German Protestant church denounces anti-Semitism of founder Martin Luther

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Germany’s main Protestant body has distanced itself from the anti-Semitism of its founder, Martin Luther, and has promised to confront the dark side of its roots.

In a unanimous decision Wednesday by its 120 members, the EKD Synod renounced the 16th century theologian’s negative recommendations on interactions with Jews. Luther had wanted Jews disenfranchised and expelled from Germany.

“We cannot ignore this history of guilt,” given the approaching 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the statement read. The movement will mark its Jubilee in 2017.

The statement came several days after the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, addressed the Synod and brought up the issue of Luther’s teachings. According to the Protestant online news site, Schuster — who last June said he hoped for a clear


sign from the church on the matter — said he was disappointed that the topic seemed to be dealt with only vaguely at the Synod’s annual meeting, where wide-ranging themes are discussed.

On Wednesday, the EKD expressed in a statement its “sorrow and shame” for the Protestant Church’s failure to respect and protect Jews meant that the Church has a special responsibility to oppose all forms of anti-Semitism, and to confront its own past.

“Luther’s view of Judaism and his invective against Jews contradict our understanding today of what it means to believe in one God who has revealed himself in Jesus, the Jew,” the statement continued.

In his 1543 text “On the Jews and their Lies,” Luther called Jews a “base” people and urged faithful Protestants to burn down synagogues and drive Jews from their homes. Luther also backed regulations barring Jews from working or living in his region.

The Protestant Church in Germany also plans to clarify its view on the mission to convert Jews, the Synod head Irmgard Schwaetzer said on Wednesday.

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