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Antisemites again target Spanish village that dropped ‘Kill Jews’ name

Jewish groups in Spain are calling for urgent action after a small village synonymous with the country’s medieval persecution of its Jewish population was again defaced with antisemitic graffiti.

On Wednesday night Castrillo Mota de Judíos, which means Jews’ Hill Camp, was daubed with a neo-Nazi symbol and bins were set alight. Two pieces of graffiti referenced the village’s old name – Castrillo Matajudíos, or Camp Kill Jews in English – which was changed after a referendum eight years ago.

One read: “Camp Kill Jews, twinned with Aushwitch [sic].”

The village has been targeted by antisemites since its name was officially changed in 2015 and plans were announced to open a Jewish memory centre.

The latest attack comes eight months after the village was sprayed with phrases such as “Juden Raus [Jews out]”; “Long live the Catholic monarchs”; “The mayor’s sold out to the killer Jew”, and references to the grand inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada.

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain (FCJE) said the “intimidating” attacks could have resulted in a dangerous fire, and called on the authorities to act. “We once again want to express our deepest disgust and dismay in the wake of this new incident in Castrillo Mota de Judíos,” said the federation’s secretary general, Maxo Benalal.

“We call on the police to do their job as quickly and effectively as possible, and for the courts to apply the penal code as strictly as possible. Spain is not a racist country and we can’t allow incidents like this to go unpunished.”

Lorenzo Rodríguez, the mayor of Castrillo Mota de Judíos, which is in the Burgos province of the northern Spanish region of Castilla y León, called those behind the attacks cowards. He said tragedy had only been avoided thanks to the efforts of local people who put out the bin fires.

“[The perpetrators] will not succeed in getting us to abandon our objective, which is restoring Castrillo’s Jewish memory,” he said. “Truth and courage always beat hatred and cowardice. We will never kneel.”

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The settlement is thought to have been established in the 11th century by a group of Jews who had been expelled from a nearby village. Although it became a popular trading hub and home to more than 1,000 people, life changed drastically when Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand expelled Jews from Spain in 1492.

Some researchers believe the name was changed to signal loyalty to Catholicism and the crown, while others think it may have been a slip of the pen, changing mota (hill) to mata (kill).

Seven years ago, Spain attempted to atone for what it termed the “historical wrong” of the expulsion and persecution of its Jewish communities by offering citizenship to the descendants of those who were forced from their homeland.

The offer, which expired in October 2019, resulted in 132,226 people of Sephardic descent applying for Spanish citizenship.

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