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Judensau -  The Judensau (Jew pig) is a popular cultural mainstay of German religious and institutional artwork created during and after the middle ages, and still proudly exhibited in cathedrals, churches and public buildings in Germany. Isolated examples also exist or existed in Austria, France, Belgium and Switzerland. It is a staple of anti-Semitism.  It depicts Jews in obscene activities with a pig, sometimes in consort with the Devil, sometimes copulating with the pig or with pig faces, or eating pig excrement or suckling from the sow. It is often combined with depictions of the blood libel. The insult is based on the Jewish ritual prohibition against eating or touching pigs.

This particular form of folk art was revived in the Nazi period, and the word Judensau (also Saujuden) was also turned into an insult meaning "Jew pig,"

On 24 April 1990, the Evangelical Church Berlin-Brandenburg issued its own clarification and recommended to its Synod:

     "If works of art remain in place, viewers should have their attention drawn to explanations [...] on the mistakes and deviations of the Church and be informed of his new position. "

This advice has been followed reluctantly if at all in most cases. German municipal and church authorities have refused to remove these "works of art" though in some places, such as Regensburg Cathedral, they have placed plaques that euphemistically refer to disrespect for the Jews in former times and trivialize the issue. Protests in cities such as Nurenberg and Cologne have been met with police suppression, declarations that protestors are "unchristian" and the like. In Nurenberg, a pamphlet, available in German only, explains the artwork and falsely claims that Nurenberg had no role in anti-Semitism.  The German Jewish artist, Wolfram Kastner has led protests against these plaques and has tried in vain to get them replaced with more veridical and frank descriptions of the murder and mayhem caused by anti-Semitism. Several such Judensau were removed in the 19th century and thereafter, and at least one was removed in 1945 by order of the U.S. Army.

The Judensau is not the most egregious aspect of European anti-Semitic culture and society. It is only a symbol in a work of art, and not a violent act in itself or a call for immediate action. However it is certainly remarkable that these obscene sculptures, which appear in churches and public places, are defended even today with obstinacy as "cultural assets" by Church and secular authorities in Germany.

Judensau and Modern Anti-Semitism

The Judensau remained a symbol of anti-Semitism and in fact it became more popular with the 19th century emancipation. The Wittenberg and Frankfort Judensaus were popular illustrations of 17th and 18th century anti-Semitic works, and there are some 19th century examples as well. An 1822 book has a particularly obnoxious illustration.

The Judensau was revived by the Nazis, now in the double meaning that Jews are pigs. A drinking song of the early 1920s included the words:

Knallt ab den Walther Rathenau

Die gottverfluchte Judensau

(Shoot down that Walther Rathenau, The goddamned Judensau)

Indeed, Foreign Minister Rathenau was murdered by the Nazis in 1922.

A Der Sturmer cartoon of  1934 symbolizes the alleged power of Jews over the media. The sow pierced by a pitchfork, bears the inscription: Publishing house of Jewish literature. The caption reads: "Although the pig is dead, its piglets are yet to be eliminated. The "piglets" are representations of  Albert Einstein , Magnus Hirschfeld , Alfred Kerr, Thomas Mann and Erich Maria Remarque.

Judensau Examples

Some of the more famous and obnoxious Judensau depictions are below.

Frankfurt Judensau

A wall painting on the bridge tower of Frankfurt am Main, constructed between 1475 and 1507 near the gateway to the Jewish Ghetto and demolished in 1801,  included a scene of the alleged ritual murder of Simon of Trent The Frankfurt  engraving below has a similar composition. Its upper panel depicts the child martyr Simon of Trent, subject of a blood libel case. The lower panel shows the Devil, or a devil with horns, looking on while at left, a Jewish woman is having sex with a goat, and in the foreground, two Jews are having sexual communion with a pig, while a Jewish child is suckling from the same pig.

Anti-semitism - Judensau

Judensau anti-Semitic art

The engraving at right, from 1576, shows the same theme approximately, with  Simon of Trent in the upper panel and the Devil urging a Jew to have intercourse with a pig. Another Jew is suckling the pig and a third is mounted on its back. Hog farmers may "ride" sows in this fashion to determine if they are in heat.

Wittenberg Judensau

Martin Luther did much to further the Judensau symbol. In 1543 he wrote a book that referred to the to the Judensau sculpture of the Wittenberg church:

Here in Wittenberg, in our parish church, there is a sow carved into the stone under which lie young pigs and Jews who are sucking; behind the sow stands a rabbi who is lifting up the right leg of the sow, raises behind the sow, bows down and looks with great effort into the Talmud under the sow, as if he wanted to read and see something most difficult and exceptional; no doubt they gained their Shem Hamphoras from that place

Luther JudensauWittenberg Judensau  

The Shem Hamephorash is the "secret name of God" of the kabbalistic mystics. At left is an illustration of the Judensau from Luther's book. The sculpture at right was erected in 1304 in the Catholic period. This is a striking illustration of how Luther's reformation carried the Catholic anti-Semitic themes forward into the renaissance and Protestantism. The Martin Luther Website shows the sculpture of the Wittenberg church and  inadvertently repeats what seems to be an anti-Semitic accusation:

According to the Jewish Cabbals, the sequence of letters "Schem Ha Mphoras" possesed a universal power. For this reason these words were considered especially holy and proteced from the gentiles.

A common shibboleth of anti-Semitism is that Jews have "secrets" that are kept from gentiles. The "Shem Hamephorash" was guarded from Jew and gentile alike. In primitive superstitions, one's name or  "Holy names" are  supposed to be invested with secret powers, and uttering them may bring bad luck. Uttering or writing the Shem Hamephorash by anyone other than a holy man would supposedly bring death.

In 1988, the Sculptor Wieland Schmiedel was commissioned to produce a commemorative plaque that pays homage to the victims of the Holocaust. The plaque is in the consistory of the Wittemberg church, but the sculpture remains.  

Regensburg Judensau

The venerable Cathedral of Regensburg is the city's main architectural monument and the seat of the Bishop and diocese. It features a fine Judensau sculpture showing two Jews suckling the Judensau and a third doing something unclear with the pig's ear. It faces the former Jewish quarter at the Neupfarrplatz.

Regensburg Judensau

A euphemistic plaque explains the significance of the anti-Semitic incitement in vague terms. The plaque states:

"The sculpture should be regarded as a witness in stone to a bygone era and should be seen in connection to its time; It is repugnant for the viewer of today in its anti-Jewish expression.

Attempts to change this plaque and make it more explicit failed.

Colmar Judensau

In addition to numerous Judensau in Germany, there are a few scattered about Europe. Some are located in former German territories. There is one in Basle Switzerland, one in Gneisno, Poland, one in Metz, France Aarschot, Belgium, Upsala, Sweden, Salzburg Austria (on the municipal council building)  and this exemplar from Colmar in Alsace, France:

Colmar Judensau

Locations of Judensau

The following is a list of the better known Judensau in Germany and neighboring countries. It may not be complete. All the loactions are in Germany except as noted.

Aerschot (Belgium) choir stalls of Notre Dame, 16 Century.

Bad Wimpfen Stiftskirche Knights of St. Peter, 13. Century.

Basle (Switzerland) Cathedral, 1432

Bayreuth, Stadtkirche

Brandenburg Cathedral, about 1230

Cadolzburg, outer Burgtor 15th Century.

Colmar, (Alsace, France) St. Martin Münster, 14 Century.

Eberswalde, St. Maria Magdalena, Eberswalde, St. Mary Magdalene,
spätes 13. late 13 Century.

Erfurt, choir stalls, early 15th Century.

Gniezno (Gnesen Poland) Cathedral, mid-14th Century.

Heiligenstadt, Annakapelle about 1300. 

Heilsbronn, Monastery Church, 15 Century 

Cologne, Dom, 14 Century.


Lemgo, Marienkirche13 Century.

Magdeburg Cathedral, late 13th Century.

Metz, (Franz) Cathedral, 14 Century

Nordhausen, 1380

Nuremberg, St. Sebald about 1320

Regensburg, cathedral, mid 14th Century

Spalt Gap, near Nuremberg, former Monastery, 15 Century


Upsala (Sweden) Cathedral, mid-14th Century.

Wittenberg, Stadtkirche, 14 century. Wittenberg church, 14 Centuryy

Xanten Cathedral, about 1265

Zerbst, Nikolaikirche, 15 Century

Wiener Neustadt, (formerly in a private house on the main square,  today in the City Museum)

No longer shown in:

Anhalt-Köthen, Dessau,

Diesdorf (near Magdeburg),

Frankfurt am Main.

Freising (until 1921) 


Kehlheim  (till 1st half of 19th cent. At a private house, on the orders of the royal judge it was dismantled. In 1895 it was back on the town pharmacy, 1945 evidently "removed by order of an officer of the U.S. Army.) 


Salzburg, Austria 


Ami Isseroff

March 10, 2009

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information:  Anti-Semitism

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

and transliteration conventions:

'H'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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