Lifting the Moratorium Once More, To Answer a Question: Luther at His Very Worst

Liz Fried (a long time friend.  Gosh, I guess we’ve known each other since the late 90’s) asked concerning Luther

Did Luther advocate herding all the Jews into their synagogues and burning them down?

I checked.  Here’s what I’ve found:  Luther clearly advocated the destruction of Synagogues and the forced exile of the Jews.  But so far as I can discover, he never suggested Jews be murdered.  Though, to be fair to the times in which he lived, it isn’t hard to understand how many of his followers would think killing Jews a thing of which Luther would approve.

Here’s Luther, in his own words, at his very worst.  His very worst and most reprehensible:

But what will happen even if we do burn down the Jews’ synagogues and forbid them publicly to praise God, to pray, to teach, to utter God’s name? They will still keep doing it in secret. If we know that they are doing this in secret, it is the same as if they were doing it publicly. For our knowledge of their secret doings and our toleration of them implies that they are not secret after all, and thus our conscience is encumbered with it before God. So let us beware. In my opinion the problem must be resolved thus: If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country. Let them think of their fatherland; then they need no longer wail and lie before God against us that we are holding them captive, nor need we then any longer complain that they are burdening us with their blasphemy and their usury. This is the most natural and the best course of action, which will safeguard the interest of both parties.

And then a few pages later

I wish and I ask that our rulers who have Jewish subjects exercise a sharp mercy toward these wretched people, as suggested above, to see whether this might not help (though it is doubtful). They must act like a good physician who, when gangrene has set in, proceeds without mercy to cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, bone, and marrow. Such a procedure must also be followed in this instance. Burn down their synagogues, forbid all that I enumerated earlier, force them to work, and deal harshly with them, as Moses did in the wilderness, slaying three thousand lest the whole people perish. They surely do not know what they are doing; moreover, as people possessed, they do not wish to know it, hear it, or learn it. Therefore it would be wrong to be merciful and confirm them in their conduct. If this does not help we must drive them out like mad dogs, so that we do not become partakers of their abominable blasphemy and all their other vices and thus merit God’s wrath and be damned with them. I have done my duty. Now let everyone see to his. I am exonerated.

This so disgusted Melanchthon, and the other Reformers, that they lashed Luther in their writings.  Luther was better than this.  Unfortunately, he didn’t show it.

One thought on “Lifting the Moratorium Once More, To Answer a Question: Luther at His Very Worst

  1. Lisbeth S. Fried 31 Oct 2016 at 11:18 am

    Not only the times in which Luther lived.


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