Jewish group urges name change for French hamlet called ‘Death to Jews’

Prominent Jewish group the Simon Wiesenthal Centre has sent a letter to France’s interior minister to demand a tiny hamlet south of Paris called La Mort aux Juifs, or “Death to Jews”, be renamed. The group’s director of international affairs, Shimon Samuels, wrote to Bernard Cazeneuve saying he was “shocked to discover the existence of a village in France officially called ‘Death to Jews’”. But the deputy mayor of Courtemaux—population 289—which has jurisdiction over the hamlet 97 kilometres south of Paris, dismissed the concerns.

It is extremely shocking that this name has slipped under the radar in the 70 years that have passed since France was liberated from Nazism and the [pro-Nazi] Vichy regime.

Shimon Samuels, director of international affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre

"It’s ridiculous. This name has always existed," Marie-Elizabeth Secretand said. Changing the name would require a decision by the municipal council, which Secretand deemed unlikely. In May, residents of a village in Spain with a similarly unfortunate name, Castrillo Matajudios ("Castrillo Kill Jews"), voted to change the name. In a tight referendum, the citizens opted for the less offensive, older name for the town, Mota de Judios, or "Hill of the Jews".

No one has anything against the Jews, of course. It doesn’t surprise me that this is coming up again. Why change a name that goes back to the Middle Ages or even further? We should respect these old names.

Marie-Elizabeth Secretand, deputy mayor of Courtemaux