BOSTON - A letter written nearly 500 years ago by Martin Luther in which he refers to Jews as "devils incarnate" during a tirade against a former ally is up for auction, but Luther scholars warn that the man responsible for the Reformation should not be called anti-Semitic.
The single-page letter, with writing on both sides, is expected to sell for at least $300,000 at the auction being conducted by Boston-based RR Auction that concludes Wednesday.
"Martin Luther items don't come to auction often, and this is in incredibly great shape for a 500-year-old letter," said Robert Livingston, RR's executive vice president.
The letter was written around September 1543 to a top official at Berlin's St. Nicholas Church in response to a letter from the official requesting Luther's interpretation of some Biblical verses by which former Luther friend Johann Agricola justified his positive treatment of Jews in what is now Germany.
In his reply, Luther tells Georg Buchholzer that he has done well to preach against the Jews and should continue to do so, ignoring Agricola, who Luther accused of being a habitual liar.