NPR.org By Aaron Labaree Sun., Feb. 09, 2020
A medieval sculpture of Jews engaged in obscene acts with a pig appears on the facade of a historical German church where Martin Luther preached. On Tuesday, a court rejected a Jewish man’s efforts to remove the offensive sculpture.
The sculpture, in the eastern German city of Wittenberg, depicts a pig surrounded by a group of Jewish people, with some suckling at the animal’s teats and one man looking under its tail. It’s one of the most well-known examples of medieval folk art known as a Judensau — meaning Jews’ sow — and is believed to date back to at least 1290.
Judge Volker Buchloh said the sculpture could remain because, on the ground beneath it, there is a memorial paying tribute to the 6 million Jews who died during the Holocaust. Buchloh said that while the sculpture was indeed originally meant as an insult, its place in the context of this memorial neutralizes this meaning.
Michael Düllmann, (pic below left) a member of Berlin’s Jewish community, calls the sculpture defamatory and sued the local parish to get it removed in 2018. The district court of Dessau rejected his claim last May, and he appealed the decision. Now that the Higher Regional Court in Naumburg has struck down his appeal, he intends to take the case to higher courts.
“The whole issue is not over yet,” Düllmann says. “This is a church, a holy place. You can’t mix it with such a shameful assault on the Jews.”
As many as 30 such images, by one German artist’s count, are still displayed on churches in Germany and other countries such as Austria, France and Switzerland.
Many of the images were originally on the inside of churches and were meant as moral instruction, urging Christians not to follow the example of Jews. Eventually, the works began to be placed on church facades, in public places and on wealthy private homes.