Mireille Knoll

A horror in Paris:

Every morning, in a part of the 11th Arrondissement of Paris that has not yet gentrified, Mireille Knoll would sit at home watching television as she waited for her personal care aide.

The aide, Leila Dessante, would clean the small second-floor apartment, cook lunch and keep company with Ms. Knoll, a 85-year-old grandmother and Holocaust survivor. “She would take my face in between her hands and always ask, ‘How are you doing today, sweetheart?’” Ms. Dessante recalled on Wednesday.

Ms. Knoll’s gentle routine was brutally interrupted last week when she was killed in her apartment. The attack shocked her neighbors, France’s Jewish community and the country as a whole. Two suspects, men in their 20s, have been placed under formal investigation on charges of murder with an anti-Semitic motive.

Édouard Philippe, the prime minister, cited a strain of anti-Semitism in France that shape-shifts but doesn’t go away. (France is not alone in that.)

“She survived the Holocaust in the last century, I think she had a happy life, and yet she was killed at home in 2018, frail, and defenseless,” Ms. Dessante said as she was leaving Ms. Knoll’s apartment building after laying flowers on the doorstep. “What world are we living in?”

A bad one. Not as bad as during the Holocaust, but still bad; one in which hatred and rage have become a popular sport.

Thousands gathered in Paris on Wednesday to honor Ms. Knoll, marching from the Place de la Nation, on the eastern side of the capital, to her apartment building, a nondescript housing block where mourners had placed candles and flowers on the railings.

Many marched in silence, waving French flags or wearing badges with a picture of Ms. Knoll. Samuel Cohen, 74, who was at the march with his wife, Léa, 70, was one of several who carried a sign that read, “In France, we kill grandmothers because they’re Jewish.”

Ms. Knoll was stabbed 11 times, and her body was found partly burned after her attackers tried to set her apartment on fire. One suspect was a neighbor who had often been hosted by Ms. Knoll, while the other was a homeless friend of his.

An official close to the investigation, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case, said that the friend had told investigators that he had heard Ms. Knoll’s neighbor say “God is great” in Arabic during the killing. But the official said the two suspects had given conflicting statements to the police.

Damn it to hell. She must have been terrified.

A picture of Ms. Knoll on a fence outside her building.

CreditLionel Bonaventure/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The authorities say it may have started as a robbery.

But they have also characterized the attack as a worrying sign of anti-Semitism in France, which has been shaken by several recent episodes, including the killing last year of another elderly Jewish woman, Sarah Halimi, which the authorities were much slower to characterize as anti-Semitic.

Gérard Collomb, the interior minister, said on Tuesday that one of the suspects in Ms. Knoll’s murder had told the other, “She is a Jew, she must have money.”

Her son Daniel was not immediately reachable on Wednesday, but in interviews with the French news media he described his mother, who had Parkinson’s disease, as a woman of limited means and boundless generosity.

“Everybody came to see her,” Mr. Knoll told Europe 1 radio. ”If she could have, she would have welcomed the entire world into her home.”

President Emmanuel Macron referred to Ms. Knoll’s killing at a ceremony on Wednesday morning that paid tribute to Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame and to the other victims of a terrorist attack in southern France last week.

France “is confronted today with a barbaric obscurantism, with the only goal of eliminating our liberties and our solidarities,” Mr. Macron said, drawing a parallel between the “terrorist in Trèbes” and Ms. Knoll’s killer, “who assassinated an innocent and vulnerable woman because she was Jewish.”

Mr. Macron attended Ms. Knoll’s funeral later on Wednesday, according to the Élysée Palace.

In an interview, Meyer Habib, a Franco-Israeli lawmaker in the National Assembly, said that “in the same day, I have a ceremony for a hero who gave his life to save a hostage, then I attend the funeral of an 85-year-old lady who was killed because she was a Jew, and then I’m going to honor her memory at a march.”

“That’s my schedule today, and I don’t find it normal,” he said.

Non, ce n’est pas normal.

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