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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Nantes

Jewish settlement - expulsion in 1240 - influx of Jews from Portugal - professions and cultural life - Holocaust - influx of Jews from northern Africa

from: Nantes; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 12

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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<NANTES, city in Brittany, capital of the department of Loire-Atlantique, western France.

[Jewish settlement - Sixth Crusade preaching and expulsion in 1240]

The medieval community was apparently short-lived. The first mention of Jews there dates from 1234. IN 1236 the Jews of Nantes, as in the rest of *Brittany and other provinces of western France, were victims of a persecution which accompanied the preaching of the Sixth Crusade; it was followed by their expulsion in 1240. The importance of the community is shown by the cemetery for which evidence exists from 1231. The Rue des Juifs [[Jewish Street]] which the community occupied still retains its name.

[Influx of Jewish refugees (Marranos) from Portugal]

From the second half of the 16th century many Portuguese of *Marrano origin settled in Nantes. the Vaz, Mendez, Rodriguez, and other families found here generally became loyal Christians, whose members frequently chose an ecclesiastical career. Some Marranos whose sympathies  remained with Judaism occasionally passed through Nantes but did not settle there.

Thus, toward the end of the 16th century, Abraham d'Espinoza, the grandfather of Baruch *Spinoza, stayed in Nantes with a few members of his family before establishing himself in Holland. In 1636, however, several Portuguese Jews of *Bayonne, expelled from this frontier town at the time of the Franco-Spanish War, settled in the town.

[Professions - cultural life]

At the end of the 18th century a number of local merchants, in particular the old clothes dealers, instigated the prosecution of some Jewish merchants newly established in the town; however, public opinion sympathized with the Jews, as is particularly evident from the Journal de la Correspondence de Nantes [[Correspondence Journal of Nantes]] of 1789 to 1791, and the Feuille Nantaise [[Nantes Leaflet]] of 1795.

There were 25 families in Nantes in 1808-09. In 1834 they established an organized community with a membership of 18 families. A synagogue was built in 1870, and by 1898 there were about 50 families.

[[In 1871 the French Emperor system was abolished. Also the time from 1900 until 1940 is missing in the article, with decisive happenings like the development of the shipping industry, the international stock exchange crash of 1929 with heavy unemployment, and anti-Semitism by unemployment, and probably there was also a right radical and a royal movement]].


According to the census of 1942 carried out by the Vichy government, there were 531 Jews in Nantes. There were 53 at the beginning of September 1943. A number of Jews were arrested and imprisoned in the Caserne Richemont of Nantes but were deported in January 1944.

[[Probably many Jews were deported resp. drafted for forced labor in the "Organization Todt" for the construction of bunker systems, launching systems, tunnel systems, or for the "Atlantic Wall"]].

[Post-war period - influx of Jews from northern Africa]

After World War II very few Jewish families settled in Nantes and in 1960 there were only about 25. The growth of the town, and especially the arrival of Jews from North Africa, served to increase the Jewish community, so that by 1969 it had over 500 Jewish inhabitants. There was a combined synagogue and community center, religious instruction classes, and youth activities.


-- H. de Berranger: Evocation du vieux Nantes [[Evocation of the old Nantes]] (1966), 15, 25
-- Brunschvicg, in: REJ, 14 (1887), 80 ff.; 17 (1888), 123 ff.; 19 (1889), 294 ff.; 49 (1904), 110, 112
-- Z. Szajkowski: Analytical Franco-Jewish Gazetteer 1939-1945 [[Analytical French-Jewish Journal 1939-1945]] (1966), 213

[B.BL.]> (col. 817)
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Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Nantes, vol. 12,
                    col. 817
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Nantes, vol. 12, col. 817

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