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 once again defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti.
On Wednesday evening, Castrillo Mota de Judíos, which means the hill camp of the Jews, was daubed with a neo-Nazi symbol and garbage cans were set on fire. Two graffiti referred to the old name of the village – Castrillo Matajudíos, or Camp Kill Jews in English – which was changed after a referendum eight years ago.
It read: “Camp Kill Jews, twinned with Aushwitch [sic].”
The village has been a target of anti-Semites since its name was officially changed in 2015 and plans were announced to open a Jewish memory center.
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 has sold himself to the killer Jew,” and references to 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 authorities to act. “We want to once again express our deepest disgust and dismay following this new incident at Castrillo Mota de Judíos,” said the federation’s general secretary, Maxo Benalal.
“We call on the police to do their job as quickly and efficiently as possible, and on the courts to apply the criminal code as strictly as possible. Spain is not a racist country and we cannot let incidents like this go unpunished.
Lorenzo Rodríguez, the mayor of Castrillo Mota de Judíos, which is in the province of Burgos in Spain’s northern region of Castilla y León, called the perpetrators of the attacks cowards. He said the tragedy was only averted through the efforts of local people who put out the trash fires.
“[The perpetrators] will not succeed in making us abandon our objective which is to restore the Jewish memory of Castrillo”, he said. “Truth and courage always defeat hate and cowardice. We will never kneel down.
The settlement is believed 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 commercial hub and was home to over 1,000 people, life changed dramatically when Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492.
Some scholars believe the name was changed to signal loyalty to Catholicism and the crown, while others believe it may have been a slip, changing Mota (hill) to mata (kill).
Seven years ago, Spain tried to atone for what it called a “false history” of the expulsion and persecution of its Jewish communities by offering citizenship to the descendants of those who were driven out of their homeland.
The offer, which expired in October 2019, led to 132,226 people of Sephardic origin applying for Spanish citizenship.