Luther and the Jews


The founder of protestantism, Martin Luther (1483-1546), was professor in the Old Testament. He was also an uncompromising antisemite. At the age of 60 the celebrated church reformer wrote a little book with the title “about the Jews and their Lies”(”Von den Juden und Ihren Lügen”).

”In this book he attacks the Jews and encourages people to set fire to their synagogues and schools and kick them out of their homes. He accuses them to be thieves and criminals, sons of the Devil, vermin and lairs.

“As I said earlier, my advice is: First, burn down their synagogues, and all who can should throw sulfur and tar, and if even someone could throw hellfire in. ...Second, that their books, their prayer books and their Talmud, yes the whole Bible taken from them, so they don't even have a single page left, and that these (books) are taken care of to those who possible can be converted (to Christianity). Third, they should under the punishment of death, be forbidden to praise God, and to spread their religion publicly among us and in our country. And fourth, they should be forbidden to utter the name of the Lord for our ears to hear. For we cannot with good conscience listen to it or tolerate it.”

“Burn down their synagogues, forbid everything I listed earlier, and force them to work, and be harsh on them, like Moses was...If this do not work then we must drive them out like mad dogs.” Luther's book was popular, widespread and printed in huge numbers by the Nazis 400 years later.

The Wittenberg professor also wrote other intolerant and hateful books and pamphlets as “Letter against the Sabbatarianists ”, “Against the Antinomians ”, and “Against the hordes of looting and murdering peasants”. The last text is against the peasant rebellion in Germany in 1525-35. Here Luther sides with the wealthy land owners, and encourage them to slaughter down the rebellious peasants. The uprising caused over 100000 casualties.
Up through the late medieval times, social unrest had been brewing among the South German peasants, because of ever increasing and unjust taxes. The Church and Monasteries were also one of the biggest land owners in the Middle Ages. Their movement and quite reasonable criticism of the system, actually got a boost from Luther's reformation in the beginning. The Reformation declared that many of the Church's fees and fines, like paying for indulgences the had no religious basis in the scriptures, whatsoever. Paying tithe have a basis in the Bible, but it is for your own offering to God or charity, not to give money to the Church and the clerics.(Deut. 14:22).

In the complex South Germany, with all it's small county's, free cities, monasteries, and flaming feuds between the noble families, the poorer lower nobility increased the taxation of the even poorer peasants. In the end the peasants had enough. The uprising are often called the “peasant-war”, and it spread north to the central Germany with burning and looting of castles and monasteries by angry peasants. The rebellion had religious overtones, and religious interpretations to legitimate their political demands against the land owning nobility and the Church. The peasants were organized in what they called “evangelical brotherhoods”, and their banners often had pictures of the crucified Jesus. (Deschner 1987 p.59). This was the conflict where Luther wrote his manifesto to the German Nobility to slaughter the peasants.

And so they did. The nobility killed all in all almost 100000 peasants. Many were killed after they had surrendered and put down their weapons. Surrendered peasants was blinded, hung, decapitated, dismembered alive, impaled, torn apart with horses and naturally burnt alive at the stake.

Even afterwards this massacre, Luther would not at all excuse his encouragement to this killing. In an open letter to his critics he writes “Therefore, I write now as I did then; do not have pity with the stubborn, hardened, blinded peasants, who will not listen to reason, but let anyone after his ability hit, stab and slaughter, as if you were against mad dogs running for their lives, and led astray by these peasants, so that peace and safety again can be kept.”
He write further: “The harsh merciless punishment of the evil ones are not done only to punish them and make them pay for their lust for evil that is in their blood, but also to protect the righteous and keep peace and safety. And beyond all doubt, this is valuable acts of mercy, love and kindness...”.

So much for Luthers protestant acts of mercy, love and kindness.

Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

Denis Diderot