By Yossi Lempkowicz
(EJP / Exclusive to JNS via JNS) As the Ledger went press, the umbrella representative body of French Jewish organizations, known as Crif, was planning a rally for Wednesday, March 28 in Paris in memory of Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old Jewish woman brutally killed in her apartment.
Prosecutors investigating the slaying Knowl was targeted her because she was Jewish.
Knoll, who lived alone in the 11th district of Paris, was found after her apartment was set ablaze, police sources said. An autopsy showed her charred body also had at least 11 stab wounds.
A Holocaust survivor, Knoll had managed to evade as a child the 1942 Vel d’Hiv Nazi-directed roundup by French police of more than 13,000 Jews who were sent to Nazi death camps.
Her murder, one year after a similar crime against Sarah Halimi, a 66-year-old Jewish teacher and physician, by her Muslim neighbor caused shock and emotion within the Jewish community.
Two men have been arrested over the killing of Mireille Knoll. One man was placed Saturday in custody, and a few hours later, so was a second man, according to Le Figaro. The prosecutor’s office reportedly has asked that the suspects remain in preventative custody. They will face possible charges of “murder related to the victim’s religion, real or imagined,” as well as aggravated robbery and destruction of property, AFP reported, citing judicial sources.
A family member of Mireille Knoll said she suspected a neighbor who used to come to see her and was in the apartment during the day. It is this man, born in 1989, who was placed Saturday in custody. “Apparently, my mother knew him very well and considered him a son,” the victim’s son told Agence France Presse.
A granddaughter of Knoll, Noa Goldfarb, wrote on Facebook that the neighbor was a 35-year-old Muslim whom the murdered woman had known since he was a child.
“Twenty years ago, I left Paris knowing that neither my future nor that of the Jewish People is to be found there,” wrote Goldfarb, who lives in Herzliya, Israel. “But who would’ve thought that I was leaving my relatives where terrorism and cruelty would lead to such a tragedy. Grandmother was stabbed to death 11 times by a Muslim neighbor she knew well, who made sure to set fire to her home and left us not even one object, a letter, a photograph, to remember her by. All we have are our tears and each other.”
“We do not dismiss any hypothesis. A preliminary examination of the elements of the crime does not reveal an antisemitic characteristic, but this possibility has not been discounted as police investigate further,” said a spokesperson for the Jewish Community Protection Service, which works closely with the French police.
“The barbarity of this murder sends us back to that of Sarah Halimi just one year ago,” said Francis Kalifat, president of Crif. He urged “the fullest transparency” by the authorities investigating the killing, “so that the motive of this barbarous crime is known as quickly as possible.”
Joel Mergui, president of the Jewish Consistory, said he doesn’t want “to allow to reproduce the silence that followed the assassination of Sarah Halimi a year ago in the same district.”
The World Jewish Congress also called on French authorities to show full transparency in the investigation. Its CEO, Robert Singer, said, “The World Jewish Congress stands together with the French Jewish community in deploring the horrific and barbaric murder of an elderly Holocaust survivor in Paris this week, and in calling on the French authorities to demonstrate full transparency in the ongoing investigation, to ensure that the motivation behind this heinous crime is known as soon as possible, and that is treated with the utmost seriousness it deserves.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who was in Israel on an official visit, said Monday afternoon following a meeting in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that France needs to “continue fighting against antisemitism.”
“I had a very moving and difficult moment when I had just concluded my visit to Yad Vashem. I heard about the outrageous murder of Mirelle Kanol – a Holocaust survivor – in Paris,” Le Drian said. “We cannot yet say if the motive for the murder was antisemitism but it is reasonable to assume, it will not be surprising and, therefore, this only strengthens the fact that this struggle has not ended, and that we will need to continue fighting against antisemitism.”