Time for Change in French Hamlet Named Death to the Jews

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The Spanish village of Castrillo Matajudíos, which recently changed its name. Credit: castrillomatajudios.es

A French deputy mayor has expressed opposition to changing the name of a tiny hamlet under her jurisdiction called Death to the Jews (Mort-Aux-Juifs.)

Marie-Elisabeth Secretand of the village of Courtemaux was reacting to a letter sent Monday by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve urging him to have the name changed.

“It’s absurd, this name has existed for ages,” she said, in an interview with AFP. “Of course no one means to harm the Jews.”

According to Secretand, Mort-Aux-Juifs is made up of a farm and two homes. She added that a local council declined a motion to have the village renamed 20 years ago.

In his letter, Shimon Samuels, the Wiesenthal Center’s director for international relations, implored Cazeneuve to seek “the earliest removal of this genocidal name and its replacement with an identity rather more welcoming to all.”

The name has a long history, possibly dating back the 11th-century pogroms that ended with the expulsion of France’s 110,000 Jews by King Philip IV of France in 1306.

Samuels wrote that he found it shocking “that the name remained under Napoleon’s emancipation of French Jewry … [and] was unnoticed during the 70 years since the liberation of France from the Nazis and Vichy.”

Earlier this year, a majority of residents in a village in northern Spain, Castrillo MataJudios, voted to change their municipality’s name because it meant “Camp kill Jews.”

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