Campaign posters in ‘Luther country’ raise specter of anti-Semitism

Religion News Service | 10/9/2019 | Staff
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ERFURT, Germany (RNS) — “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.”

Martin Luther’s defiant declaration to Catholic Church leaders in 1521, as he set off the Protestant Reformation, is treasured in Germany as a motto of virtuous subversion. Now church officials and other political groups are taking a stand against attempts by the far right National Democratic Party, or NPD, to co-opt Luther’s words as a campaign slogan.

Election - State - Thuringia - NPD - Posters

For the second straight election in the central German state of Thuringia, the NPD has put up posters incorporating the famous portrait of Luther by Lucas Cranach; instead of “Here I stand,” the rebel monk is depicted saying, “I would vote NPD, I cannot do otherwise,” alongside the party’s slogan “defend the homeland.”

The NPD, classified as a neo-Nazi party by the Counter Extremism Project, has used Luther’s image in previous German state and national elections. In 2017, Christoph Meyns, the Lutheran bishop in Braunschweig, to the north of Thuringia, told the German news agency DPA that the posters were “intolerable” political distortions of Luther and his message.

Posters - Appearance - Oct - Vote - Thuringia

The posters’ appearance before the Oct. 27 vote in Thuringia have renewed the controversy in a place where Luther was ordained and lived as a monk. The dust-up has also exposed the region as a home to nationalist sentiments, dredging up Luther’s own muddied legacy in regard to xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

Thuringia’s 2014 elections saw a coalition made up of the progressive Left Party, the Social Democrats and the Greens oust Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, which had long held sway in the state. The NPD gained just 3.6% of the vote then, failing to gain any seats in the state Parliament.

Polls - Coalition - Majority - Part - Support

Current polls show the same coalition falling short of a majority, in part due to the increasing support for another right-wing party, Alternative for Germany, or...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Religion News Service
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