MADRID (JTA) — A tiny village in northern Spain that from 1627 until 2015 was named Fort Kill the Jews was hit with antisemitic graffiti on Wednesday, and its mayor said he believes neo-Nazi groups carried out the vandalism because they had heard a Jewish family was moving back into the town.
As reported by the El País daily, the family will soon join another Jewish one that moved to the town earlier this year — the first to do so since medieval times.
Originally named Castrillo Motajudíos, or Jew’s Hill Fort, in 1035 when Jews fleeing from a neighboring pogrom settled there, the town was renamed Castrillo Matajudíos — Fort Kill The Jews — in 1627, during a period of extreme religious persecution carried out by the Inquisition.
Vandals spray painted the word Auschwitz, the name of the infamous former Nazi camp, onto one of the village’s signs with its restored current name. They also wrote the Fort Kill the Jews name onto a signpost that leads into the town. Several garbage containers throughout the village were lit on fire.
Mayor Lorenzo Rodríguez told the elDiario.es website that he thinks neo-Nazi or other antisemitic groups from Madrid, Valencia or Santander are behind the vandalism, and that they acted when they learned that a Jewish family is moving into the town of around 50 people.
The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain condemned the vandalism in a news release.
“The Federation asks the relevant authorities to strengthen preventive measures to avoid these incidents and to identify those involved in the recurrent attacks on the village of Castrillo Mota de Judíos,” the release reads. “We express our solidarity with the people of Castrillo and its Mayor, Mr. Lorenzo Rodriguez.”
Rodríguez initiated a referendum that led to the town’s name change in 2015, and he has continued to work on restoring the town’s Jewish past. His most recent project is the construction of the Center of Jewish Memory of Castilla y León along the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route undertaken annually by hundreds of thousands of Christians. It was expected to open this summer but is still under construction.
This is not the first time the town has been targeted with antisemitic graffiti, which has recurred since the name change in 2015. Last December, several sites across the village were defaced, including the entrance to the town hall, the signpost on the road entering the village, the planned location for the future cultural center, and the sign commemorating the town’s sisterhood with the Israeli city of Kfar Vradim. Tomás de Torquemada, the first leader of the Inquisition, was glorified in one of the scrawlings.