As a child in 1942, Mireille Knoll escaped the capture of Jews by police in occupied France during The Vélodrome d'Hiver roundup. The majority of those arrested during the roundup were sent to Auschwitz, where they were killed. Her evasion of France's Nazi puppet police force during the second world war allowed her to survive the horrors of the Holocaust, unlike so many of her neighbors and relations. But she couldn't escape racism. Her time on earth came to an end this past week after she was stabbed 11 times and left to die in her burning apartment, in Paris, France. She was 85 years old.
According to the The Washington Post, Knoll's murder has French journalists and Jewish advocacy groups concerned that, given the area and brutality in which her life was ended, there could be reasonable grounds for the murder to be considered a hate crime. As in North America, Anti-Semitic hate crimes have been on the rise in France. In the past year, bigots and fascists who were once too afraid to show their hate in public have made their way into the mainstream, emboldened by the politics of our times.
From the Washington Post:
Jewish advocacy groups were quick to put the case within the context of rising anti-Semitism in France and to point out the similarities to another high-profile case being investigated as anti-Semitic: the April 2017 killing of Sarah Halimi, a 66-year-old Orthodox Jewish physician and kindergarten teacher who was beaten in her apartment and then thrown out a window. Authorities suspect a Muslim neighbor.
"This was the same Paris arrondissement, several streets apart," said Noémie Halioua, a French journalist with Actualité Juive and the author of a new book on the Halimi case. "And both victims were elderly women who lived alone and who had both previously complained of threats."
Given that both women were Jewish, living in the same neighborhood and were dispatched under similar circumstances, calling it a hate crime seems like a safe gamble to make. For their part, over the past couple of days French authorities have moved from entertaining the idea that Knoll's murder could have been a hate crime, to investigating it as an anti-Semitic attack.
Cases such as the murders of Halimi and Knoll are why it's important to ensure that racism is never normalized. Acceptance of hate speech has a way of leading to hate crimes. Bigotry should never be tolerated.
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