Thousands of people marched through Paris on Wednesday evening to protest the killing of a Holocaust survivor in her home over the weekend, in what investigators are treating as an anti-Semitic crime.
Mireille Knoll, 85, was stabbed 11 times and her apartment was set on fire in the attack, French authorities said. Two men in their 20s have been arrested, one a neighbor of Knoll’s and the other a homeless man, a judicial source told CNN.
Protesters marched to Knoll’s home in Paris’ 11th arrondissement on Wednesday, many carrying white roses in mourning for Knoll. Others held signs showing a yellow hand, which became an anti-racism symbol in France some years ago, above the phrase, “Don’t touch my friend.”
Dominique Moisi, co-founder of the Paris-based French Institute of International Relations, said he was marching to call for peace across the country.
“What we want is a kind of unity in the country, behind sanity, humanity, to proclaim the sanctity of life,” he said.
When asked what the protest was about, he said: “The spirit of resistance – a country that says it’s enough, you can’t accept that an old woman who survived … the Holocaust should be murdered.”
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen and far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon turned up but were both booed and heckled by the crowd.
The Representative Council of Jewish Institutions, known as CRIF, which helped organize the march, had asked Le Pen to stay away, French media reported. Le Pen has contested several elections on an anti-immigration platform and her critics accuse her of racism.
“I want to show a symbol of unity. I don’t care what the CRIF thinks about me and my party. I think that the people who are booing me just have a disgraceful behavior,” she said, CNN affiliate BMF TV reported.
Some senior ministers were seen at the rally.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that those who killed Knoll had “desecrated our sacred values and our memory.”
Knoll had evaded the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup, which was ordered by Nazi occupiers in 1942 and resulted in the mass arrest of 13,000 French Jews, according to French lawmaker Meyer Habib, Reuters reported.
Those detained were held at the Vel’ d’Hiv cycling track in Paris before thousands were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Earlier on Wednesday, vandals trashed the offices of a Jewish student group at the Pantheon-Sorbonne University in Paris and scrawled the premises with anti-Semitic messages.
Sacha Ghozlan, director of the Jewish group, said that among the messages were “Zionist place” and “death to Israel.”