Police suspect the murder of a Holocaust survivor in France was an anti-semitic hate crime, it has been confirmed.
Mireile Knoll, 85, was found dead with 11 stab wounds on Friday in her Paris apartment, which had also been set on fire.
On Tuesday a judge told two men arrested in connection with the crime that they are suspected of murder motivated by the victim’s “real or supposed adherence to a religion”.
Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, has called on residents of the city to join her on a silent march on Wednesday in Knoll’s memory.
Knoll’s son, Daniel, told an Israeli TV programme that one of the suspects was his mother’s long-time neighbour who had recently come out of prison for a sex offence.
The suspect spent Friday at her the 85-year-old’s apartment sharing a drink, her son said.
“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,” he told AFP.
As a child, Knoll narrowly escaped being rounded up with 13,000 Jews who were held at a cycling track in Paris in July 1942 before being deported to Auschwitz. Of the 13,000 people deported to Auschwitz, fewer than 100 survived.
She had lived in the same Paris neighbourhood or 60 years, according to Francis Kalifat, the head of Crif, an organisation that represents France’s 400,000 Jews.
The second suspect in her killing is a homeless man, according to Gilles-William Goldnadel, the victim’s lawyer.
The World Jewish Congress said it was “shocked” by Knoll’s “horrid murder” and said Wednesday’s march was “an expression of compassion with all French people”.
President Emmanuel Macron responded on Twitter to the death. “I want to express my emotion after the horrific crime committed against Mme Knoll,” he wrote on Monday. “I reaffirm my total determination in fighting anti-semitism.”
France’s Jewish community, the largest in Europe, has seen a rise in anti-semitic hate crimes.
In 2015, vandals desecrated 250 tombstones in a Jewish cemetery in eastern France only days after four Jews were killed in an attack on a kosher grocery in Paris.
Knoll’s killing took place a year to the day after the murder of Sarah Halimi-Attal, a 65-year-old whose killing prosecutors now believe was anti-semitic.