PARIS, France — Two men have been arrested over the killing of an 85-year-old Jewish woman, a Holocaust survivor, whose stabbed body was found after her Paris apartment was set ablaze, police sources said Monday.
An autopsy conducted on the woman, identified Monday as Mireille Knoll, who lived alone, showed her charred body also had at least 11 stab wounds.
A forensic examination of the apartment showed that an arsonist started a fire in at least five distinct areas of that space, the report also said.
An anti-Semitism watchdog initially said the case was reminiscent of an alleged anti-Semitic hate crime, but later said there was no immediate evidence of anti-Semitism.
“A preliminary examination of the elements of the crime does not reveal an anti-Semitic characteristic, but this possibility has not been discounted as police investigate further,” said a spokesperson for the Jewish Community Protection Service (SPCJ), which works closely with the French police.
The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, wrote in a statement Sunday that the suspected murder “is reminiscent of the crime committed against Sarah Halimi,” a 66-year-old Jewish teacher and physician, whom prosecutors say was murdered by her Muslim neighbor in April partly in connection with her Jewish identity
The Paris prosecutor’s office said Sunday that it had not yet determined a motive, but “is not excluding any hypothesis.”
One suspect was identified as a a 29-year-old man. No details were given on the second suspect.
However, a granddaughter of Knoll, Noa Goldfarb, wrote on Facebook that her grandmother was murdered by a neighbor who is a Muslim.
“Twenty years ago, I left Paris knowing that neither my future nor that of the Jewish People is to be found there,” wrote Goldfarb, who lives in Herzliya, Israel. “But who would’ve thought that I was leaving my relatives where terrorism and cruelty would lead to such a tragedy. Grandmother was stabbed to death 11 times by a Muslim neighbor she knew well, who made sure to set fire to her home and left us not even one object, a letter, a photograph, to remember her by. All we have are our tears and each other.”
A Paris lawmaker who spoke with one of the woman’s sons said she had managed to evade as a child the notorious 1942 roundup of over 13,000 Jews in Paris during World War II.
Fewer than 100 of those who were were detained at the so-called Vel d’Hiv cycling track and then sent to the Nazi death camps survived.
The CRIF umbrella grouping of French Jewish organizations urged “the fullest transparency” by the authorities investigating the killing, “so that the motive of this barbarous crime is known as quickly as possible.”
France’s half-a-million-plus Jewish community has voiced increasing concern over a rise in violent anti-Semitic acts.
“The barbarity of this murder sends us back to that of Sarah Halimi just one year ago,” Francis Kalifat, president of the CRIF umbrella of French Jewish communities, said in a statement Monday.
Halimi was a 66-year-old Jewish teacher and physician whom prosecutors say was murdered by her Muslim neighbor in April partly in connection with her Jewish identity. Anti-Semtisim was included in the indictment against Halimi’s suspcted killer, Kobili Traore, 28, after CRIF and BNVCA vocally protested its absence from the draft document.
“CRIF expects total transparency in the current investigation, so that the motives for this barbaric crime are known by all as fast as possible,” Kalifat added in the statement about Knoll.