Mireille Knoll survived the Holocaust as a young girl after nearly being sent to Auschwitz. Now police in France say she has been horrifically murdered in what they call an anti-Semitic attack.
The brutal murder, in which the 85-year-old woman was stabbed multiple times before her flat was burned down in Paris, has sparked outrage throughout the world and in Jewish communities. The Paris prosecutor said that Knoll was killed because of the “membership, real or supposed of the victim of a particular religion,” which means authorities are saying she was “killed because she was Jewish,” The New York Times reported.
One of the suspects is accused of shouting “Allahu Akbar” during the murder and saying “She’s a Jew, she must have money.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Knoll Survived the Vel d’Hiv Round Up During the Nazi Era
Part of what makes the murder so resonant with people is the fact that Knoll survived the most virulent anti-Semitism the world has ever known: She survived the Holocaust.
“In 1942, she escaped the notorious Vel d’Hiv round up of some 13,000 Jews in Paris, who were then deported to Nazi death camps,” BBC reported. She was only 9-years-old at the time. In the round up, “police herded some 13,000 people — including more than 4,000 children — into a stadium and shipped them to the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi German-occupied Poland. Fewer than 100 survived,” reported Times of Israel, which said that Mireille and her mother fled to Portugal before finding their home in France.
Knoll’s mother was able to escape the roundup with her daughter because she had a Brazilian passport, according to The New York Times.
2. One Suspect Was a Muslim Neighbor of Knoll, Who Was Remembered for Accepting Everyone
Although their names have not been released, French authorities do say they have two suspects in custody, ages 22 and 29. They are being investigated for Knoll’s murder. “One of them had previously been convicted of molesting a 12-year-old girl who had been staying at Mireille Knoll’s flat,” according to BBC.
Knoll’s family told the news media that one of the suspects was a Muslim neighbor whom Knoll had known since he was a child. “My mother accepted everyone. Even the neighbor who murdered her, she has known since he was seven years old. When he was a boy, he helped her,” Knoll’s son Daniel told Army Radio.
3. Mireille Knoll Was Stabbed Repeatedly in the Horrific Attack
Her body was partially burned during the blaze that lit her apartment on fire after the stabbing. The murder occurred in the 11th eastern district of Paris. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also said it was plausible that Knoll was murdered because she is Jewish.
4. France Has Seen a Rise in Anti-Semitism, With Some Comparing Knoll’s Murder to That of Sarah Halimi
According to the Times of Israel, “racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-Christian acts — most of which involve threats — dipped in 2017 compared with the year before.” However, anti-Semitic violence rose. Some are comparing the murder of Mireille Knoll to that of Sarah Halimi, another elderly Jewish woman who was murdered in France in what a judge labeled an anti-Semitic hate crime.
Kobili Traore, Halimi’s neighbor, was accused of killing her. According to UK Telegraph, the suspect, “who is of Malian descent, allegedly recited verses from the Koran while beating Ms Halimi before throwing her out of a third-floor window and shouting: ‘I’ve killed the Shaitan [devil in Arabic].’”
“At first we weren’t sure [the murder] was due to anti-Semitism. We waited for police to say it, and now we know the truth,” Knoll’s son told Army Radio of Mireille Knoll’s death. “Until now, I haven’t felt anti-Semitism in France. Of course there were dangerous Muslim extremists, but until today I didn’t feel in danger. I work with people from all walks of French society; many are afraid of Muslim extremists, but I didn’t feel that until now. Even today I’m not afraid. There are some who are uneducated, idiots, but they exist everywhere in the world.”
5. People Around the World Have Posted Tributes to Mireille Knoll
Social media filled with tributes to Mireille Knoll and condemnation of anti-Semitism in the world. “This brutal murder of 85 year old #Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll in Paris, serves as a tragic reminder of the consequences of the demonization of Jews in contemporary life,” wrote Yuval Rotem, director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel.
“To survive the Holocaust, only to be brutally attacked and murdered at age 85 for being Jewish is beyond cruel. We must #NeverForget and remain vigilant against Antisemitism. #RIP Mireille Knoll,” wrote one woman on Twitter. French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the attack, calling it a “horrific crime.”
“The Israeli granddaughter of #MireilleKnoll published a heartbreaking message,” wrote one man. “She responds to those who ask why she does not live in France, explaining that she is a survivor of that country which allowed the killing of her grandmother. Have we reached the point of no return?”