Jewish group urges name change for French hamlet 'Death to Jews'

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A sign with the name of the village of Castrillo Matajudios (Kill Jews Fort) is seen near its entrance in northern Spain

A sign with the name of the village of Castrillo Matajudios (Kill Jews Fort) is seen near its entrance in northern Spain May 16, 2014. The village of Castrillo Matajudios, home to 56 mostly elderly people, in northern Spain will vote on May 25, 2014 on whether to change the name it has had for 400 years and purge a vestige of the religious persecution meted out by the Roman Catholic Inquisition. Village Mayor Lorenzo Rodriguez has led the drive to rename it Castrillo Mota Judios, or Hill of Jews. Picture taken May 16, 2014. To match SPAIN-VILLAGE/ REUTERS/Ricardo Ordonez (SPAIN - Tags: SOCIETY)

Paris (AFP) - Prominent Jewish group the Simon Wiesenthal Centre has sent a letter to France's interior minister to demand that a tiny hamlet south of Paris called "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" (La-mort-aux-Juifs).

"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," he wrote.

However, the deputy mayor of the village of Courtemaux -- population 289 -- which has jurisdiction over the hamlet located around 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Paris, dismissed the concerns.

"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," she added.

Changing the name would require a decision by the municipal council, which Secretand deemed unlikely.

"Why change a name that goes back to the Middle Ages or even further? We should respect these old names."

"A previous municipal council, at least 20 years ago, already refused to change the name of this hamlet, which consists of a farm and two houses," she explained.

In 1992, an anti-racism organisation lobbied the interior minister and the authorities at the time in vain to get the name changed.

In May, residents of a town in Spain with a similarly unfortunate name, Castrillo Matajudios ("Castrillo Kill Jews"), did vote to change the name.

They voted 29-19 in favour of scrapping the northern Spanish town's name, in existence since at least 1623, opting for the less offensive, older name, Mota de Judios, or "Hill of the Jews".