[I can’t write this story without thanking Dr. Catherine Chatterley, founding director of CISA [The Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism] for being my “scholar in residence” and answering my inquiries and for being the first to get me thinking about the fact that even today, on the internet, one can find plenty of anti-Semitic items. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have found out the history and meaning surrounding my children’s last name. For that I am very grateful]
The last name of my husband and children is Corne, and last winter while in Brussels, Belgium I began to think more about the origins of the name. Near my hotel in Brussels, there were three famous chocolate shops all with the name Corne.
At the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv where we looked up the name Corne and found out that it was Korn and meant grain and was likely a German name.( Note that the name Corn, Korn, and Corne is all the same. The “e” at the end of Corne is a French version of Corn. An immigration official could have easily written down Corne not Corn when may husband’s great grandfather came to Canada.)
One night a couple of months ago, while I was on looking up Judaica items on Ebay, I searched the word “Antisemetic” and “Jews” and came up with something I had never seen before but which explains my children’s name. It is called a Korn Jude Medal from Germany and it was made in 1694–I gasped when I saw it.
As I have learned from taking Dr. Chatterley’s class on the History of Antisemitism, in the middle ages in Christian ruled Europe the ruling Christian princes and nobility made Jews go into professions associated with money, such as money lending. The Christian princes would take a very high percentage of the interest from the Jews who were money lenders, but the average subject would not know this and would hate the Jews for these usurious interest rates.
The 1694 German anti-Semitic medal I found on Ebay inflamed popular opinion against the supposed greed of Jewish grain speculators. From this I assume that Jewish Korn family were grain speculators, (buyers and sellers of grain for profit), a calling that wash no doubt forced upon them by the German Christian elite. That way, even though it was undoubtedly the ruling Christian German nobility that reaped the vast amount of the profits from grain speculation, the Jews would be the ones that the average German would hate as they supposedly made their living off of being greedy while the average German peasant was poor. The Korn Jude medal was made by Christian Wermuth.
The first side of the antisemitic Korn Jude medal portrays a time of want, where there is a Jewish grain buyer trudging with a sack being cut open by the devil. “Thou Corn Jew”. In other words, the medal shows the greedy Jew, who is associated with the devil. (As an aside, associating Jews with the devil was an enduring feature of Christian antisemitism throughout the middle ages).
The reverse of the medal is a grain sifter bearing a quote from Proverbs X1; 26. “He that withholds corn shall be cursed by the people, blessing shall be on the head of him that sells it.”
As Benjamin Weiss on the Kunstpedia website explains,
“Generally the distribution of the Korn Jude medals coincided 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 the Jew as a diabolic speculator, particularly in grain crops. These medals, to put it mildly, were not subtle in their design or meaning. 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 (Figure 1). So that there should be no misunderstanding of these devices, the legend clearly identified the figure as ‘DU KORN JUDE’ (You Korn Jew) with the legend below translated as ‘Famine 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…”
Here is what the website Historical Art Medals says about the maker of the anti-Semitic German Korn Jude medal, Christian Wermuth:
“Wermuth, Christian: Christian Wermuth (1661-1739) was a famous German medallist, born in Altenberg and died in Gotha. He was educated in Dresden where he learned die-sinking. In 1689 he was appointed Engraver to the Mint at Gotha and in 1688 Court Medallist to the Ducal House of Saxony. In 1703 Wermuth was appointed Court Medallist to King Frederick I of Prussia. With the help of his pupils, Wermuth issued, over the space of about twenty years, over 1300 medals. Forrer notes that, with few exceptions, his medals are of little artistic merit. They are noteworthy, however, in that many of his medals were satirical in content, some of which were suppressed and consequently of great rarity. Included in this group of satirical medals are a large number of anti-Semitic medals, such as the Korn Jude and Feder Jude medals. Indeed, Christian Wermuth has the unsavory reputation of being the foremost anti-Semitic medallist in history (see Friedenberg). [emphasis added]”
Following in the footsteps of Christian Wermuth, Johann Christian Reich (1740-1814), made the next Korn Jude medal.
In his book Jewish Medals, “From the Renaissance to the Fall of Napoleon (1503-1815)” Daniel Freidenburg comments that the Korn Jude medals exist almost continuously from 1694 to 1773 (and then again in 1923).
By 1923, the last time the Korn Jew medal appeared, Hitler had already taken over the Nazi party and the party grew rapidly in the years of economic crisis in Germany between 1919- 1923. This followed Germany’s defeat in World War I and the Treaty of Versailles, when the German currency was being devalued.
Of course, by studying the history of the Korn Jude medals, one can see that by the time Adolf Hitler came onto the scene, there was already a well spring of hundreds of years of Christian antisemitism in Germany that he had to draw upon.
On a final note, The Korn Jude medal I found on Ebay sold for $185.00. I never bid on it. I was too busy looking up its history. In retrospect, I wish I had bid on it so I could have shown it to my children.