The Federal Court of Justice in Germany has ruled against a Jewish man who is seeking to have an anti-Semitic carving removed from a church where Martin Luther preached, according to the Associated Press.

The 13th-century “Judensau” (“Jew pig”) sculpture at the Town Church in Wittenberg shows Jews suckling the teats of a sow while a rabbi lifts the animal’s tail. An inscription referencing an anti-Jewish tract by Martin Luther was added to the stone carving in 1570.

In 1988, a bronze plaque was set into the ground by the sculpture that refers to Jewish persecution in the Holocaust, and a sign was added explaining the sculpture’s history.

Plaintiff Michael Duellmann pronounced that the carving is “a defamation of and insult to the Jewish people” that has “a terrible effect up to this day.” He called for the sculpture to be moved to the nearby Luther House museum, but courts in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt ruled against him in 2019 and 2020.

The federal court ruled on Tuesday that while the carving “derides and denigrates Judaism as a whole,” the church’s addition of the memorial plaque explains the sculpture’s historical context and that the parish has distanced itself from the “defamatory and anti-Semitic message” of the carving, the AP reported.

However, Central Council of Jews in Germany president Josef Schuster believes that the memorial and sign do not go far enough to condemn the sculpture.

“Both the Wittenberg parish and the churches as a whole must find a clear and appropriate solution for handling anti-Semitic sculptures,” said Schuster. “The defamation of Jews by the churches must belong in the past once and for all.”

Duellmann said he plans to take the case to the Federal Constitutional Court, Germany’s highest court.


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