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Jewish grandmother slain in Paris home 'didn’t believe in evil'

Lionel Bonaventure, AFP

A Jewish grandmother found murdered in her Paris apartment was a "gentle and kind woman" who had escaped the Nazi round-up of Jews in the city more than 70 years ago.


The stabbed and charred body of Mireille Knoll, 85, was found on Friday by firefighters called to extinguish a blaze. Knoll, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, was found in her social housing apartment on Avenue Philippe-August in the 11th arrondissement (district) of the capital. Knoll lived alone and only went out in her wheelchair when accompanied.

Images of Knoll with her kind, smiling face have spread across social media platforms as France reels from the shock of such a brutal attack on a survivor of the Holocaust.

Fled the Nazis with a Brazilian passport

Born on December 28, 1932, in Paris, the young Knoll managed to flee Nazi-occupied France in July 1942 with her mother, before the Vél d'Hiv round-up of 13,000 Jews. She managed to cross the border into Portugal on a Brazilian passport obtained by her father.

"The soldiers looked at the passports and finally decided to let them in," her son Daniel told i24 News.

>> The Vél d'Hiv roundup: 75 years on, a survivor remembers

After the war she married an Auschwitz survivor and moved to Canada before returning home to Paris.

The couple raised two sons and her late husband ran a raincoat workshop in the Jewish district of Sentier in the French capital.

‘She was never afraid’

"My grandmother was an admirable woman … She was full of joy, she loved life," her granddaughter Noa Goldfarb told AFP.

"She didn't believe in evil in people – maybe she was a little naive."

"She was never afraid," said her granddaughter, describing Mireille as "French through and through".

Although not practising, she was "Jewish at heart", living a modest and open life "in contact with many friends of all religions".

The deadly fire not only killed their beloved grandmother, but also the family’s memories. “No photo album, neither of her ... nor Saba (Hebrew for grandfather), no letters ... nothing! We only have our tears left," her granddaughter wrote on Facebook.

Police have charged two men, including a neighbour, with her murder, which is being treated as an anti-Semitic crime.

She will be buried in a quiet ceremony on Wednesday at Bagneux cemetery in the southern suburbs of Paris.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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