Martin Luther's
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Martin Luther's Last Will and Testament

The following measures are in a sense Martin Luther's last will and testament, his legacy to the world. The legacy of a man is what his descendants derive from him, a living memorial to who he was long after he is dead. In one of these formal, systematic presentations of his mature convictions he summarized the wisdom his 32 years of Bible study had gained for him into seven recommendations. They are found in the treatise, "On the Jews and Their Lies":


What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing, and blasphemy. Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. With prayer and the fear of God we must practice a sharp mercy to see whether we might save at least a few from the glowing flames. We dare not avenge ourselves ... I shall give you my sincere advice:

         Set fire to their synagogues and schools, burying and covering with dirt what won't burn, so no man will see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and Christendom.

         Second, I advise that their houses be seized and destroyed.

         Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings be taken from them.

         Fourth, I advise that the rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of life and limb.

         Fifth, I advise that safe conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews, for they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, or tradesmen. Let them stay at home.

         Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and all cash and treasures be taken and kept for safekeeping.

         Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an axe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses, letting them earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Genesis 3:19). For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time ... boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat ... For, as we have heard, God's anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!

[The whole tract may be found in English in "Luther's Works," Volume 45, pages 199-229. A number of English books have translations of these directives. Among them is "The Christian in Society," ed. Franklin Sherman (1971), pages 268-272. The "Ideas in Conflict" book, "Religion and Politics Issues in Religious Liberties," by Gary E. McCuen, also quotes them on pages 16-23.]