at @skestenbaum.
When Martin Luther Accused The Jews Of Eating Satan’s S—-