“Here on our church in Wittenberg a sow is sculpted in stone. Young pigs and Jews lie suckling under her. Behind the sow a rabbi is bent over the sow, lifting up her right leg, holding her tail high and looking intensely under her tail and into her Talmud, as though he were reading something acute or extraordinary, which is certainly where they get their Shemhamphoras [hidden name of God in Kabbalah].
Martin Luther, 1543
During my early years researching the Jewish Question I was particularly struck by the strident and flamboyant nature of medieval and early modern anti-Jewish folklore and related art. I recall being fascinated at the strangeness and creativity of tales like the 16th-century Jewish woman said to have given birth to twin piglets, the common 15th-century belief that Jewish males menstruate, and speculation that Jews buried their dead with small rocks to throw at Christ in the afterlife. As with much of Jewish history and the historiography of anti-Semitism, the subject of anti-Jewish folklore has been dominated by Jewish scholars. My first introduction to the topic was thus The Blood Libel Legend: A Casebook in Anti-Semitic Folklore (1991) by the Jewish UC-Berkeley folklorist Alan Dundes (1934–2005), widely regarded as the field’s pre-eminent, and perhaps only, expert. In the book, as one might well expect, Dundes strips anti-Jewish folklore of context and presents instead a collection of “evil” and “dangerous” fantasies lacking any logical or rational basis.
Aside from the work of Dundes, direct scholarly engagement with the subject of medieval anti-Jewish folklore has been relatively rare, with most Jewish scholars preferring to probe medieval artistic linkages between Jews and the Devil (see, for example, the work of Robert Bonfil, Marvin Perry, and Frederick Schweitzer) rather than some of the more outlandish or colorful “memes” that then circulated. Almost all of these scholarly accounts utilize medieval anti-Jewish folklore as a means of denigrating and indicting medieval Christianity as irrational and prejudiced, and ultimately as the fons et origo of an equally irrational and prejudiced modern anti-Semitism. An explanatory account of medieval and early modern anti-Jewish folklore informed by historical context remains to be written, despite admirable and broadminded texts like The Singular Beast: Jews, Christians, and the Pig (1997) by Claudine Fabre-Vassas. This is a project I am giving serious consideration to undertaking. As luck would have it, it’s also becoming somewhat relevant again.
Of all the artistic manifestations of anti-Jewish folklore, few are more acute, vehement, and scatological than the imagery of the Judensau, or ‘Jew-Pig.’ In brief, the image, depicted in woodcuts or in stone (often on churches) between the 13th and 15th centuries, is an allegorical reference to Jews drawing sustenance from the Talmud, with Jews shown suckling from a sow and/or examining or eating its feces. The association of Jews with pigs in medieval Christian folklore was longstanding, owing something to the known aversion of the Jews to pork, and produced an array of stories and imagery that flagrantly ignored the ancient dietary commands in Leviticus. In one legend, for example, the aversion to pork dated from the time of Christ, when a sneering Jew challenged Christ to guess the contents of a barrel that the Jew knew to contain a slaughtered pig. Unknown to the Jew, the pig had been removed and his own children were hiding in the barrel. When Jesus answered that the man’s children were in the barrel, he was mocked and told there was a pig inside. “Let them be pigs then,” replied Jesus, and the children were transformed into piglets. From that day onward, so goes the tale, Jews avoided eating pork because for them that would be cannibalism. One suspects that seriousness was never a primary concern in the development of such folk tales — they served as entertaining and memorial “memes” to impart the message that Jews were different and were to be avoided.
The specific implication of the Judensau image is that Jews, in their spiritual blindness or as a result of possessing a perverted nature prefer to seek spiritual nourishment from something filthy and disgusting (the Talmud), rather than a pure and healthy source (the New Testament). The Judensau is thus not mere folklore, but part of a broader pattern of theological allegorical imagery concerning blindness and perversion among Jews that emerged during the period, and it can be seen as a more brutal rendition of the same themes present in Synagoga, the depiction of a young, downcast, and blindfolded woman, sometimes with a serpent, and carrying a broken lance ( a possible allusion to the Holy Lance that stabbed Christ) while Tablets of the Law or Torah scrolls slip from her fingers. The more subtle and tasteful rendition of the latter led to it becoming more ubiquitous (Synagoga adorns the Notre Dame in Paris and features on Cathedrals throughout France, Germany and England), while the former is predominantly, if not exclusively, a feature of the medieval German ecclesiastical architectural landscape. There are around 30 surviving examples of the Judensau left in Germany, but their time may soon be at an end in large part due to the efforts of a Jewish ‘convert’ to Christianity who has made it his mission to have them removed from every church and cathedral.
Synagoga, as depicted on the exterior of Notre Dame, Paris
The crypto-Jew at the heart of this particular drama is Dr. Richard Harvey, a political leftist, a senior researcher with Jews for Jesus, and a former academic dean at All Nations Christian College. Harvey is following a well-established pattern. A common theme with crypto-Jews operating within Christian spheres is that their activities concentrate very heavily in advancing Jewish interests against Christian norms, and this invariably involves attempts to adapt Christian theology and culture to become less hostile towards Jews and Judaism. While Jewish involvement in the development of Vatican II is perhaps the ultimate example of such activity, other examples of Jews continuing to pursue Jewish interests within Christianity include Jewish networking within the early Jesuit Order and even the single-handed actions of Jewish ‘convert’ and warden Marsha Ra in ensuring that the ‘anti-Semitic’ Ezra Pound was denied a place in the Poet’s Corner of the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York. Ra explained to reporters that Pound “was giving anti-Semitic radio broadcasts while my people [my emphasis] were being gassed,” and that Pound was “not representative of Christian values.” The New York Times later reported that it was the Jewish Ra who organized a petition, based on “Christian values,” to block Pound’s inclusion. And, like Ra, Harvey’s campaign against the Judensau image appears to have begun with a 2016 petition at change.org calling for the removal of the famous sculpture from the walls of the Wittenberg cathedral.
In the petition, Harvey shows little understanding or patience for the nature of medieval religion in general. He is apparently oblivious to the theological point being made by the imagery of the Judensau and even seems rather protective of the aspects of Judaism mocked in the artwork. He complains:
The sculpture continues to cause offence and defame Jewish people and their faith. It needs to be removed to another location so it is not publicly displayed on the external wall of the church, and properly housed and explained elsewhere. Otherwise Jewish people continue to experience the antisemitic power of such an abusive image, and their worst fears about the nature of the Christian faith are confirmed. If the Church is truly repentant over such images, it must take steps to remove them from such prominent display.
Dr Richard Harvey
I find the last two sentences particularly interesting as examples of the phenomenon whereby Jews engage in dialogue as a disguised Other while covertly maintaining their set of core interests. Harvey is clearly a Jew and he obviously perceives the Judensau, on strictly Jewish terms, as an affront on a personal, cultural, and religious level. The alluded to “worst fears about the nature of the Christian faith” are of course his own fears, and these fears (that Christianity and its art is a powerful force for anti-Semitism) are quite probably the motivating agent behind all aspects of his activism. The appeal to White/Christian guilt at the close of the paragraph is simply classic Jewish rhetoric, while the lurch to censorship is a quintessential aspect of the ceaseless Jewish search for control and security.
Thanks to decades of intensive psychological manipulation, guilt and censorship are certainly not rare in modern Germany. In 1988, German Church authorities consented to have an ‘explanation’ and commemorative plaque, designed by sculptor Wieland Schmiedel, placed beneath the Wittenberg Judensau that read:
The true name of God, the maligned Chem Ha Mphoras which Jews long before Christianity regarded as almost unutterably holy, this name died with six million Jews, under the sign of the Cross.
This combined example of Christian indulgence of Kabbalistic terminology and capitulation to Jewish war narratives wasn’t enough to sate Dr Harvey’s appetite for obliteration. In his petition he continues:
It is insufficient. … We appreciate the fact that the church decided to do something to explain and express regret, but do not believe God died in the Holocaust, and this is again an improper use of the name of God. In 2017, the 500th anniversary of Luther’s launching of the Protestant Reformation, it is time to remove this statue and replace it with something more honouring to the God of Israel, respectful of the Jewish people, and bringing dignity to a Christian place of worship instead of retaining a sculpture that is unseemly, obscene, insulting, offensive, defamatory, libellous, blasphemous, anti-semitic and inflammatory.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but we might begin with the oddity of a representative from a group purporting to be ‘for Jesus’ insisting on respect for a name for a godhead derived from a Jewish occult-esoteric text. It is in the second sentence that we see Harvey’s goal in full — not just the removal of the centuries-old sandstone relief which mocks Jewish occult-esotericism, but its replacement with a philosemitic image that will please Jews and further modify Christian thinking in a pro-Jewish direction. Again, this conforms to broader patterns in Jewish activism, whereby the censorship of dissent and the dissemination of pro-Jewish narratives often occur in tandem.
As well as launching his petition, in 2016 Harvey also wrote a cringe-inducing poem on the issue and published an anti-Judensau manifesto of sorts at Premier Christianity, the UK’s leading Christian magazine. In this essay, titled “Why Martin Luther’s home church must remove its antisemitic statue,” Harvey states: “As a Jewish believer in Jesus I have found few things more offensive than a statue on the outside of the church, where carved in a sandstone sculpture is a Judensau (Jew-pig) that mocks Jews, Judaism and the Jewish Messiah, Jesus.” I had to read the last few words twice, because in no way can the Judensau be interpreted as mocking Jesus, nor has any historical or contemporary analysis of any depictions of the Judensau ever made such an assertion. The Judensau was always intended as a defence of Christian doctrine against the absurd arrogance of Talmudic Judaism. One assumes that Harvey had his doubts about relying on a defence of Jews alone in his piece, and thus chose to manipulate his readership (overwhelming of the charismatic evangelical variety) with a blatant and incendiary falsehood. Harvey doesn’t mention the overwhelming scholarly consensus that the Judensau is an attack on the Talmud — the same set of texts that depict Christ boiling in excrement — so he simply invents the notion that the Judensau is an obscene attack on Jesus Christ and hopes that this will be sufficient to rouse the evangelical readership to join him in his activism against Wittenberg.
In October 2016, Christianity Today published yet another article on the Judensau issue, this time by another “Messianic Jew” named Deborah Pardo-Kaplan. Pardo-Kaplan explained that the anti-Judensau project is a joint venture by Messianic Jews [crypto-Jews] and an organization called the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary. The Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary is a very strange, but extremely pernicious, product of de-Nazification. It was founded in 1947 by Basilea Schlink, the sister of a semi-famous theologian and a religious leader and writer in her own right who had been investigated by the Gestapo twice for philosemitic activities. Beginning in the late 1940s, Schlink advanced what some scholars have called a “theology of guilt,” which blended ardent Christian Zionism with a groveling and unceasing repentance to Jews. Schlink even moved to Israel in 1957 to work as a nurse in order to do “practical repentance for not only what the Nazis had perpetrated, but also for ‘the 2,000 years of Jews’ suffering because of Christianity.’” Today the group exists almost exclusively to promote obedience and servitude to Jews and, contrary to its name, the group refrains from evangelism and does not attempt to convert Jews to Christianity. In short, the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, which is staffed mainly by very elderly philosemitic women, is an ideal partner for crypto-Jews seeking a Christian face for their activism.
Sister Joela Krüger, a 74-year-old leader within the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, is at the forefront of the joint effort to remove the Wittenberg Judensau, complaining that “the Jews and Israel are blasphemed by showing such a sculpture.” Read that again, because if showing the sculpture commits blasphemy against Jews and Israel, then one has to ask precisely what god or gods Krüger is worshipping. The connection appears to be that the Jew-worshipping Krüger and the crypto-Jew Richard Harvey were both members of a US advisory group named Wittenberg 2017, formed in 2015 to prepare projects relating to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Because of the gullibility and ineptitude of the organizers of Wittenberg 2017, these frauds, kooks, and subversives have been largely successful in promoting their agenda in both the Anglosphere and Germany. Harvey’s strategy, built mostly on guilt and lies, is working. Ansgar Hörsting, the president of the Evangelical Free Churches of Germany, has now declared the Judensau is guilty of crimes against vibrancy, telling Christianity Today ““If the church is a vibrant place of worship, a ‘Judensau’ sculpture has no place within it.” The comedy intensifies with news that the new pastor at Wittenberg has promised to “erect another memorial with words of condemnation and repentance.” Evangelicals allied to the Wittenberg 2017 group have declared they “are working towards grieving, repenting, and requesting the removal of this offense.” One member recalls how, at a “June 2016 gathering, Lutherans and Catholics joined together in repenting to the Messianic Jews in our midst.” How deeply touching.
Unfortunately for Harvey and his allies, the period 2016–18 saw much groveling and handwringing but little actual progress. This is now beginning to change as Jews diversify their tactics and broaden their search for support. In yet another bizarre twist involving converts and guilt, in May a German Jew named Michael Düllmann filed a legal complaint demanding the removal of the Wittenberg relief on the grounds that the church was abusing and insulting him and other Jews; he insisted it was “legitimiert fortwährend Antisemitismus” [“legitimizing ongoing anti-Semitism”]. The complaint was dismissed by a regional court on May 24, with the court ruling that the fact that the church had not removed the relief could not be considered abuse. Düllmann has said he plans to appeal, but the AfD (Alternative for Germany) party has now also petitioned to keep it in place.. The interesting aspect to this particular instance of activism is that Düllmann is not ethnically Jewish but rather another example of an elderly, guilt-ridden German who, after being subjected to decades of propaganda, finds some kind of comfort in giving themselves over to Jewish interests. In Düllmann’s case, he simply went further than those like him in the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary and underwent a full conversion to Judaism.
Agitation against Judensau sculptures in other locations is likely to intensify. Indeed, in 2005 the Judensau at Regensburg Cathedral was targeted by the Munich Jewish ‘action artist’ Wolfram Kastner, who staged protests in front of the church building and declared: “”For centuries, these depictions have caused murder, robberies and degradation.” Kastner, I should add, has a string of criminal convictions for property damage because “virtually every Nov. 1 since 1993, he has gone to a cemetery in Salzburg, Austria, and snipped ribbons from wreaths laid at the graves of veterans of the Waffen SS.” In 2001, he received permission for a klezmer group to play a song in the cemetery at the same time as those honoring the Waffen SS members were accompanied by a marching band. In Bayreuth, for instance, the heavily weathered depiction of a Judensau at the town church was removed in 2004. Since then, a plaque hangs in its place with the inscription: Unkenntlich geworden ist das steinerne Zeugnis des Judenhasses an diesem Pfeiler — “The stone testimony of the hatred of the Jews on this pillar has become unrecognizable.”
Ironically, the only hope that the Judensau may be retained in Germany is if it gains the uneasy support of those Jews who wish to see it retained as an example of European anti-Semitism and want to use it as an emotional battering ram against Christians. Ben Barkow, director of the Jewish propaganda group, the Wiener Library, has called for the Judensau at Wittenberg to be retained, adding that: “It is an authentic monument to a dreadful past.” David Jacobs from the Jewish Historical Society agreed that the Judensau “should be left as it is but visitors should have all the information necessary to contextualize it. This should be prominently displayed at the site, not hidden away, so they don’t see the images and leave disabused.” Danny Stone, chief executive of the Antisemitism Policy Trust, said: “This shocking carving symbolizes the ugly reality of antisemitism in the eyes of its creators. Rather than remove it, I’d support an accompanying educational board which highlights the grotesque anti-Jewish imagery for passers-by and details the importance of due diligence and outspoken opposition against antisemitism.” In other words, the Judensau should be weaponized on behalf of Jewish interests.
As Jews divide among themselves over how best to abuse these Christian European monuments, one wonders at the lack of Christian vitality in the affair. Where is the spirited defense of the original theological message of the Judensau? Where is the counter-argument being made that all religions of the medieval and early modern periods—including Judaism— cast the most vicious aspersions possible at their rivals and enemies? Why the silent, groveling capitulation? And what would Martin Luther make of his descendants? Five centuries after the Reformation, one suspects he would have wondered why he bothered.
 L. Roper, Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), p.41.
 D. Biale, Blood and Belief: The Circulation of a Symbol between Jews and Christians (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), p.105.