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German court to decide if ‘Jew pig’ church sculpture should

A German federal court will rule next month on whether a 700-year-old antisemitic statue should be removed from a church where the Protestant theologian Martin Luther once preached.

The 13th century sandstone relief, the subject of a long-running dispute, depicts three young Jews drinking from a sow’s teats while a rabbi lifts her tail and hind-legs to inspect her backside for omens.

Widely known as Judensau, or “Jew pig”, it is placed four metres above ground level on St Mary’s Church in Wittenberg, a town 90 kilometres southwest of Berlin.

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It features an inscription of anti-Jewish tract by Luther.

Monday’s hearing was brought to the Federal Court of Justice by Michael Düllmann, who has campaigned for years to relocate the Wittenberg statue to a nearby museum because it is “a defamation of and insult to the Jewish people”.

Jewish figures in Germany have also called for its removal.

Sigmount A. Koenigsberg, a member of the Jewish community in Berlin, insisted he did not want the statue to disappear.

He said in 2020: “It should be on public display but not on the side of a church. It belongs in a museum alongside clear historical context about antisemitism in the Middle Ages.”

Yet lower courts ruled against Düllmann in 2019 and 2020, saying the statue did not constitute an offence.

On Monday, the federal court’s presiding judge Stephan Seiters said that, when viewed in isolation, it was “antisemitism chiselled into stone”.

He is due to rule on June 14, but his verdict is likely to be influenced by the wider context and later additions to the church.

At least 20 similar sculptures dating from the Middle Ages are known to exist on churches around Germany.

In 1988, a memorial referring to the persecution of Jews and to the Holocaust was set into the ground below the statue.

But Düllmann’s legal team has argued the depiction of a pig was a sign of hatred in the Middle Ages and that the modern sign contains insufficient information.

Source: Jewish News

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