NANTES, city in Brittany, capital of the department of Loire-Atlantique, western France. The first mention of Jews there dates from 1234. In 1236 the Jews of Nantes, as well as those in the rest of brittany and other provinces of western France, were victims of a riot that broke out during the Sixth Crusade. The attack 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 which the community occupied still retains its name. 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 Nantes. At the end of the 18th century local merchants, led largely by the old clothes dealers, leveled legal charges against several Jewish merchants who were newly established in the town. Public opinion sympathized with the Jews, however, as evidenced in articles in the Journal de la Correspondence de Nantes of 1789 to 1791, and in the Feuille Nantaise of 1795. There were 25 Jewish 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. According to the census of 1942 carried out by the Vichy government, there were 531 Jews in Nantes. By the beginning of September 1943, the number had been reduced to 53 as a result of arrests and deportations. At first, some Jews were arrested and imprisoned in the Caserne Richemont of Nantes, but in January 1944 they were deported. After World War II, few Jewish families settled in Nantes and in 1960 there were said to be only about 25. The growth of the city, and especially the arrival of Jews from North Africa, led to an increase in the Jewish population. By 1969 Nantes had over 500 Jewish inhabitants. There was a combined synagogue and community center, religious instruction classes, and youth activities. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. de Berranger, Evocation du vieux Nantes (1966), 15, 25; Brunschvicg, in: REJ, 14 (1887), 80ff.; 17 (1888), 123ff.; 19 (1889), 294ff.; 49 (1904), 110, 112: Z. Szajkowski, Analytical Franco-Jewish Gazetteer 1939–1945 (1966), 213. (Bernhard Blumenkranz / David Weinberg (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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