Jewish leaders in Germany denounced a ruling by a German high court that a medieval antisemitic sculpture on a centuries old church does not have to be removed.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany reacted with outrage to the ruling by the German Federal Court of Justice (BGH) upholding previous rulings by lower courts that the Judensau (“Jew pig”) sculpture could stay on the historic Town Church in Wittenberg.
The plaintiff in the case was a member of the Jewish community who brought the case to court hoping to receive a legal ruling for the removal of the 13th century carving which he alleged defamed Judaism and all Jews currently living in Germany.
The statue had long been considered antisemitic but nonetheless stayed on the wall of the church.
Plaintiff Michael Duellmann's case hinged on his request that the 700-year old carving depicting Jews doing lewd acts to a pig be removed from the church, which is connected to Martin Luther, a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation.
Duellmann urged that the offensive carving be removed from the church and for it to be placed in a museum where its antisemitic message could be properly explained in a historical context.
The statue is one example of at least 20 similar antisemitic statues from the Middle Ages that can be found today on churches across Germany.
“The BGH’s ruling that the sculpture does not have to be removed is understandable. However, I cannot follow the BGH’s reasoning,” Central Council President Josef Schuster said, according to the Jüdische Allgemeine.
“The defamation of Jews by churches must be a thing of the past once and for all,” Schuster added. “Both the Wittenberg church community and the churches as a whole must now urgently find a clear and appropriate solution for dealing with sculptures that are hostile to Jews.”
The judge ruled that the plaintiff did not have the right to demand the removal of the carving because it found no “present infringement of rights” and due to the church installing a plaque and display nearby clarifying its position on antisemitism, which the court said was sufficient to show that the church had distanced itself from the statue’s hateful intent.