Montreal to rename avenue, park named for alleged Nazi sympathizer Alexis Carrel

An east-end Montreal avenue and park named after French Nobel Prize-winner and alleged Nazi sympathizer Alexis Carrel will officially be renamed, the city’s executive council announced Wednesday.

Carrel won Nobel Prize in 1912 but career was later tainted by support for eugenics, alleged Nazi ties

Alexis Carrel was a French research scientist, surgeon and biologist. He died in 1944 under a cloud of suspicions that he collaborated with the Nazis. (Library of Congress)

An east-end Montreal avenue and park named after French Nobel Prize-winner and alleged Nazi sympathizer Alexis Carrel will officially be renamed, the city's executive council announced Wednesday.

Both the avenue and the park are found in Montreal's Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles borough.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre had announced last year that both would be renamed, but the move was only made official Wednesday.

Coderre committed to removing all vestiges of Carrel from the city in April 2016 after David Birnbaum, the Liberal MNA for D'Arcy-McGee, called on him and other Quebec mayors to strip their municipalities of locations named in his honour.

In 2015, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA-Quebec) launched a campaign to this end, targeting Montreal, Boisbriand and Châteauguay.

'Great news for all Montrealers'

The executive committee's motion proposes to rename Alexis-Carrel Avenue after Rita Levi-Montalcini, the Italian Nobel Prize laureate known for her work in neurobiology.

Alexis-Carrel Park will be renamed Don-Bosco Park after the Italian saint John Bosco, a 19th-century Roman Catholic priest best known for his work with children and youth.

Alexis-Carrel Park in R.D.P. will be renamed Don-Bosco Park, after the Italian saint John Bosco. (Google Street View)

The changes still have to be approved by Montreal's city council when it meets on Aug. 21.

Eta Yudin, vice president of the CIJA-Quebec, welcomed the executive committee's move.

"It's great news for all Montrealers — the naming of streets should be done after someone we honour for great accomplishments, ones we can be proud of," she said. 

Yudin noted that the City of Gatineau has already removed Carrel's name from a street there.

She said CIJA-Quebec is hoping Boisbriand and Châteauguay follow Gatineau and Montreal's lead. 

Carrel's career besmirched by eugenics, alleged Nazi sympathies

Carrel was a pioneering research scientist, surgeon and biologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1912 for his work on vascular suturing and the transplantation of blood vessels.

He was also a supporter of eugenics, which figured prominently in his 1935 book Man, the Unknown.

In the preface of the 1936 German edition of the book, Carrel praised the eugenics program introduced by Adolf Hitler's National Socialist government.

The program, he said, was a useful means of curbing undesirable populations, including those with genetic defects, the mentally ill, and criminals.

In the same book, he recommended the use of gas chambers to rid society of certain populations.

He died in 1944 under a cloud of suspicions that he collaborated with the Nazis.

With files from Brennan Neill