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ANTISEMITIC BIGOTRY AS CHRONICLED BY HISTORICAL MEDALS
As Friedenberg points out, one of the first of these antisemitic medals was reported in the early sixteenth century in Germany. These medals depicted, on the obverse, the Jew riding on a sow, and on the reverse, the face of a devil with horns, representations not uncommon in the medieval period (Lipton, 2014). By the end of the seventeenth century a more common type of antisemitic medal made its appearance. These were the so-called “Korn Jude” (Grain Jew) medals. Most of these were struck in Germany and were issued in various forms over a period of some 80 years. Apparently they were engraved largely, if not exclusively, by only two men: Christian Wermuth (1661-1739) and later by Johann Christian Reich (1740-1814).
Generally, Korn Jude medals were distributed coincident with periods of rising food prices and famine and were designed to perpetuate the myth that the Jews were to blame for these hardships and to portray Jews as diabolic speculators, particularly in grain crops.
To set the stage for the first of these medals we will consider, in 1694, heavy rains and a grasshopper plague swept throughout Germany. Food prices increased, speculation rose and the starving people blamed the Jews. This provided the raison d'être for the issuance of one of the prototypical Korn Jude medals.
These medals were not subtle in their design or meaning. The medals Wermuth made usually depicted on the obverse a figure carrying on his back a sack of grain on which is perched a devil opening the mouth of the sack, thereby allowing the grain to pour uselessly onto the ground (Figure 2). So that there should be no misunderstanding of these devices, the legend clearly identified the figure as DU KORN IUDE (You Grain Jew), with the legend below translated as “Famine Time” or “Expensive Time.” The reverse, invoking the powerful instrument of Scriptures, shows a grain sifter inscribed with a quotation taken from the Old Testament: Proverbs, XI. 26, indicated in the exergue (Exergue: An area on the lower portion of many medals beneath a horizontal line that separates it from the principal design of the medal and which usually contains lettering or symbols related to the subject of the medal), and translated as, “He That Withholdeth Grain, the People Shall Curse Him: but Blessing Shall Be upon the Head of Him That Selleth it.”
Figure 2. Korn Jude (Grain Jew) Medal
Christian Wermuth, Germany, 1694, Silver struck medal, 36 mm. Ref: Friedenberg, p 3; Kirschner 54/18; Wohlfahrt 95035; Weiss BW779 (Image: Collection of Benjamin Weiss)
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