“Set fire to their synagogues or schools,” Martin Luther recommended
in On the Jews and Their Lies. Jewish houses should “be razed and destroyed,” and Jewish “prayer
books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, [should] be taken from them.”
In addition, “their rabbis [should] be forbidden to teach on pain of loss of life and limb.” Still, this wasn’t
also urged that “safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews,” and that “all cash
and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them.” What Jews could do was to have “a flail, an ax,
a hoe, a spade” put into their hands so “young, strong Jews and Jewesses” could “earn their bread
in the sweat of their brow.”
These fierce comments have puzzled and embarrassed Christians who otherwise admire the Reformer.
And they have led to charges that Luther was “one of the ‘church fathers’ of anti-Semitism.” More
seriously, Luther’s attacks have been seen as paving the way for Hitler.