Jewish group asks France to rename 'Death to Jews' hamlet

Screen grab from Google map image of La Mort aux Juifs hamlet Image copyright Other
Image caption Lobbyists tried unsuccessfully to get La Mort aux Juifs renamed twenty years ago

A prominent Jewish group, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, has asked the French government to rename a small village in central France that is currently called 'Death to Jews' ('La Mort aux Juifs').

The centre's director wrote to France's interior minister to request the removal of "this genocidal name".

In his letter, Shimon Samuels suggested the hamlet's name dated as far back as the 11th Century.

But local officials in the hamlet have dismissed any concerns over the name.

The hamlet comes under the jurisdiction of the village of Courtemaux, located some 100km (60 miles) south of Paris.

'Under the radar'

The director of the US-based Jewish organisation expressed shock at discovering "the existence of a village in France officially named 'La Mort aux Juifs", in a letter to Interior Minister Bernard Cazenave.

"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," Mr Samuels wrote.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The Simon Wiesenthal Centre is a global Jewish human rights organisation

Requesting the name change, Mr Samuels said "the current surge in public and violent expressions of anti-Semitism makes us uneasy regarding the motives of those seeking to reside at such an address".

He said the name could have been in existence since the Crusader pogroms that led to the expulsion of France's Jews in 1306.

But the deputy mayor of Courtemaux, Marie-Elizabeth Secretand, appeared to downplay any concerns over the name, telling Agence France-Presse news agency: "It's ridiculous. This name has always existed."

"No one has anything against the Jews, of course. It doesn't surprise me that this is coming up again," she added.

It is not the first time the hamlet has come under the spotlight. An anti-racism group lobbied the government to get the name changed in 1992 but was unsuccessful, AFP reports.

France has one of Europe's largest Jewish communities, totalling about 500,000.

But it has seen a rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents, spurred on by the recent flare up of the Israel-Gaza conflict.

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