11 November 2021

Life sentence for French man who fatally stabbed Holocaust survivor

11 November 2021

A French man has been sentenced to life in prison for stabbing an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor to death in an antisemitic attack, a case that triggered widespread outrage and focused attention on resurgent anti-Jewish sentiment in the country.

After horror and grief, Mireille Knoll’s family felt justice following the verdict.

“We are exhausted but glad that they recognised the antisemitic nature of the attack,” Ms Knoll’s son Daniel Knoll told The Associated Press. The verdict “was appropriate for this horrible crime”.

Ms Knoll was found dead with multiple stab wounds in March 2018 in her apartment, which was then set ablaze. Tribute marches were held around France to honour her and denounce racism. President Emmanuel Macron attended her funeral and said the attackers “profaned our sacred values and our history”.

(Antisemitism) is growing. Everyone needs a scapegoat. We suffer the consequences. The verdict isn't enough. We must educate, educate, educate

Yacine Mihoub, a neighbour who grew up in the Paris public housing project where Ms Knoll had lived most of her life, was convicted of killing a vulnerable person based on religious motives, according to the victim’s family.

Another suspect was acquitted of murder but convicted of aggravated theft with religious motives.

Both had denied targeting Ms Knoll for being Jewish, and their lawyers had argued against classifying the attack as antisemitic. But the case served as a reminder of both historic and current antisemitism in France.

“It’s growing. Everyone needs a scapegoat,” Mr Knoll said. “We suffer the consequences.”

“The verdict isn’t enough. We must educate, educate, educate,” he added.

French president Emmanuel Macron attended Ms Knoll’s funeral (Francois Mori, Pool/AP) (AP)

As a nine-year-old during the Second World War, Ms Knoll was forced to flee Paris with her family to escape a notorious roundup of Jews.

French police herded some 13,000 people – including more than 4,000 children – into the Vel d’Hiv stadium in 1942, and shipped them to the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. Fewer than 100 survived.

Ms Knoll and other relatives were able to escape Nazi-occupied territory thanks to a family member with Brazilian citizenship, according to her son. They went to southern Europe and then Canada, but Ms Knoll returned to France after the end of the war, and stayed.

Ms Knoll’s death came a year after another Jewish woman, Sarah Halimi, was thrown from her Paris balcony to her death.

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