Thousands march in Paris to honor murdered elderly Holocaust survivor

Thousands marched in Paris to honor the memory of Mireille Knoll, a Holocaust survivor who was murdered because she was Jewish.

By: Yossi Lempkowitcz- EJP / Exclusive to JNS and AP

Thousands part in a march in Paris on Wednesday in memory of Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old Jewish woman who survived Nazi horrors only to be stabbed to death last week in an anti-Semitic attack. The horrific murder provoked a strong emotion and revived worries about anti-Semitism in France.

The rally, from the Place de la Nation to the Knolls’ home in the 11th district of Paris where she was murdered, was marred by a polemic and protests over the presence of Jean-Luc Melenchon and Marine Le Pen, respectively leaders of the extreme-left and extreme-right.

CRIF, the umbrella representative body of French Jewish institutions, the organizer of the march, had declared that both politicians were not welcome because of the anti-Semitic sentiment prevalent among some of their party members.

Francois Kalifat, president of CRIF, told RTL radio that “anti-Semites are over-represented in the far left and the far right … Therefore they are not welcome.”

Nevertheless, National Front leader Marine Le Pen tweeted Wednesday that CRIF cannot stop her from attending. She has sought to distance herself from the anti-Semitism that stained her party in the past. “We have always defended the Jews against the Islamist terrorism,” she told journalists in the march.

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Booed by some participants, with crowds shouting “Nazi! Nazi!” and other insults, Le Pen’s body guard and her entourage formed a protective ring around her before riot police cut a corridor for her to leave.  The two politicians were forced to leave the march.

The bid to exclude the two political leaders was firmly opposed by Knoll’s son Daniel.

Noting that Knoll’s son, had said he wanted to encourage French national unity and that everyone “without exception” was welcome at the march, Le Pen said of the insults: “I find the behavior here undignified toward the (grieving) family.”

“Her son said he wanted everyone there, so we are here,” she said.

Melenchon said “we did our duty” by coming to show compassion, adding that the real subject of the march was “this woman killed barbarically.”

Murdered because she was Jewish

The tribute was one of many held throughout the day in cities across France to honor Knoll and denounce racism.

Mireille Knoll, a Holocaust survivor who narrowly escaped being deported to Auschwitz during World War II when 13,000 Jews were rounded up in July 1942 at the infamous Vel d’Hiv stadium in Paris, was found with 11 stab wounds in her apartment last Friday. The apartment was set ablaze after the attack and her body badly burnt.

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She was targeted because she was Jewish, a prosecutor confirmed. Two suspects have been charged with her murder.

French President Emmanuel Macron attended her funeral unannounced on Wednesday. The Elysee presidential palace said that Macron went to the ceremony in the cemetery in Bagneux, a Paris suburb, “in a personal capacity, to support the family”.

Earlier in the day, Macron denounced Knoll’s attacker as someone who “murdered an innocent and vulnerable woman because she was Jewish, and in doing so profaned our sacred values and our history”.