French judges have ruled that the two suspects accused of murdering Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll will stand trial for the alleged antisemitic motivation of their heinous crime. The ruling comes after prosecutors announced in May their intention to add the account to the charges they were pursuing. Knoll, who escaped deportation to a Nazi death camp when French police rounded up Jews in Paris in 1942, was found in her burning apartment stabbed 11 times on March 23, 2018.
Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF) President and WJC Vice President Francis Kalifat welcomed the decision of the court and urged the judiciary to apply the same to the murderers of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman who was hurled to her death from her apartment window in 2017. Earlier this year, a Paris Appeals Court exonerated her murderer due to his prior consumption of cannabis. “There can be no right without justice,” Kalifat wrote on Twitter, in response to the ruling regarding Knoll’s murderers.
Mireille Knoll’s murder prompted widespread outrage across France, including from French President Emmanuel Macron, who described her killing as a "dreadful crime" and reaffirmed his "absolute determination to fight against antisemitism". On the day of her funeral, which was attended by Macron, thousands of people from a diversity of backgrounds took part in silent marches to express solidarity with Knoll's family and the Jewish French community.
Following the murder, the WJC held a memorial at its headquarters in New York with the participation of French Consul General Anne-Claire Legendre. "No human being should ever have to live in fear of being a target of such aggression because of race, religion or any other factor,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder. "We have now had too many wake-up calls, in Europe and on other continents.”
In July 2018, WJC Jewish Diplomat Caroline Berdugo delivered a moving statement about Knoll’s murder on the floor of the United Nations Human Rights Council, saying “Mireille Knoll could have been my grandmother. Mireille Knoll is my grandmother. Mireille Knoll is our grandmother.”
The French Interior Ministry recently published a report finding that Jews in France were the target of a majority of hate crimes, despite being less than 1% of France’s population. Out of the 1,142 hate crimes recorded in the country last year, a staggering 687 (60.2%) were against Jewish individuals, a nearly 27% increase from 2018.