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French police treat murder of woman, 85, as anti-Semitic attack

Thomas Sanson, AFP | The apartment block in the east of Paris where Mireille Knoll's charred remains were found last Friday.

French prosecutors are treating the murder of an 85-year-old Jewish woman whose partly charred body was found in her Paris home as an anti-Semitic attack, judicial sources said Monday.

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Mireille Knoll, who narrowly escaped deportation to the Nazi death camps during World War II, was found dead on Friday in her apartment in the east of the French capital, where she lived alone.

An autopsy showed she had been stabbed several times before the apartment was set on fire.

Two men have been placed under formal investigation for murder "motivated by the real or supposed adherence to a religion" as well as aggravated robbery and destruction of property, judicial sources said Tuesday.

"We are really in shock. I don't understand how someone could kill a woman who has no money and who lives in a social housing complex," Knoll's son told AFP.

Speaking during a visit to Jerusalem on Monday, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said it was "plausible" that Knoll was killed because of her religion and her death showed the need for a "fundamental and permanent" fight against anti-Semitism.

The chief rabbi of Paris, Haim Korsia, wrote on Twitter that he was "horrified" by the killing. Jewish leaders have called for a march in Knoll's memory on Wednesday.

World War II round-up

Knoll managed to evade a notorious 1942 round-up in Paris of more than 13,000 Jews, most of them women and children, by fleeing with her mother to Portugal.

Fewer than 100 of those who were detained during the so-called Vel' d'Hiv round-up and then sent to the Nazi death camps survived.

After the war Knoll returned to Paris and married a Holocaust survivor, who died in the early 2000s.

France is home to Western Europe's biggest Jewish population and many in the half-a-million-strong community have complained for years of a rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes.

In 2015, vandals desecrated 250 tombstones in a Jewish cemetery in eastern France days after four Jews were killed in an attack on a kosher grocery in Paris by a gunman who declared allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group.

Last month, a judge confirmed that the April 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman who was beaten and thrown out of her window, was motivated by anti-Semitism.

The CRIF umbrella grouping of French Jewish organisations urged "the fullest transparency" by the authorities investigating Knoll's murder "so that the motive of this barbarous crime is known as quickly as possible".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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