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ANTI-SEMITIC BIGOTRY AS CHRONICLED BY HISTORICAL MEDALS


 

In his outstanding book on Jewish Medals, Daniel Friedenberg attributed this quotation, incorrectly, to Plato. The word “Symposi” in the legend was assumed to refer to Plato’s work called “The Symposium,” but “Symposi” refers to the author of late antiquity Symphosius (also seen as Symposius). He wrote short riddles in Latin, and this quotation refers to Riddle 47, where the solution to the riddle is “incense” (“tur” in Latin). Perhaps Wermuth meant for the reader to replace in his mind the word “tur” with something like “Jude” that is, “It pleased the gods for the Jew (rather than ‘incense’) to be thrown into the flames” (Ralph Rosen, personal communication).

 Memomrial of the Ghetto Fire in Frankfurt Am Main Medal   Frankfurt Am Main Medal
Figure 27. Memorial of the Ghetto Fire in Frankfurt Am Main Medal

Christian Wermuth, Germany, 1711, Silver struck medal, 44 mm. Ref: Friedenberg p.15; Kirschner 33 (Image courtesy of Busso Peus Nacht.)

In spite of this fire and its disastrous consequences, Frankfurt continued to confine the Jews, being one of the last cities in Europe to allow them freedom of movement. In 1769, when the Jews petitioned the Frankfurt city council to leave the ghetto on Sunday afternoons, the council responded by stating their request was "... an example of the unbounded arrogance of this people, who expend every effort to take all opportunities to set themselves up as equals to the Christian citizens" (Wikipedia).

The fire in the Frankfort Ghetto was of such historical importance that the Jewish community of Frankfurt annually remembers its anniversary with a period of penance and fasting.

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