(JTA) — A French deputy mayor said she was opposed to changing the name of a locality under her jurisdiction called “death to the Jews.”
Marie-Elisabeth Secretand of the village of Courtemaux advocated keeping the name of Mort-Aux-Juifs in an interview with the news agency AFP. Secretand 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. “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.”
According to Samuels, the name is apparently of long date, possibly as far as the 11th-century pogroms that ended with the expulsion of France’s 110,000 Jews by King Philip IV of France in 1306.
Samuels found surprising “that the name remained under Napoleon’s emancipation of French Jewry,” adding “that it was unnoticed during seventy years since the liberation of France from the Nazis and Vichy is most shocking.”
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.”