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ANTI-SEMITIC BIGOTRY AS CHRONICLED BY HISTORICAL MEDALS


 

By alluding to Jews, Moslems (depiction of a camel) and native Africans, and by referencing those passages in the New Testament, this medal not only serves as an insult to these groups but also may suggest that they are ripe targets for conversion to Christianity.

Daniel Friedenberg observes that this medal may have had some official status as the rim is often stamped “CFP,” standing for “Cum Friderici Privilegio” (With Frederick’s Permission), referring to Frederick II of Saxony and Thuringia, who was Wermuth’s ruler at that time.

Alex Ben-Ariah notes that Wermuth may be mocking the events of recent history in his time: the Moslem Ottoman Empire was favorably disposed towards the Jews, particularly since the Spanish Inquisition of 1492 in which both Muslims and Jews were expelled from Spain; in 1683, four years prior to this medal's striking, the then mighty Ottoman Empire lost a key military campaign at the Battle of Vienna to the combined Holy Roman Empire, Hapsburg, German and Polish forces, which eventually led to its withdrawal from most of Europe.

SATIRICAL, ANTI-SEMITIC MEDALS RELATED TO ECONOMICS

In the course of the Middle Ages, the power structure in Europe gradually ousted Jews from the fields of trade, crafts and agriculture, forcing them to serve as bankers and tax collectors for the nobility. Also, since the church forbade Christians to lend money at interest, some Jews became money lenders, one of the few occupations left open to them. Because Jews were required by law to pay exorbitantly high taxes to the aristocracy, the Jewish moneylenders were allowed to charge high rates of interest. Thus, the wrath of the debtors was aimed at the Jews, rather than against the ruling classes. Jews were, therefore, often looked upon disparagingly, and one of the common charges levied against them relate to their association with money lending, commerce and banking.

An example of a page from a manuscript, published in the 13th century, portraying an encounter between a loan seeker and a Jewish money lender is shown in figure 13.

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