French police charge suspects in murder of Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 27.03.2018
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French police charge suspects in murder of Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll

Police have charged two people over the violent murder of Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll. The 85-year-old, who escaped anti-Jewish purges in Paris during World War II, was stabbed and burned to death last week.

A photograph of Mireille Knoll surrounded by red hearts is stuck on the door of her apartment

Police red tape and a photograph of Mireille Knoll on the door of her apartment in eastern Paris

French authorities on Tuesday charged two men with the anti-Semitic murder of Mireille Knoll, an elderly Jewish French woman who was stabbed and burned to death in her eastern Paris apartment last week.

France's Jewish population — the largest in Western Europe — has warned of increasing anti-Semitism in the country and criticized authorities for not taking the threat seriously.

Read moreTaking on racism and hate speech in France

The case so far

  • Firefighters discovered the body of Mireille Knoll when they were called to put out a blaze at her apartment on Friday.
  • An autopsy revealed she had been stabbed repeatedly before being set on fire.
  • Police have charged two people with "murder related to the victim's religion, real or imagined" as well as aggravated robbery and destruction of property, judicial sources told AFP.
  • The pair has been placed in pre-trial detention.
  • According to AFP, both suspects are in their early 20s.
  • A police source said one of the men has a history of violent robbery, the other has convictions for rape and sexual assault.

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Call for protests

An umbrella group representing French Jewish organizations called for a march in Knoll's memory on Wednesday and urged "the fullest transparency" by authorities investigating the case.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter: "I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences on the appalling crime committed against Mrs. Knoll. I reaffirm my absolute determination to fight anti-Semitism."

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Knoll's death showed the need for a "fundamental and permanent" fight against anti-Semitism.

The chief rabbi of Paris, Haim Korsia, said he was "horrified" by the killing.

The apartment building of Mireille Knoll

Firemen discovered Knoll's body in her apartment

Escaping the Nazis

Knoll fled with her mother to Portugal when the roundup of more than 13,000 Jews began in Paris in 1942. Most of those Jews were later murdered in Nazi death camps.

After the war, she returned to the French capital and married a Holocaust survivor who died in the early 2000s.

Rising anti-Semitism

France's Jewish community, which numbers an estimated half a million people, has voiced alarm over what advocates describe as an increase in violent Islamist attacks.

Knoll's murder comes a month after a judge confirmed that the April 2017 killing of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman, was motivated by anti-Semitism. For months, authorities disregarded anti-Semitic motives in the killing of Halimi, who was beaten and thrown out her window.

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