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


 

Indeed, anti-Semitic medals are probably the most common and most notorious of all the medals that have been minted for spreading religious hatred, a topic that has been considered in great detail by Daniel Friedenberg in his book, Jewish Medals: From the Renaissance to the Fall of Napoleon (1503-1815), and Bruno Kirschner in his work, Deutsche Spott-Medaillen Auf Juden, in which dozens of anti-Semitic medals are chronicled. On these medals, Jews are sometimes depicted as causing natural calamities such as famine, plague, etc. Often they are portrayed as demonic, non-human creatures or profiting financially from the misfortunes of others. In different periods of history Jews were forced to convert to Christianity, and if they did not, their properties were seized and their persons expelled, tortured or murdered. Medals were made to support these statements as well.

While it is generally known when and by whom anti-Semitic medals were made, it is difficult to determine definitively why they were manufactured, how many were struck, to whom were they distributed and what was their impact. A few of the authors’ colleagues graciously offered their opinion on these matters as follows:

“At times of economic strife such as famine or general misfortune, the Jew becomes an easy scapegoat and this no doubt fed interest in the kind of anti-Semitic medals produced by Christian Wermuth and Johann Christian Reich in the 18th century. To judge from the numbers and variety B with many carrying graphic illustrations they clearly found a ready market, distributed as they much have been through a network of retail outlets.” (Christopher Eimer, personal communication).

”In general, it is likely most of the Kornjudenmedaillen of the 17th and 18th centuries were made as popular souvenirs and were sold by their artist/manufacturers, such as Wermuth and Reich. They incorporated prejudices and iconographic references to popular beliefs then current which would have resonated with the purchasers, presumably wealthy peasant landowners and merchants concerned with hard times, famines, rising costs of living etc. To judge from the number of specimens available in the later collector's market places, they were made in substantial quantities, likely many hundreds rather than fewer than a hundred, or tens of thousands. In several cases, the dies for their manufacture survived for many years and were sometimes re used into the 19th century, by which time the purchasers would have been secondary collector types. For example, some Kornjudenmedaillen were made in iron, a technique that post dates their 1694 date by a century or more.” (Ira Rezak, personal communication).

2 1 3 3

© 2000-2011 Jewish-American Hall of Fame © 2012-2015 American Numismatic Society All Rights Reserved by Benjamin Weiss