An 85-year-old woman who survived the Holocaust was murdered in her apartment in Paris last week.
Mireille Knoll was stabbed repeatedly before her attackers set her apartment on fire. Firefighters discovered her body when they rushed to the building to put out the fire on Friday.
Two people were arrested and charged with murder with anti-Semitic motives along with robbery and damaging property, sources told The Associated Press.
A French judicial official said that Knoll was stabbed 11 times and was dead before the fire started.
Knoll’s family members told Israeli media outlets that she had known one of the people arrested since he was 7 years old.
“My mother accepted everyone. Even the neighbor who murdered her, she has known since he was 7 years old. When he was a boy, he helped her,” Knoll’s son Daniel told Army Radio, reported the Times of Israel.
“At first we weren’t sure [the murder] was due to anti-Semitism. We waited for police to say it, and now we know the truth.Until now, I haven’t felt anti-Semitism in France. Of course, there were dangerous Muslim extremists, but until today I didn’t feel in danger.”
He added, “I work with people from all walks of French society; many are afraid of Muslim extremists, but I didn’t feel that until now. Even today I’m not afraid. There are some who are uneducated, idiots, but they exist everywhere in the world.”
Police officers said Knoll had called police officers before and complained that the neighbor threatened to kill her.
The killing has sparked an outcry, with French-Jewish organizations calling for a march in Knoll’s memory on Wednesday and saying officials have to be transparent in their investigation.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the death showed the need for a “fundamental and permanent” fight against anti-Semitism, reported DW.
French President Emmanuel Macron released a statement after the death was reported.
J’exprime mon émotion devant le crime épouvantable commis contre Mme Knoll. Je réaffirme ma détermination absolue à lutter contre l’antisémitisme. https://t.co/FcSb1gqkQo
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) March 26, 2018
“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,” he said.
Just last month, a judge confirmed that the April 2017 killing of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman who was beaten before being thrown out of a window, was motivated by anti-Semitism.
Knoll escaped a roundup of Paris Jews during World War II. Then 9 years old, Knoll fled France with her mother to Portugal. She returned after the war. Some 13,000 people were rounded up in Paris and sent to the Auschwitz death camp. Fewer than 100 survived.