"famous Golem, Rabbi Loew's miraculous automaton"

In Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being made from inanimate matter. The word was used to mean an amorphous, unformed material in Psalms. In the Talmud, Adam was initially created as a golem when his dust was "kneaded into a shapeless husk".

Rabbi Loew and Golem
Public DomainRabbi Loew and Golem - Credit: Mikoláš Aleš

The most famous golem narrative involves Rabbi Loew ben Bezalel, Chief Rabbi of Prague in the late 16th century. Legend has it that the Rabbi created a golem to defend the Prague ghetto from anti-Semitic attacks.  The Jews in Prague were to be expelled or killed under the rule of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor.  The Rabbi constructed the Golem out of clay from the banks of the Vltava river, and brought it to life. The golem however became increasingly violent, killing many people. The Emperor begged Rabbi Loew to destroy the Golem, promising to stop the persecution of the Jews. To deactivate the Golem, the rabbi rubbed out the first letter of the word "emet" (truth or reality) on the creature's forehead, leaving the Hebrew word "met", meaning dead. The Golem's body was stored in the attic of the Old New Synagogue. 

A recent legend tells of a Nazi agent ascending to the synagogue attic during World War II and trying to stab the Golem, but he died instead.  In 1974, Marvel Comics introduced "The Golem" as a recurring character in its Strange Tales comic book series. 

The legend of Rabbi Loew’s golem is told in the 1920 horror fantasy Movie, Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam, starring Paul Weneger, Albert Steinruck and Ernst Deutsch.