85 year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll was found dead on Friday in the blackened remains of her Paris apartment, with eleven stab wounds in her body. The Paris Prosecutor’s office announced Monday that they are pursuing the murder as an anti-Semitic hate crime.
Two men have been arrested for the crime. According to CNN, one of these men was Knoll’s neighbor, a 27-year-old with previously charged with sexually assaulting Knoll’s domestic helper. According to the Jerusalem Post, Knoll had known him since he was seven. One testimony even reported seeing them together the day of the murder. The other perpetrator is reported to be a 21-year-old homeless man with a violent record known to the authorities.
Knoll was a child during the now infamous Vel’ d’Hiv roundup, a mass accumulation of European Jews in Paris’s Vel’ d’Hiv stadium without food or water. Most of the survivors in the arena were moved to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
France has the largest Jewish community in Western Europe but is struggling with a trend of anti-Jewish crime. The murder of 66-year-old Orthodox Jewish kindergarten teacher Sarah Halimi in April 2017, which happened in the same neighborhood as Knoll’s, is often cited to illustrate that trend. While Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron has taken actions to smooth over tensions, the French government’s past reluctance to label Jewish murders as “anti-Semitic” has a lasting legacy.
“There are two contradictory elements here,” says prominent Jewish-French writer Bernard-Henri Lévy. “On the one hand, it’s true that Republican institutions are exemplary and do everything they can in the face of a rising anti-Semitism. But on the other, I am obligated to say that Jews are again being killed on the streets of Paris by virtue of being Jewish.”