Letter: Martin Luther the anti-Semite

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The Independent Online
Sir: I find it odd that the Foreign Secretary, with his Jewish background, would choose to quote Martin Luther, who by today's standards was an anti-Semite ("From Shylock to the Scot Rifkind", 22 February).

I was baptised and confirmed in the Lutheran faith and have long been aware that Luther's Christian passion was offset by intemperate remarks about Jews and others. He used words like a jackhammer, and it's no wonder that the eventual bull of excommunication against him began: "Arise, 0 Lord, and Judge thy cause. A wild boar has invaded thy vineyard."

Roland E Bainton, a Luther biographer, wrote that Luther, in describing his translation of the Bible into German, said: "I endeavoured to make Moses so German that no one would suspect he was a Jew." Late in his life Luther was even more abusive, according to Bainton, suggesting at one point that all Jews be deported to Palestine and that synagogues be burnt.

Among the most famous remarks attributed to Luther is that quoted by Malcolm Rifkind - "Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise" - which he allegedly spoke when hauled before the Diet of Worms in April, 1521. Here I Stand is also the title of Bainton's book, but he admitted there was no written record of Luther ever saying this at the hearing.


Carleton, North Yorkshire