Historical and Commemorative Medals
Collection of Benjamin Weiss


WERMUTH, Christian: Germany, 1694, Silver, 36 mm
Obv: Man standing (r) with staff carrying a sack of grain on his back. A Devil is shown on top of the sack, which he has opened, thereby allowing the grain to pour out uselessly to the ground.  DU KORN JUDE
Exergue: THEURE ZEIT [Expensive (or Famine Time)] 1694
Rev: A grain sifter shaped like a wheel inscribed: WER KORK INHELT DEM FLUCHEN DIE LEU THE. /ABER SEGEN KOMT ÜBER DEN SO ES UER KAUFT  J (He that witholdeth corn, the people shall curse him; but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.)
Exergue: SPRUCH. SALOM. XI. 26. [(Proverbs XI. 26.), which indicates the source of the proverb]
Ref: Friedenberg, p 3;  Kirschner 54/18 ; Wohlfahrt 95035;  Brettauer 1900;  Weiss BW779

While prejudice among the various religious groups exists among them all to varying degrees, over the ages bigoted acts against the Jews have been among the most prevalent, severe, and unrelenting.  History has shown that Jews, while welcomed in times of need, often were maligned, periodically expelled from their native lands, and sometimes even subjected to mass murder. Some of this bigotry is reflected in the issuance of medals purposefully designed to vilify the Jewish community, making anti-Semitic medals probably the most common and most notorious medals for spreading religious hatred.

One of the first of these anti-Semitic 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. By the end of the seventeenth century a more common type of anti-Semitic medal made its appearance. These were the so-called AKorn Jude@ (Grain Jew) medals.

The prototype of these "Korn Jude" medals first emerged in 1694 (shown here). In that year heavy rains and a grasshopper plague swept through Germany. Food prices increased, speculation rose and the starving people blamed the Jews, shown on the medal as the Corn or Grain Jew dealer. Similar medals were issued over a period of some eighty years, from 1694 to 1773. They were issued during hard times, when prices went up and the popular scapegoat was the Jew, depicted as a diabolic speculator, particularly in grain crops. The usual device was to depict on the obverse a figure carrying a sack of grain on his back with a figure of the devil opening the mouth of the sack, as in this medal shown here.  The legend clearly identifies the figure as ADU KORN IUDE" (You Korn Jew) with the legend below translated as AFamine Time@. The reverse, invoking the powerful instrument of Scriptures, shows a grain sifter inscribed with the quotation taken from the Old Testament (Proverbs) translated as: "He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him...".

Over the years several variants of the obverses and reverses of The Korn Jude medals were struck, the particular devices and inscriptions dependant upon whether grain crops were plentiful or scarce. In years of famine, such as in 1694, the reverse inscription implied that the Jews were hoarding grain (see above). In those years when grain was plentiful, the Korn Jude medal was modified in order to continue the calumny against the Jews even in good times. In these cases, on the obverse, instead of "Famine Time" the medal was now stamped "Easy Time" (translated) and the scene showed a farmland with a Jew hanging from a tree, with the devil securing a rope around his neck, with the inscription referring to a chapter in the New Testament that attacks covetousness.

These "Korn Jude" medals were originally struck in copper or silver, but were re-issued for many years (as recently as 1923) as medals cast in lead or tin and were widely distributed to the general populace.

LINK to article on Medallic History of Religious and Racial Intolerance (by Benjamin Weiss)

LINK to article on Anti-Semitic Bigotry: A Retrospective as Chronicled by Historical Medals (by Benjamin Weiss)

LINK to Anti-Semitic Walking Stick (courtesy of Israel Hanin)