French police suspect anti-Semitism in murder of Holocaust-era survivor

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A picture of Mireille Knoll taped on the door of her flat next to heart-shaped red papers and police seals in Paris, France, 27 March.

An autopsy showed she had been stabbed eleven times before the apartment was set on fire.

Although their names have not been released, French authorities do say they have two suspects in custody, ages 22 and 29. After the war, Knoll married a fellow Holocaust survivor, who died in the early 2000s, and settled down in Paris, where she lived until her death on Friday. Her case led to an outcry from local Jewish groups when it was not initially treated as a potential case of anti-Semitism.

According to the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF), one of the country's leading Jewish organisations, Mireille K. had been a survivor of the 1942 Vel' d'Hiv roundup by the Vichy regime during the Second World War which saw the mass arrest of over 13,000 Jews. She was only 9-years-old at the time.

French politician Meyer Habib has claimed that one of the suspects arrested was the neighbour of the victim, a 35-year-old Muslim man who was already well-known to police. "We can not yet say if the motive for the murder was anti-Semitism 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 anti-Semitism". Her body was discovered in her apartment on Friday.

During an official visit to Israel, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said "it was a very hard and emotional moment for me".

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.

"There have been 11 anti-Semitic murders since 2000 and added to that there is all the everyday violence that the Jewish community goes through". 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]'".

On Sunday, a spokesperson for SPCJ, the official monitor and security unit of the French Jewish community, told the 7sur7 news website that a preliminary examination of the crime "does not reveal an anti-Semitic characteristic, but this possibility has not been discounted as police investigate further". "Until now, I haven't felt anti-Semitism in France".

Reacting on Twitter President Emmanuel Macron condemned the "dreadful" killing and reiterated his determination to fighting anti-Semitism.

A French Jewish woman who escaped the Holocaust was brutally stabbed and burned in what prosecutors are calling an anti-Semitic attack.