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Tiny French Hamlet is Called ‘Death to the Jews’

Simon Wiesenthal Center wants La-Mort-aux-Juifs to change its name ASAP

Stephanie Butnick
August 14, 2014
La-Mort-aux-Juifs in France. (WSJ)
La-Mort-aux-Juifs in France. (WSJ)

A tiny hamlet 60 miles south of Paris has a very strange name, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center wants them to change it. La-Mort-aux Juifs, which translates to ‘Death to the Jews,’ consists of a farm and three houses, and according to the Wall Street Journal has been so named since the 11th century.

Perhaps inspired by the Spanish town of Castrillo Matajudios’ (‘Camp Kill Jews’) recent vote to change its name in response to public pressure (they went with the rather uninspired ‘Hill of the Jews’), the LA-based Simon Wiesenthal Center has written to France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve asking him to consider a new name for the hamlet.

Shimon Samuels, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director of international relations, who issued the letter, told the Journal he came across the town’s name in a real estate advertisement for land nearby. (He presumably didn’t buy.)

Still, not everyone sees what the big idea is.

“I really can’t understand why people are making such a fuss about all this. It’s just a farm and three houses,” said Marie-Elisabeth Secretand, a member of the village council of Courtemaux, which has authority over the hamlet.

Will La-Mort-aux-Juifs take a page from Castrillo Matajudios? It’s not as easy as simply voting to change the name—a formal request issued by local authorities would need to be reviewed by France’s Conseil d’État, who would then either approve or reject the request. All of which is to say, enough people in France need to care enough about this to take it on.

Given the disturbing climate of anti-Semitism in France right now (see: Jewish girl pepper sprayed; Jewish teen wearing yarmulke and tzitzit tasered; Jewish teens chased by ax-wielding man), perhaps it’s the perfect time to right a centuries-old wrong, if only in name.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.