"...aside from the Devil, you have no enemy more venomous, more desperate, more bitter, than a true Jew... What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming.... First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians.... Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed.... Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.... Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb." -- From On the Jews and Their Lies
, authored by the man voted by his countrymen the second greatest German of all time,
the theologian whose break with Rome began the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther
Other selected quotes
from Martin Luther's On the Jews and Their Lies
"At times, [Martin] Luther seems as if he is all but calling for a holocaust: 'We are at fault in not slaying them.'"
- "No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants."
- "...but then eject them forever from this country. For, as we have heard, God's anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!", and
- Over and above that we let them get rich on our sweat and blood, while we remain poor and they such the marrow from our bones.
"At his trial in Nuremberg after the Second World War, Julius Streicher, the notorious Nazi propagandist, editor of the scurrilous antisemitic weekly, Der Stürmer
, argued that if he should be standing there arraigned on such charges, so should Martin Luther."
In fact, there are perhaps "two periods [of Luther's life that] have to be distinguished.
During the earlier, which lasted until 1537 or shortly before, he is full of compassion for [the Jews'] misery and enthusiastic for their conversion to Christianity; in the later, toward the end of his life, he denounces them in unmeasured terms...."
But some Christians [pdf]
argue that Martin Luther's anti-Semitism wasn't like Nazi anti-Semitism. Instead, the Nazis' "appeal to Luther was a post-facto justification of their anti-Semitism and not the impetus of it."
After all, Luther also wrote "Our fools, the popes, bishops, sophists, and monks — the crude asses’ heads — have hitherto so treated the Jews that anyone who wished to be a good Christian would almost have had to become a Jew. If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would sooner have become a hog than a Christian. Therefore, I would request and advise that one deal gently with them [the Jews] and instruct them from Scripture;"
Other Christian commentators, attempting to put Luther into a "Medieval context", also find Luther an anti-Semite but not "a prototypical modern antisemite".
It should be noted that, beginning with the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in 1983, the various branches of the modern Lutheran Church have renounced and rejected Martin Luther's anti-Semitism.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's 1994 Declaration
has yielded to a more passive voiced current apologia
that seems to see anti-Semitism as a disease that takes its sufferers unaware: "Often in the past our interactions with Jews have been marred by misunderstanding, prejudice, and sometimes overt hostility, from which even the great reformer Martin Luther himself was not immune.
But further into the ELCA's current document, Luther is condemned more strongly and linked to the Holocaust, though with the qualification that
ultimately the Nazis surpassed anything that Luther had recommended with their systematic program to physically annihilate the Jews. Luther had instructed pastors to advise their parishioners that although they should beware of Jews and avoid contact with them, “they should not curse them nor harm their persons.”
The German Lutheran Church (perhaps inevitably, given that in Germany Luther's prescription for the Jews were carried out, or as ELCA says, more than carried out), takes a somewhat stronger stance: "It is imperative for the Lutheran Church, which knows itself to be indebted to the work and tradition of Martin Luther, to take seriously also his anti-Jewish utterances, to acknowledge their theological function, and to reflect on their consequences.... Both sayings of Martin Luther and specific expressions of Lutheran theology have had anti-Jewish consequences."