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As yet another antisemitic murder rocks France, the community turns to Macron

Mireille Knoll's murder is at least the tenth antisemitic killing in the country since 2006

    Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, who was found dead over the weekend
    Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, who was found dead over the weekend (Photo: Facebook)

    Mireille Knoll is the latest name to be seared into the collective mind of France’s Jewish community.

    Now that the court has confirmed an antisemitic motive and launched a formal investigation, the 85-year-old Ms Knoll joins a haunting list of French Jews murdered since 2006.

    That list includes Ilan Halimi, the 23-year-old phone salesman abducted tortured and killed in 2006; and Jonathan Sandler, his children Arieh and Gabriel, and Myriam Monsonego, who were all killed in the Toulouse school shooting six years later.

    Then there are Yohan Cohen, Philippe Braham, François-Michel Saada and Yoav Hattab, who were shot dead in the Paris Hyper Cacher supermarket, and Sarah Halimi, who was stabbed and thrown from her apartment balcony last year.

    A few months ago, President Emmanuel Macron attempted to show antisemitic hatred had resurfaced by reading out these victims’ names at a memorial to commemorate the anniversary of Vel d’Hiv, a mass round-up of Parisian Jews in 1942.

    Mireille Knoll was then a nine-year-old child and escaped those arrests thanks to her mother’s Brazilian citizenship.

    She remained in Paris for sixty years after the war, living in the same apartment in which she was found on Friday, allegedly murdered by her neighbour.

    “The circumstances are symbolically charged,” Francis Kalifat, the president of French Jewish umbrella group Crif, told the JC.

    Her body was found in this apartment block in the 11th arrondisement of Paris
    Her body was found in this apartment block in the 11th arrondisement of Paris (Photo: Getty Images)

    “It’s extremely striking to see someone who escaped the Vel d’Hiv roundup, survived Nazism and World War II France being murdered in such a brutal way.

    “The victim was shown no mercy. She was stabbed relentlessly eleven times and then her attackers set her apartment on fire.”

    In recent years, several Jews have been assaulted in their homes. They included the family of 78-year-old community figure Roger Pinto, who was held captive and beaten up last September, and a young couple who were attacked in their Creteil apartment in December 2014.

    Earlier this month at the annual Crif dinner, Mr Macron addressed the case of another Jewish woman killed nearly a year ago under similar circumstances as Mireille Knoll.

    Like Ms Knoll, Sarah Halimi was tortured and stabbed multiple times in her own home.

    In the Halimi case, the killer clearly referred to his victim’s faith, shouting that he had killed Satan and yelling verses from the Quran before throwing her out of the balcony.

    The community was shocked not just by the violence but the opacity surrounding the investigation. It took ten months for the judge to qualify the attack as antisemitic.

    “It took us months and months to recognise what was obvious from the very start to those who discovered the crime,” Mr Macron told the Jewish community.

    Now the Jewish community is pushing for more transparency in all cases, starting with Mireille Knoll’s murder.

    “We want to know what precisely what happened and refuse to face again the silence that followed Sarah Halimi’s assassination a year ago in the same quarter of Paris,” community leader Joel Mergui said.

    To Crif, President Macron said “France will never abandon Jews” and that he was ashamed Jews who had been threatened had been advised to move away.

    “Ensuring security is the state’s first duty,” he said.

    The Jewish community is waiting to see what concrete steps he is willing to take.

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