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Parisians urged to take to streets after murder of Holocaust survivor

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo calls for all the city’s residents to march Wednesday in memory of Mireille Knoll, who was stabbed to death in an apparent anti-Semitic attack

This AFP TV video frame grab shows a picture of Mireille Knoll, heart-shaped papers and police seals posted on the door of her apartment in Paris, March 27, 2018. (Laetitia PERON)
This AFP TV video frame grab shows a picture of Mireille Knoll, heart-shaped papers and police seals posted on the door of her apartment in Paris, March 27, 2018. (Laetitia PERON)

PARIS — French leaders and activists called for people to take to the streets to protest racism after prosecutors filed preliminary charges of murder with anti-Semitic motives Tuesday in the death of an elderly Jewish woman.

Mireille Knoll, 85, was killed Friday in her apartment, which was then set on fire, according to a French judicial official. Francis Kalifat, president of the Jewish group CRIF, said Knoll was stabbed 11 times.

Two men have been jailed in the case, according to the judicial official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. They were handed preliminary charges of robbery, damaging property, and murder with anti-Semitic motives, he said.

Mireille Knoll, 85, a Holocaust survivor who was found murdered in her Paris apartment (Courtesy)

According to reports, Knoll escaped a notorious World War II roundup of Paris Jews, in which police herded some 13,000 people — including more than 4,000 children — into a stadium and shipped them to the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi German-occupied Poland. Fewer than 100 survived.

Then aged 9, Knoll fled with her mother to Portugal, returning to France only after the end of the war.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo called on “all Parisians” to join a silent march Wednesday in memory of Knoll. Politicians across the political spectrum pledged to attend.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that Knoll’s death was a “horrific crime,” and reaffirmed his “absolute determination to fight against anti-Semitism.”

Outside view of a smoke stained window of Mireille Knoll’s apartment, in Paris, France, March 27, 2018. (Christophe Ena/AP)

The CRIF compared the killing to that of Sarah Halimi, 65, who was beaten and thrown from her balcony last April. That murder was reclassified as anti-Semitic last month. The suspect is in a psychiatric hospital.

France’s government presented a plan this month to fight racism and anti-Semitism, focusing on social media and prevention in schools. It also wants to change French law to force internet platforms to detect and remove illegal content.

An annual national count of racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-Christian acts — most of which involve threats — dipped in 2017 compared with the year before. But anti-Semitic violence increased by 26 percent, and criminal damage to Jewish places of worship and burial by 22 percent.

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