TIME France

Small French Town Resistant to Change Name From ‘Death to Jews’

A Jewish group has petitioned to change the name of La-mort-aux-Juifs

A Jewish organization is petitioning French officials that a small hamlet outside of Paris change its name from what translates in English as “Death to Jews.”

“[The fact that the name] was unnoticed during seventy years since the liberation of France from the Nazis and Vichy is most shocking,” Shimon Samuels, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s international relations, wrote to France’s Interior Minister.

Here’s the town on Yahoo! Maps:

But the deputy mayor of Courtemaux, the village of 289 people that oversees the contested hamlet, is resistant to a name change, arguing that the tradition should be respected.

“It’s ridiculous. This name has always existed,” Marie-Elizabeth Secretand told AFP. “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.”

Secretand also noted that the municipal council was petitioned to change the name of the town, which consists of two houses and a farm, 20 years ago, but that request was denied.

Still, Samuels urges a name change due to “the current surge in public and violent expressions of anti-Semitism” — Europe has seen a dramatic uptick of anti-Semitism ranging from protests to acts of violence in the past month — and for the town’s own monetary gains. Samuels noted that home values in La-Mort-Aux-Juifs is 14.1% less than the Courtemaux average.

In May, a Spanish town called Castrillo Matajudios (Little Hill Fort of Jew Killers) changed its name to Mota de Judios (Hill of the Jews).

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser