Martin Luther's dirty little book:
On the Jews and their lies
A precursor to Nazism

by Jim Walker

Originated: 07 Aug. 1996
Additions: 20 Nov. 2005


Introduction

I wish to make clear that the purpose of these selections from Martin Luther aims at providing a historical and scholarly source for study of anti-Semitism, religious thought, and how it has influenced the German population and their outlook on Jews.

There will always exist a potential for misuse of any information. However, it has come from observation that hiding such information from view can lead (and has led) to unconscious support of underground movements of anti-Semitism that use these texts for their various nefarious purposes. Bringing this information to light will allow critical analyses by not only scholars, but also by everyday people to help dispel the myths founded by unsupported beliefs and to help fight the tools used by anti-Semitic cults.

A little about Dr. Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Luther, a German theologian and religious reformer, initiated the Protestant Reformation through his controversial writings. His theology and writings not only challenged the authority of the Roman Catholic Church but his writings reached France, England and Italy, and the Reformation eventually split Western Christianity and forever weakened the power of the Catholic Church. His influence extends beyond religion to politics, economics, education and language. In 1505, after receiving a bachelor's and master's degree, he suddenly abandoned his studies, entered the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt and became a monk. In 1517, Luther became a controversial figure when he published his Ninety-Five Theses, opposing the indulgences (release from the penalties for sin through the payment of money by the Catholic Church). His refusal to retract his writings at the demand of the Pope led to his excommunication. His influence resulted in the major Protestant denomination of Lutheranism where their churches today use Luther's name. Protestant Christians so admire Martin Luther that he stands as a respected "Patron Saint" to their beliefs and morals. Christians often quote him, theologians write books on him, and many people use his name as theirs (Martin Luther King Jr., for example).

Luther's anti-Jewishness

Unfortunately few popular books or television documentaries on Luther go into detail about Luther's anti-Jewishness, or even mention that he had a hatred for Jews at all. This has resulted in a biased outlook towards Martin Luther and Christianity. This unawareness of Luther's sinister side, while honoring his "righteousness" leads to a ratcheting promotion of Luther which supports a "good" public image while also transporting his Jewish beliefs to those who carry the seeds of anti-Semitism. This will present an unwanted dilemma for many Christians because Luther represents the birth of Protestant Christianity as well as the genesis of the special brand of Jewish hatred that flourished only in Germany.

Although Luther did not invent anti-Jewishness, he promoted it to a level never before seen in Europe. Luther bore the influence of his upbringing and from anti-Jewish theologians such as Lyra, Burgensis, (and John Chrysostom, before them). But Luther's 1543 book, "On the Jews and their lies" took Jewish hatred to a new level when he proposed to set fire to their synagogues and schools, to take away their homes, forbade them to pray or teach, or even to utter God's name. Luther wanted to "be rid of them" and requested that the government and ministers deal with the problem. He requested pastors and preachers to follow his example of issuing warnings against the Jews. He goes so far as to claim that "We are at fault in not slaying them" for avenging the death of Jesus Christ. Hitler's Nazi government in the 1930s and 40s fit Luther's desires to a tee.

So vehemently did Luther speak against the Jews, and the fact that Luther represented an honorable and admired Christian to Protestants, that his written words carried the "memetic" seeds of anti-Jewishness up until the 20th century and into the Third Reich. Luther's Jewish eliminationist rhetoric virtually matches the beliefs held by Hitler and much of the German populace in the 1930s.

Luther unconsciously set the stage for the future of German nationalistic fanaticism. William L. Shirer in his "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," puts it succinctly:

"Through his sermons and his magnificent translations of the Bible, Luther created the modern German language, aroused in the people not only a new Protestant vision of Christianity by a fervent German nationalism and taught them, at least in religion, the supremacy of the individual conscience. But tragically for them, Luther's siding with the princes in the peasant rising, which he had largely inspired, and his passion for political autocracy ensured a mindless and provincial political absolutism which reduced the vast majority of the German people to poverty, to a horrible torpor and a demeaning subservience. Even worse perhaps, it helped to perpetuate and indeed to sharpen the hopeless divisions not only between classes but also between the various dynastic and political groupings of the German people. It doomed for centuries the possibility of the unification of Germany."

In Mein Kampf, Hitler listed Martin Luther as one of the greatest reformers. And similar to Luther in the 1500s, Hitler spoke against the Jews. The Nazi plan to create a German Reich Church laid its bases on the "Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther." The first physical violence against the Jews came on November 9-10 on Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) where the Nazis killed Jews, shattered glass windows, and destroyed hundreds of synagogues, just as Luther had proposed. In Daniel Johah Goldhagen's book, Hitler's Willing Executioners, he writes:

"One leading Protestant churchman, Bishop Martin Sasse published a compendium of Martin Luther's antisemitic vitriol shortly after Kristallnacht's orgy of anti-Jewish violence. In the foreword to the volume, he applauded the burning of the synagogues and the coincidence of the day: 'On November 10, 1938, on Luther's birthday, the synagogues are burning in Germany.' The German people, he urged, ought to heed these words 'of the greatest antisemite of his time, the warner of his people against the Jews.'"

No apologist can claim that Martin Luther bore his anti-Jewishness out of youthful naivete', uneducation, or out of unfounded Christianity. On the contrary, Luther in his youth expressed a great optimism about Jewish conversion to Christianity. But in his later years, Luther began to realize that the Jews would not convert to his wishes. His anti-Jewishness grew slowly over time. His logic came not from science or reason, but rather from Scripture and his Faith. His "On the Jews and Their Lies" shows remarkable study into the Bible and fanatical biblical reasoning. Luther, at age 60 wrote this dangerous "little" book at the prime of his maturity, and in full knowledge in support of his beliefs and Christianity.

Few people today realize that Luther wrote 'On the Jews and Their Lies.' (He also wrote such works like "Against the Sabbatarians.") Freethinkers should become aware of the anti-Semitic influence that Luther has brought on the world. His vehement attack on Jews and his powerful influence on the German faithful has brought a new hypothesis to mind: that the Jewish holocaust, and indeed, the eliminationist form of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany may not have occurred without the influence from Luther's book "On the Jews and Their Lies."

Walter Buch, the head of the Nazi Party court, admitted Luther's influence on Nazi Germany:

 
When Luther turned his attention to the Jews, after he completed his translation of the Bible, he left behind "on the Jews and their Lies" for posterity.
-cited from Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich]

Many people confess their amazement that Hitler preaches ideas which they have always held.... From the Middle Ages we can look to the same example in Martin Luther. What stirred in the soul and spirit of the German people of that time, finally found expression in his person, in his words and deeds.
-"Geist und Kampf" (speech), Bundesarchiv Berlin-Zehlendorf, [cited from Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich]

Hans Hinkel, a Nazi who worked in Goebbels' Reich Chamber of Culture said:

 
Through his acts and his spiritual attitude he began the fight which we still wage today; with Luther the revolution of German blood and feeling against alien elements of the Volk was begun.
-cited from Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich

Erich Koch, the Reich Commissioner for Ukraine and President of the East Prussian Protestant Church Synod wrote:

 
Only we can enter into Luther's spirit.... Human cults do not set us free from all sin, but faith alone. With us the church shall become a serving member of the state.... There is a deep sense that our celebration is not attended by superficiality, but rather by thanks to a man who saved German cultural values.
-Konigsberg-Hartungsche Zeitung, 20 Nov. 1933, [cited from Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich]

Bernhard Rust served as Minister of Education in Nazi Germany. He wrote:

 
Since Martin Luther closed his eyes, no such son of our people has appeared again. It has been decided that we shall be the first to witness his reappearance.... I think the time is past when one may not say the names of Hitler and Luther in the same breath. They belong together; they are of the same old stamp [Schrot und Korn].
-Volkischer Beobachter, 25 Aug. 1933, [cited from Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich]

Hans Schemm became Bavarian Minister of Education and Culture. Throughout the Reich, Germans particularly knew Schemm for his slogan, "Our religion is Christ, our politics Fatherland!" He writes:
 
His engagement against the decomposing Jewish spirit is clearly evident not only from his writing against the Jews; his life too was idealistically, philosophically antisemitic. Now we Germans of today have the duty to recognize and acknowledge this.
-"Luther und das Deutschtum," Bundesarchiv Berlin-Zehlendorf (19 Nov. 1933: Berlin), [cited from Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich]
 
Our confession to God is a confession of a doctrine of totality.... To give ultimate significance to the totalities of race, resistance and personality there is added the supreme totalitarian slogan of our Volk: "Religion and God." God is the greatest totality and extends over all else.
-(Gertrud Kahl-Furthmann (ed.), Hans Schemm spricht: Seine Reden und sein Werk (Bayreuth, 1935), [cited from Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich]

Julius Streicher (one of Hitler's top henchmen and publisher of the anti-Semitic Der Sturmer) was asked during the Nuremberg trials if there were any other publications in Germany which treated the Jewish question in an anti-Semitic way., Streicher put it well:

  "Dr. Martin Luther would very probably sit in my place in the defendants' dock today, if this book had been taken into consideration by the Prosecution. In the book 'The Jews and Their Lies,' Dr. Martin Luther writes that the Jews are a serpent's brood and one should burn down their synagogues and destroy them..."

Indeed, no historian has yet to put Martin Luther on trial for his incitement of crimes against humanity.

Today, white-supremacists and Neo-Nazis continue to spread Luther's Jewish hatred and use quotes from this book as "proof" of their convictions. I trust that readers will see the horror and danger of Luther's book and will realize the potential threat that might come from belief in it.

If you wish to read the entire unabridged book online, click here.

The following gives a few quotations from Luther's dirty little book:


Quotes from Martin Luther's "On the Jews and their lies," 1543

 

Luther's Introduction:

I had made up my mind to write no more either about the Jews or against them. But since I learned that these miserable and accursed people do not cease to lure to themselves even us, that is, the Christians, I have published this little book, so that I might be found among those who opposed such poisonous activities of the Jews who warned the Christians to be on their guard against them. I would not have believed that a Christian could be duped by the Jews into taking their exile and wretchedness upon himself. However, the devil is the god of the world, and wherever God's word is absent he has an easy task, not only with the weak but also with the strong. May God help us. Amen.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

He did not call them Abraham's children, but a "brood of vipers" [Matt. 3:7]. Oh, that was too insulting for the noble blood and race of Israel, and they declared, "He has a demon' [Matt 11:18]. Our Lord also calls them a "brood of vipers"; furthermore in John 8 [:39,44] he states: "If you were Abraham's children ye would do what Abraham did.... You are of your father the devil. It was intolerable to them to hear that they were not Abraham's but the devil's children, nor can they bear to hear this today.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

Therefore the blind Jews are truly stupid fools...

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

Now just behold these miserable, blind, and senseless people.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

...their blindness and arrogance are as solid as an iron mountain.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

Learn from this, dear Christian, what you are doing if you permit the blind Jews to mislead you. Then the saying will truly apply, "When a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into the pit" [cf. Luke 6:39]. You cannot learn anything from them except how to misunderstand the divine commandments...

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

Therefore be on your guard against the Jews, knowing that wherever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils in which sheer self-glory, conceit, lies, blasphemy, and defaming of God and men are practiced most maliciously and veheming his eyes on them.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

Moreover, they are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury. Thus they live from day to day, together with wife and child, by theft and robbery, as arch-thieves and robbers, in the most impenitent security.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

However, they have not acquired a perfect mastery of the art of lying; they lie so clumsily and ineptly that anyone who is just a little observant can easily detect it.

But for us Christians they stand as a terrifying example of God's wrath.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

If I had to refute all the other articles of the Jewish faith, I should be obliged to write against them as much and for as long a time as they have used for inventing their lies-- that is, longer than two thousand years.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

...Christ and his word can hardly be recognized because of the great vermin of human ordinances. However, let this suffice for the time being on their lies against doctrine or faith.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

Did I not tell you earlier that a Jew is such a noble, precious jewel that God and all the angels dance when he farts?

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

Alas, it cannot be anything but the terrible wrath of God which permits anyone to sink into such abysmal, devilish, hellish, insane baseness, envy, and arrogance. If I were to avenge myself on the devil himself I should be unable to wish him such evil and misfortune as God's wrath inflicts on the Jews, compelling them to lie and to blaspheme so monstrously, in violation of their own conscience. Anyway, they have their reward for constantly giving God the lie.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

...but then eject them forever from this country. For, as we have heard, God's anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

Over and above that we let them get rich on our sweat and blood, while we remain poor and they such the marrow from our bones.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

In brief, dear princes and lords, those of you who have Jews under your rule-- if my counsel does not please your, find better advice, so that you and we all can be rid of the unbearable, devilish burden of the Jews, lest we become guilty sharers before God in the lies, blasphemy, the defamation, and the curses which the mad Jews indulge in so freely and wantonly against the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, this dear mother, all Christians, all authority, and ourselves. Do not grant them protection, safe-conduct, or communion with us. . . . With this faithful counsel and warning I wish to cleanse and exonerate my conscience.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

Let the government deal with them in this respect, as I have suggested. But whether the government acts or not, let everyone at least be guided by his own conscience and form for himself a definition or image of a Jew.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

However, we must avoid confirming them in their wanton lying, slandering, cursing, and defaming. Nor dare we make ourselves partners in their devilish ranting and raving by shielding and protecting them, by giving them food, drink, and shelter, or by other neighborly acts...

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

Therefore we Christians, in turn, are obliged not to tolerate their wanton and conscious blasphemy.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

Accordingly, it must and dare not be considered a trifling matter but a most serious one to seek counsel against this and to save our souls from the Jews, that is, from the devil and from eternal death. My advice, as I said earlier, is:

First, that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss sulphur and pitch; it would be good if someone could also throw in some hellfire...

Second, that all their books-- their prayer books, their Talmudic writings, also the entire Bible-- be taken from them, not leaving them one leaf, and that these be preserved for those who may be converted...

Third, that they be forbidden on pain of death to praise God, to give thanks, to pray, and to teach publicly among us and in our country...

Fourth, that they be forbidden to utter the name of God within our hearing. For we cannot with a good conscience listen to this or tolerate it...

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

He who hears this name [God] from a Jew must inform the authorities, or else throw sow dung at him when he sees him and chase him away.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

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.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

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.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

...they remain our daily murderers and bloodthirsty foes in their hearts. Their prayers and curses furnish evidence of that, as do the many stories which relate their torturing of children and all sorts of crimes for which they have often been burned at the stake or banished.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

...that everyone would gladly be rid of them.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

Undoubtedly they do more and viler things than those which we know and discover.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

If I had power over the Jews, as our princes and cities have, I would deal severely with their lying mouth.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

They [rulers] 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...

If this does not help we must drive them out like mad dogs.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

 

My essay, I hope, will furnish a Christian (who in any case has no desire to become a Jew) with enough material not only to defend himself against the blind, venomous Jews, but also to become the foe of the Jews' malice, lying, and cursing, and to understand not only that their belief is false but that they are surely possessed by all devils. May Christ, our dear Lord, convert them mercifully and preserve us steadfastly and immovably in the knowledge of him, which is eternal life. Amen.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)


Addendum: a note to critics

Because of my pointed aim at revealing the anti-Jewishness of Martin Luther, I have received accusations that I've unfairly painted Luther in a bad light over the alleged "good" he's done in the name of Christianity. I want to briefly make clear my position on this.

Although I can certainly understand, from a perspective of a Protestant, Luther appears to have freed believers from the dependency of an orthodox hierarchy of God-Church-Man, and promoted the vaunted ideals of Christianity, I cannot imagine a more circular argument based entirely on superstitious beliefs. Nor has Luther's Protestantism shown a freeing effect on the lives of its believers when you take account of the paranoid-like protection of its tenets, the theologically based justification of war, cruelty against enemies, and the reliance on faith in place of scientific reasoning.

However, I fully grant that Luther, in his Ninety-Five Theses, may have called for the ending of indulgences and this, I think, could put him in some regard. (Note that although people generally believed that Luther nailed these theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, some scholars have questioned this story, which does not occur in any of his own writings). But on the evidence from his voluminous tomes, I can find little else to admire the works of this man.

Luther not only wrote 'On the Jews and their lies,' but also dubious and intolerant works such as 'Against the Sabbatarians', 'Against the Antinoman,' and 'Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants.' In the latter, Luther called for the stabbing and slaying of peasant rebels which triggered the death of an estimated 100,000 human beings. These rebels were not only Christians but were mostly slaughtered after their surrender to the German princes. Nor did Luther apologize for his treatise even after world criticism. In his response to his critics in "An Open Letter on the Harsh Book," Luther reiterated his venom: "Therefore, as I wrote then so I write now; Let no one have mercy on the obstinate, hardened, blinded peasants who refuse to listen to reason; but let everyone, as he is able, strike, hew, stab, and slay, as though among mad dogs, put to flight, and led astray by these peasants, so that peace and safety may be maintained." In all these harsh treatises, Luther provided an abundance of Biblical passages to justify his attack on his enemies. And, or course (sarcastically speaking), his actions were always through Christian "love" of his enemies, as he audaciously wrote: "The merciless punishment of the wicked is not being carried out just to punish the wicked and make them atone for the evil desires that are in their blood, but to protect the righteous and to maintain peace and safety. And beyond all doubt, these are precious works of mercy, love, and kindness. . ." [Bold characters, mine].

Most Christians staunchly defend their ideas of "true" Christianity (never seemingly to realize that other Christians have their own ideas, or if so, they get labeled as false Christians), but Luther had power and influence, and he vehemently opposed anyone who went against his version of True Christianity. One cannot deny Luther lived as a Christian, and an influential one at that. So to oppose him for practicing his brand of religion cannot serve to justify Christianity anymore than Oskar Schindler can be used to justify "true" Nazism, or neo-communists to justify Communism, or war to justify murder.

But perhaps the most lasting damage of all came from Luther openly advocating the abandonment of using natural reason (Luther considered his use of theological reasoning different from natural reason, i.e., scientific reasoning) . His theological message to live by faith and to abstain from listening to reason has mentally enslaved the lives of millions of Christians to this day. Throughout his literary life he wrote statements such as, "Whoever wishes to be a Christian, let him pluck out the eyes of his reason," "We must give reason a vacation and enter a different school. We must refrain from consulting reason. We must bid reason hold its peace; we must order it to be dead. We must gouge out its eyes and pluck its feathers...," "You must kill the other thoughts and the ways of reason or of the flesh, for God detests them." I can find no other influential writer who has spent as much ink, ad nauseum, against the very investigative tool which has kept the human species alive-- reason.

Therefore, I not only hold against Luther's Jewish hatred and his merciless attacks against his enemies, including Catholics, Protestant peasants, Turks, atheists, and infidels, but also because of his extraordinary intolerance, adherence to faith and superstition, unworkable morality, and his rejection of reason and science. I cannot imagine a man who has spread more dangerous beliefs than Martin Luther.

And no one should ever forget that his justification for these atrocious works came entirely from Christian Protestant beliefs fueled by the Bible. I don't know how Protestant Christians will react when faced with the realization of Luther's mad intolerance, but they will have to deal with the fact that this man stands as the Inventor and Creator of their Christian denomination.

The history of Luther provides just one example of why religion (not just Christianity), and ideology, whether it comes in the form of Buddhism, Judiasm, Islam, communism, Nazism, or any other belief system, creates the intolerant play against life and nature.


Sources:

Goldhagen, Daniel Johah, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust , Alfred A. Knoph, NY, 1996

Luther, Martin, On the Jews and Their Lies, translated by Martin H. Bertram, Fortress Press, 1955

Shirer, William L., The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1960

Steigmann-Gall, Richard "The Holy Reich: Nazi conception of Christianity, 1919-1945," Cambridge University Press, 2003

Trial of The Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 1945-- 1 October 1946, Vol. 12, p.318

Other reading:

You might also find the article by Norma E. Cunningham interesting, in that it comes out of her Lutheran upbringing, "What They Never Told Us About Martin Luther": http://www.infidels.org/org/ffrf/fttoday/jan_feb98/cunningham.html

Also:

The influence of Martin Luther on Nazism: http://www.infidels.org/org/ffrf/fttoday/back/hakeem/holocaust4.html


Read the entire book online: On the Jews and their lies


http://www.nobeliefs.com/

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