Martin Luther, antisemitism and apology

Martin Luther’s antisemitism should be denounced, says Rabbi Abraham Cooper.

In his view, next year’s 500th anniversary of Luther’s break from the Catholic church would be a perfect time to right past wrongs.

Cooper, who is the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles says this would involve the  Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) apologising for its antisemitic views and behaviours.

The EKD combines the Lutheran, Reformed and United Protestant regional and denominational groups. About 23 million people belong to the EKD in Germany.

“It would be appropriate, especially when antisemitism is so rife in Europe for Protestant leaders and groups, like the World Council of Churches, to directly address the issue [of Luther’s antisemitism] in the overall context of what they’re celebrating in terms of this anniversary,” Cooper said.

In fact, some work has already been done to right this wrong.

The leader of the Baptist World Alliance has praised the EKD in Germany for denouncing Luther’s antisemitism.

“One of the important actions taken by the EKD as it prepared for the celebration was to issue … a declaration distancing itself from Luther’s anti-Jewish stance,” BWA General Secretary Neville Callam said. He was commenting in a blog post “Towards Closer Communion”.

Another supporter of the church apologising for its antisemitic past is David Michaels. He is the director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs with B’nai B’rith, which is the oldest Jewish service organization in the world.

Michaels believes the Lutheran church should acknowledge its past and repudiate Martin Luther’s antisemitism.

“A number of individual Lutheran church bodies and figures have taken steps over the years to acknowledge, grapple with and repudiate the antisemitism that Luther ultimately promoted … which was still felt in the implementation of the Holocaust,” he said.

Although Luther didn’t initially come out as being antisemitic, by 1543 he had completed and published a treatise “On Jews and their Lies“.

Besides denouncing them, it also suggests murdering them, burning their temples and religious works, destroying their houses and ruining their businesses.

The Catholic Church apologised for its antisemitic stance in 1965 during the Second Vatican Council.




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