Animosity towards Jews
The Frankfurt “Judensau”. Copperplate engraving in Johann Jacob Schudt's “Jüdische Merckwürdigkeiten”, Frankfurt 1714
This anti-Jewish fresco was created inside the northern tower of the Alte Brücke, the old bridge across the river Main, towards the end of the fifteenth century, and was repeatedly renovated until well into the eighteenth century.
It denigrates the Jews, dressed in the Frankfurt Jewish garb of the early eighteenth century, in the vilest manner. They are depicted eating faeces and drinking the milk of pigs (which are unclean according to Jewish tradition). The pig's uncleanliness is emphasized by having it eat faeces as well.
In the picture, the Jews are being egged on by the devil himself, who is portrayed with the same facial traits as the Jews, suggesting that the Jews are related to the devil. The goat, which the Jewish woman is holding by the horn, is also a satanic creature. The Frankfurt fresco combines widespread derogatory prejudices with the Blood Libel of ritual murder.
Johann Jacob Schudt (1664–1722), a Protestant theologian, orientalist and school rector in Frankfurt, wanted above all to see the Jews converted to Christianity.
Although he harboured all manner of anti-Jewish prejudices, he remained sceptical with regard to the Blood Libel accusing the Jews of ritual murder and the desecration of the Eucharistic Host. For all its shortcomings, Schudt's “Merckwürdigkeiten” is a text that provides a number of invaluable insights into contemporary Jewish life in Frankfurt.
Since the early Christian era, the Jews had been accused of refusing, through malice and blindness, to recognize Jesus as the Messiah foretold by the prophets, and of causing his death on the cross.
From the Middle Ages onwards, Christian preachers accused them of new and even more heinous crimes. The Jews, they claimed, murdered Christians, especially children, to use their blood for their ritual ceremonies.
Although the emperor and the pope refuted the Blood Libel and forbade its dissemination, it continued to be widely believed.
The alleged ritual murder of Simon of Trent, 1475. Woodcut by Michael Wolgemut in Hartmann Schedel's “Chronicle of the World” of 1493
“Du Kornjude”. Anti-Jewish medallion, 1694
From the sixteenth century onwards, apart from the traditional anti-Jewish accusations of a religious nature, Jewish business success became the focus of charges of Jewish fraudulence and trickery against Christians.
This medallion claims that Jewish grain merchants are responsible for price rises. In the course of the centuries, these accusations imprinted a deeply negative view of Jews in the minds of the general population, providing fertile soil for the anti-Semitic movement of the nineteenth century and, later, for National Socialism.
The Protestant reformer Martin Luther initially hoped to win over the Jews to his teachings. When these hopes failed to come to fruition, he called for harsh measures against the Jews, with a severity rivalling the old church.
It was not until much later that his followers found more appropriate forms of approaching the Jewish community. Johann Christoph Georg Bodenschatz (1717–97), a Protestant theologian, orientalist and minister in Uttenreuth near Erlangen, sought to compile a truthful outline of the religious and private customs of the German Jews in the mid-eighteenth century, illustrated by a number of copperplate engravings.
Title page of Johann Christoph Georg Bodenschatz' work on the rites and customs of the German Jews (“Kirchliche Verfassung der heutigen Juden ...” Frankfurt, Leipzig and Erlangen 1748-49)
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Last change: 2013, April 03