Spain: Town that changed anti-Semitic name suffers vandalism

AP News
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Posted: May 05, 2016 8:46 AM

MADRID (AP) — An ancient Spanish town that voted to change its anti-Semitic name has come under attack from extremist groups who have daubed signposts and buildings with offensive right-wing symbols and messages protesting the switch.

Castrillo Mota de Judios ("Jews' Hill Camp") Mayor Lorenzo Rodriguez Perez said Thursday that the town filed a complaint with police after the latest weekend attack.

The north-central village of some 50 inhabitants held a referendum in 2014 to change its name from Castrillo Matajudios ("Camp Kill Jews") to its current form. Rodriguez said that there have been six vandalism incidents since then as well as protests whenever Jewish or Israeli representatives visited.

He said the graffiti and vandalism by people who don't live in the town would not change the town's push to honor its Jewish origins.

"They do it so that the town won't continue with the process of the name change and recognizing the town's Jewish past," said Rodriguez. "They want to intimidate us but they won't."

Town hall officials plan to visit Israel in July for a twinning ceremony with the village of Kfar Vradim.

In the latest attack, the old town name was sprayed onto new road signs and as well as the extremist symbol of a circle with a cross. Rodriguez said that previously the town hall had been pasted with flyers.

Documents show the town's original name was "Jews' Hill Camp" and that the "Kill Jews" name dates from 1627, after a 1492 Spanish edict ordering Jews to convert to Catholicism or flee the country. Those who remained faced the Spanish Inquisition, with many burned at the stake.

Researchers believe the village got its previous name from Jewish residents who converted to Catholicism and wanted to convince Spanish authorities of their loyalty. Others suspect the change may have come from a slip of the pen.

No Jews live in the village now but many residents have Jewish roots and the town's official shield includes the Star of David.