THE REAL MARTIN LUTHER PART II THE JEWS - AGAIN WE APOLOGISE
|CRANACH'S PR PICTURE OF LUTHER NOT QUITE THE MAN WE FIND|
A Warning from St Thomas More on Luther:
“The gentle reader must forgive me if much that occurs offends his feelings. Nothing has been more painful to me than to be compelled to pour such things into decent ears. The only other alternative would, however, have been to leave the unclean book untouched.”
Luther and the Jews
“…..and Luther, if he could be with us, would give us his blessing.”
ADOLF HITLER (“Hitler’s Speeches”, edited by Professor N. H. Baynes (Oxford, 1942), page 369).
(The quotes below are from” Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor” by Peter F Wiener - who does not
appear to be a Catholic.)
“The Jews are our blood-friends, cousins and brothers of our Lord. No people has been so distinguished by God.” “We must exercise toward the Jews the law of Christian love and show them a friendly spirit; allow them liberty to work and to earn, and to leave them scope to live with and among us, and hear and see our Christian teaching and life.” “What good can we do the Jews when we constrain them, malign them, and treat them as dogs? When we deny them work and force them to usury, how can that help? We should use toward them Christ’s law of love. If some are stiff --necked, what does it matter? We are not all good Christians.”
It is quite true that when Luther fought the Pope, he wanted allies and friends. Thus the Jews were welcome, and he made the truly wonderful remarks just quoted. But as so often before, once he had achieved his purpose he showed his true face. For the greater part of his life Luther was an anti-semite of the worst calibre. He knew no compromise; and in this particular instance he did not even attempt to explain or excuse his complete change of colour.
“There can be no doubt that the radical change in Luther’s attitude on the Jewish question was an outcome of his increasing depression,” is rather a meaningless explanation attempted by A. Hausrath, one of Luther’s most famous apologists. I shall try to show what the true Luther thought of the Jews and how he proposed to deal with them.
Like all his enemies, the Jews in Luther’s eyes were devils.
“Whenever you encounter a real Jew, you may in good faith make the sign of the cross and openly and fearlessly pronounce the words `This is a veritable devil’”. “Therefore,” the Reformer told his followers, “do not doubt and never forget, beloved Christians, that apart from Satan himself, you possess no more deadly poisonous, and dreadful enemy than a real Jew. I know that. They poison wells, kidnap and maltreat children.”
“Even with no further evidence than the Old Testament, I would maintain, and no person on earth could alter my opinion, that the Jews as they are today are veritably a mixture of all the depraved and malevolent knaves of the whole world over, who have been dispersed in all countries, similarly to the Tartars and gypsies and such folk, to afflict the different nations with their usury, to spy upon others and to betray, to poison wells, to deceive and kidnap children, in short to practice all kinds of dishonesty and injury.”
There was, according to Luther, no good or human quality about the Jews. “What is good in us Christians, they ignore; what is wrong in us Christians the Jews take advantage of.” “The breath of the Jews reeks.” “Their rabbis teach them that theft and robbery is no sin” (W53, 489).
“The Jews professing to be surgeons or doctors deprive the Christians who make use of their medicaments of health and prosperity for such Jewish doctors believe they find especial favour with their God if they torment and furtively kill Christians. And we, fools that we are, even turn for succour to our enemies and their evil ways in the times when our lives are in danger, which is indeed sorely trying God’s patience.”
I do not believe that even the notorious “Der Sturmer” of Dr.Streicher surpassed the sayings of Brother Martin. “It is impossible to teach or re-educate the Jews”. “A more bloodthirsty and vindictive race has never seen the light of day.” So the Reformer goes on and on.
As so often before, Luther’s worst utterances are not fit for quotation or reproduction. “Many of the obscenities occurring in his sermons and writings on the Jews are suggested by proverbs which themselves reek too much of the stable, but which he sometimes still further embellishes” (Grisar). “In his books (on Jews) Luther’s peculiar talent for indelicate language reached its climax. He wrote with unchecked ferocity, and indulged freely in his quaint practice of befouling the objects of his hate with imaginary animal excreta” (Lipsky). “Were God to promise me no other Messiah than him for whom the Jews hope, I would much rather be a pig than a man,” is one of his mildest sayings. “Were a rabbi to ease himself into a vessel under your nose, both thick and thin, and say `Here you have a delicious conserve’, you would have to say you had never tasted a better dish in your life. Risk your neck and say differently! For if a man has the power to say like the rabbis that right is left and left is right, regardless of God and all His creatures, he can just as well say that his anus is his mouth, that his belly is a pudding-dish, and that a pudding dish is his belly”” (E32, 285).
|Another Cranach Portrait of Luther in 1526 -closer to the truth - obsessed with the Devil.|
“Whenever you see or think of a Jew, say to yourself `Look, that mouth that I see before me has every Saturday cursed, execrated, and spat upon my dear Lord Jesus Christ Who redeemed me with His precious blood, and has also invoked maledictions on my wife and child and all Christians that they might be murdered and perish miserably. He himself would gladly do it if he could, if only in order to get hold of our goods; maybe he has already today many times spat on the ground, as it is their custom to do when the name of Jesus is mentioned, so that his venomous spittle still hangs about his mouth and beard and leaves scarcely room to spit again. Were I to eat, drink, or speak with such a devilish mouth, I might as well eat and drink out of a can or vessel brimful with devils, and thus become partaker with the devils who dwell in the Jews and spit at the Precious Blood of Christ. From which God may preserve us” (E32, 141).
So the Reformer continues throughout his writings. “The Jews are malignant snakes and imps”. “Whoever would like to cherish such adders and puny devils—who are the worst enemies of Christ and us all—to befriend them and to do them honour simply in order to be cheated, plundered, robbed, disgraced, and forced to howl and curse and suffer every kind of evil, to him I would commend the Jews. And if this be not enough, let him tell the Jews to use his mouth as a privy, or else crawl into the Jew’s hind parts, and there worship the holy thing, so as afterwards to be able to boast of having been merciful, and of having helped the Devil and his progeny to blaspheme our dear Lord.”
These few samples taken at random must be sufficient to give you a true idea of what the Reformer saw in the Jews. I could continue for many pages to cite much worse passages. I think, however, that I have already spent too much space on the subject, but I thought it necessary to let the Reformer speak again for himself, and to prove that I have not chosen some isolated cases, but that, as far as the Jews are concerned, he stuck to his views for the greater part of his life. To comment on such exclamations and sayings is really not necessary. It seems to me a much more impressive method if I leave the reader to draw his own conclusions.
Of course, Luther proposed in detail how his followers should treat the “damned Jews.” “Never ought a Christian to eat or drink with a Jew”. “On being asked whether it would be right to box the ears of a Jew, Luther replied `Certainly. I for one would smack him on the jaw. Were I able, I would knock him down and stab him in my anger. It is lawful, according to both the human and the divine law, to kill a robber; then it is even more permissible to slay a blasphemer.’” Not a very Christian attitude; but worse is still to come. “If I had to baptise a Jew, I would take him to the bridge of the Elbe, hang a stone round his neck and push him over with the words `I baptise thee in the name of Abraham’” (Detailed references given in Grisar,“Luther”, vol. v, p. 413)
“We ought to take revenge on the Jews and kill them” is his charitable advice. At other times he is in favour of “forcing them to work and treating them with every severity as Moses did in the desert when he slew 3,000 of them.” Occasionally, he feels that he oversteps the limit, and then he reaches the climax of his hypocrisy. “Oh my Lord,” he whines, “my beloved Creator and Father. Do Thou graciously take into account my unwillingness to have to speak so shamefully of Thine accursed enemies. Thou knowest I do so out of the ardour of my faith and to the glory of Thy Divine Majesty.”
After such solemn prayers, he returns to his foul and abusive language. “It is our own fault that we have not avenged the sacred blood of our Saviour and the innocent blood of countless Christians and children, spoiled since the demolition of Jerusalem until now; it is our own fault that we have not annihilated the Jews but placidly let them stay where they are in spite of all their murders, their curses, blasphemies, lies, violations, and that we even protect their schools, their dwellings, their persons and property.” Nowhere in the history of civilised mankind have the masses been so incited to persecution and murder as by this “Christian Reformer.”
Indeed, four centuries before the world ever heard of the inhuman “Nuremberg Laws” Brother Martin compiled an anti-Jewish code of his own. Luther’s anti- semitic laws consist of seven paragraphs only. Here they are:
Set fire to their synagogues and schools; and what will not burn, heap earth over it so that no man may see a stone or relic of them forever.
Pull down and destroy their houses since they perpetrate the same nefarious things in them as in their schools. Pack them all under one roof or stable, like the gypsies, that they may know that they are not lords and masters in our land as they boast.
Deprive them of all their prayer-books.
Forbid their rabbis henceforth to teach.
Deprive them of the right to move about the country.
Forbid them the business of usury, and take from them all their belongings.
Hand the strong young Jews of both sexes flail, axe, mattock, spade, distaff, and spindle; and make them work for their bread in the sweat of their brow, like all the children of Adam.
Confiscate their property and drive them out of the country.
(W53, 525 abridged).
When some of his friends reproached him for the anti-Christian attitude which his followers had to adopt toward the Jews, he replied smilingly: “Maybe mild-hearted and gentle Christians will believe I am too rigorous and drastic against the poor afflicted Jews, believing that I ridicule them and treat them with much sarcasm. By my word, I am far too weak.”
Up to the last day of his life, the Reformer remained obsessed by his anti-semitism. Shortly before he died he wrote to his wife that he was ill. He blamed the Jews for his bad state of health! In his very last sermon, he urged his listeners: “You ought not to tolerate the Jews.” He ordered the princes to commit atrocities. “I pray to all rulers in whose territories there are also Jewish subjects, to practise severe justice in regard to this despicable race.” And if the rulers should refuse then it was the duty of the preachers to preach hatred. “If the authorities refuse to follow this drastic advice, the pastors and preachers are at all events to proclaim it to the people.” “Let us admonish you gentlemen and colleagues,” Luther told the preachers, “you clergymen and priests, in the name of the office you hold, that it is also your duty to admonish your congregation to beware of the Jews and to shun them.” He planned an even more powerful and violent attack against the Jews than any yet delivered; but before he had time to finish it, Luther had died.
In the Reformer’s own times, the results of his teaching were tragic. “All his counsels were, of course, of such a nature that they provoked the people to an unchristian persecution of their Jewish citizens.” It is typical that in towns like Strasbourg, Lutheran in religion but French and Latin in culture and tradition, “the magistrates decided to prohibit Luther’s anti-semitic pamphlets being printed in the city.”
But there were, in Luther’s time, some courageous Protestant leaders who complained bitterly. One of them, Bullinger of Zurich, protests against the “lewd and houndish eloquence” of the Reformer. “Everyone must be astonished at the hard and presumptuous spirit of the man (Luther). The opinion of posterity will be that Luther was not only a man, but a man ruled by criminal passion.”
“Were it written not by a famous pastor of souls, but by a swineherd, it would still be hard to excuse.”