On the Jews and their lies (in German: Von den Jüden und iren Lügen; in modern spelling Von den Juden and ihren Lügen) is an anti-Jewish treaty written in 1543 by the leader of the Protestant Reformation, the German Martin Luther.
Luther’s attitude towards Jews took different forms during his life. In the first period, until 1537 or much earlier, he wanted to try to convert the Jews to Christianity. In his last period , when he wrote this particular treatise, he denounced them and urged for them to be persecuted.
In the treaty, Luther argues that synagogues and Jewish schools must be set on fire, their books must burn, rabbis must be forbidden to preach, their homes must also be burned, their properties and their money confiscated. They should be treated without pity or goodness, they should not be granted any legal protection, and in summary, they are “poisonous envenomed worms“, so they should be taken to forced labor or expelled forever. Luther strongly supports their murder, and states: “We are at fault if we do not kill them“.
Also in the treatise, Luther describes the Jews as “prostitute people, no people of God, and their pride in the lineage, circumcision, and their law must be held to be filth.” Luther wrote that they are “full of devil feces… that they bask in it like pigs, “and the synagogue people are like incorrigible whores and evil bitches “.
In the first ten sections of the treaty, Luther expounds, remarkably dilating, on his views on the Jews and on Judaism and compares them with Christians and Christianity as a synthesis. After the exposition, in section XI of the treaty, Christians are advised to take seven corrective actions for Jewish Problem:
- Burn synagogues and Jewish schools and warn people against them;
- Refusing to leave Christian Homes to the Jews;
- Jewish religious writings must be thrown away;
- The rabbis must be forbidden to preach;
- Offer no protection to Jews on the streets;
- Usury must be prohibited and all the silver and gold possessed by them must be confiscated, put aside in custody and returned to the Jews who are truly converted;
- Give to the strong young men axes, swords, and make them earn bread with sweat by massacring the Jews.
At the beginning of his life, Luther had argued that the Jews had been prevented from converting to Christianity, by the proclamation of what he believes is found in the Gospel attributed to the Catholic Church, and believed that they would respond favorably to the Gospel message, if it were was presented to them in a gentle way. Even Luther expressed concern about the bad conditions in which the Jews were forced to live, and insisted that anyone who denied that Jesus was born a Jew had thus committed a heresy.
In 1519, Luther challenged the doctrine servitus Judaeorum (“Servite of the Jews”), established in the Corpus iuris civilis of Justinian I in 529. He wrote: “It’s absurd just thinking that theologians defend Jews … How could them? Does the Jew agree to join our ranks when he sees the cruelty and enmity that is caused on him, that in our behavior towards them we are less similar to Christians and rather beasts? ”
In his commentary on the Magnificat, Luther is critical and places the emphasis on Torah Judaism, and on the five books of the Old Testament. He states that the Jews “have pledged to keep the law from their strength.” But, he concludes they have the grace of God and will continue to be descendants of Abraham all the time, since they can always become Christians. “We should … not treat the Jews in a way that is humiliating for the spirit, because they are the future of the Christians among them.”
In 1523 Luther wrote an essay stating that Jesus Christ was born Jew, so Luther condemned the inhuman treatment reserved for the Jews and urged Christians to treat them kindly.
“If I had been a Jew and had seen how Christian priests govern and teach the Christian faith, I would soon become a Christian pig. They faced the Jews as if they were dogs rather than human beings; they have done little to mock them and confiscate their properties. When they baptize They show their nullity of the Christian doctrine or life … If the apostles, who were Jews, had faced us Gentiles like we Gentiles treat Jews, there would never have been a Christian among the pagans … When we are inclined to boast of our position [as Christians] we have to remember the fact that we are Gentiles, while the Jews are of the lineage of Christ. We are aliens and in-laws; They are blood relatives, cousins and brothers of our Lord. Therefore we must boast of flesh and blood of the Jews who are actually closer to Christ than we are … If we really want to help them, we must be guided in our relations with them not by pontifical law, but by the law of Christian love. We must welcome them cordially, and allow them to trade and work with us, so that they can have the opportunity and opportunity to associate with us, feel our Christian doctrine, and witness our Christian life. If some of them showed a hard neck, so what? After all, aren’t we all good Christians ourselves? “
TEN YEARS LATER
In August 1536, Luther’s prince, Elector of Saxony John Frederick, issued a mandate prohibiting Jews from living, engaging in economic activity, or passing through his kingdom. An Alsatian Shtadlan, Rabbi Josel of Rosheim, asked a reformer, Wolfgang Capito, to approach Luther in order to get a public meeting with the prince, but Luther refused any intercession. In response to Josel, Luther quoted his unsuccessful attempts to convert the Jews: “… I would like to do my best for your people, but this will not contribute to your [Jewish] obstinacy against my actions, it is necessary to find another intermediary with my good lord .. “Heiko Oberman notes this event as a significant attitude of Luther towards the Jews:” Even today this refusal is often judged to be the decisive turning point in Luther’s career in hostility towards the Jews, ”
Michael Berenbaum writes that Luther’s reliance on the Bible as the sole source of Christian authority nourished his fury later against the Jews as they rejected Jesus as the Messiah. For Luther, salvation depended on recognizing Jesus as the Son of God, and the followers of Judaism did not accept this dogma. Graham Noble writes that Luther failing to convert the Jews turned his tolerance pro quo into fury and to remove the problem there was nothing left but their extermination.
The prevailing scholars viewpoint after the Second World War is treated as an important and persistent influence in Germany’s attitude towards its Jewish citizens over the centuries between the Reformation and the advent of the Third Reich.
Four hundred years after that essay, the Nazis showed off the copies of On the Jews and Their Lies during the Nuremberg gatherings, and the first edition of Julius Streicher’s Der Stürmer was presented in Nuremberg. There is described Luther’s treaty as the most radical anti-Semitic essay ever published, after the Gospels.