Call to ban Martin Luther from Berlin's street names


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Research shows that almost 300 squares and streets in the German capital Berlin bear the names of people who can be associated with hatred of Jews. Among them is the German church reformer Martin Luther. A new chapter in the discussion about renaming streets has begun.

A scientific study finds anti-Semitic references in 290 street names in Berlin, German newspaper Die Welt writes. The dossier was commissioned by the contact person of the state of Berlin on anti-Semitism, Samuel Salzborn.

With the study's publication, Salzborn wants to initiate a social debate about streets named after historical personalities who expressed anti-Semitic views or even adhered to an established anti-Semitic worldview. That is also what the study author, Felix Sassmannhausen, wants, German Christian media magazine PRO reports. At the same time, the political scientist recommends the renaming of 101 street and square names.


Affected by this recommendation are, for example, streets and squares named after the composer Richard Wagner or after his operas and characters. Wagner was "a convinced anti-Semite" and author of the "anti-Semitic writing" 'Das Judentum in der Musik' (Judaism in music), the study says. "For this reason, among others, his work and world view cannot be separated".

Because of his anti-Jewish writings and the spread of Christian-motivated anti-Judaism, the study author also suggests banning the name of Martin Luther from the streetscape. "Martin Luther wrote anti-Jewish writings and was influential in the spreading of Christian-motivated anti-Judaism."

In a comment, Salzborn said that there are very committed actors in the Protestant regional church who deal intensively and self-critically with the issue of hostility towards Jews. However, at the time of the Luther Year 2017, these debates were still being conducted very cautiously. "Luther was essential for the history of Protestantism, but also for the inscription of anti-Jewish stereotypes in the New Testament. I would very much like to see this issue addressed more intensively", the Berlin representative for anti-Semitism declared.

Old discussion

The anti-Semitism commissioner of the Evangelical Church Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia, Marion Gardei, said that despite his anti-Semitic statements, Luther stood for the "radical renewal of the church and the Christian faith". For this reason, the confrontation with him was "existential and indispensable" for the Protestant Church.

The discussion about renaming streets bearing the name of Martin Luther is not new. For example, in September 2020, Pro wrote about an initiative in Berlin's Schöneberg district to ban the church reformer from the street sign. The initiators then denounced above all that in his time, he "played a very negative role for exploited people, minorities and women". The anti-Jewish writings of the reformer were even then a thorn in the flesh. According to the critics, although Luther was not an anti-Semite in the racist sense, he was "regarded by them as a key witness".


A striking name in Sassmannshausen's investigation is that of former Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. In the case of the first Chancellor of the post-war Federal Republic of Germany, the study claims that there are indications of anti-Semitic resentment in his thinking. He surrounded himself in his government with many former Nazi functionaries and trivialised anti-Semitism in society.

A spokesperson for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which is close to the Christian-Democratic CDU, said in Die Welt that the Christian Democrat's policies were clearly directed against anti-Semitism and that Adenauer, as Lord Mayor of Cologne, had promoted Jewish life in his city. The spokesperson also referred to Adenauer's commitment to German Israeli relations. "From this point of view, we cannot understand why the dossier draws a connection between Konrad Adenauer and anti-Semitism."

The reasoning was not logical for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung either. An opinion article got the headline: Luther must go, Marx can stay.



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