JEWISH-AMERICAN HALL OF FAME • JEWISH MUSEUM IN CYBERSPACE
ANTI-SEMITIC BIGOTRY AS CHRONICLED BY HISTORICAL MEDALS


 

A medal that is just tangentially related to the conversion of Jews is that by the German medallist Karl Goetz, who made a large number of satirical medals in the early 20th century (Kienest 1967). This piece appears to celebrate the work done by the Reuters News Agency but has negative overtones (figure 23). On the obverse can be seen a telegraph pole with a double head of Jewish caricatures speaking “Reuter clamor@ (referring to the panic reports by the English news agency.) The reverse shows three animated men discussing the issue in front of an American flag, with the inscription translated as “Schemers at work.” The medal refers to purported role the Reuters News Agency played in spreading false information about the German U boats used in the World War. This news service was founded by Paul Julius Reuter. Reuter, whose father was a rabbi, was born in Germany as Israel Beer Josaphat, but after moving to England, like a number of other Jews of that period, converted to Christianity and changed his name to Reuter

German U-Boats in America Medal
Figure 23. German U-Boats in America Medal

Karl Goetz, Germany, 1916, cast iron medal, 58 mm. Ref: Kienast 185 (Image courtesy of Busso Peus Nacht.)

A medal related to Shabbatai Tzvi is another piece alluding to the forced conversion of Jews to a different religion. In this case the medal, which is directed toward the followers of the Jewish-born Shabbatai Tvsi, ridicules his conversion to Islam. This satirical medal was issued by Christian Wermuth in 1696, twenty years after Tvsi’s death.

Shabbatai Tzvi (also seen as Sabbetai Zevi and others) (1626-1676) was a Turkish-born Sephardic Rabbi who, at age 22 in 1648, started declaring to his followers that he was the long awaited Jewish Messiah. This assertion was supported by Nathan of Gaza, who declared Shabbatai Tzvi to be the Messiah, and is based, in part, on Tzvi=s supposed birth date, which according to Jewish legend is the date of the destruction of both Temples and also the date 'prescribed' in some traditions for the birth of the Messiah. He apparently suffered from manic-depressive illness, and during his manic phase he had “illuminations” whereby he believed he could communicate with God. As history has shown in other cases, many religious Jews interpreted these visions as evidence of his genuineness as the Messiah, rather than the acts of lunacy.

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