Two days after the brutal murder of an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor in Paris, French police now have two men in custody.
According to Paris prosecutors, the victim, Mireille Knoll, suffered from severe arthritis and could hardly move. The French newspaper Le Monde reported that the first suspect is 27 years old, and one of Knoll’s neighbors who used to visit her on a regular basis. The man was known to the police, as he raped and sexually harassed the underage daughter of Knoll’s caretaker. Knoll, the caretaker, and the caretaker’s daughter, who is 12, were all living in the apartment. The man, considered the prime suspect, was arrested on Saturday, a day after the murder.
The second man is a homeless 21 year old, and was arrested during the weekend near Opéra Bastille. He is suspected to have attended the murder, but the extent of his participation is unclear. He was known to the police for previous convictions for robbery, threats, and burglary. According to press reports, the second suspect told the police that he heard Knoll’s neighbor screaming “allahu akbar” prior to stabbing the elderly woman to death. Both suspects remain in custody.
Gilles-William Goldnadel, a prominent lawyer based in the French capital, will represent the victim during the upcoming trial. In an interview for French TV, he said Knoll was probably the victim of “fantaisies that French Jews are all rich.” He also said that antisemitism was rampant and increasing in popular neighborhoods, including the one where Knoll was living. “It is an Islamistic anti-Semitism,”, he concluded.
Several members of Knoll’s family have shared their sorrow and despair online, especially on Facebook. Noa Goldfard, her granddaughter, wrote on her wall: “I left Paris 20 years ago as I felt I would not have a future there, either for me or for the Jewish people. I have left my siblings without knowing they would stay in such a cruel and violent country.”
While the funeral is set to happen tomorrow in Bagneux cemetery in the Paris suburbs, the CRIF, the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, is organizing a memorial rally at Nation square tomorrow evening Paris time, near where Knoll lived. Thousands of participants are expected to attend.
Annabelle Azadé is a journalist based in Los Angeles. She has reported from Bangkok, New York, Tel Aviv, London, and Paris.