PARIS—Thousands of people took part in a “white march” in Paris on Wednesday in memory of Mireille Knoll, a 85-year-old French Jewish woman whose horrific murder provoked a strong emotional reaction and revived worries about anti-Semitism in France.
The rally, from the Place de la Nation to the victim’s home in the 11th arrondissement (district) of Paris, where Mireille Knoll was murdered, was marred by a polemic and protests over the presence of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen, respectively, leaders of the extreme left and extreme right.
Crif, the umbrella representative body of French Jewish institutions and organizer of the march, had declared that both politicians were not welcome because of the anti-Semitic sentiment prevalent among some of their party members.
Kalifat told RTL radio: “Anti-Semites are over-represented in the far left and the far right. … Therefore they are not welcome.”
Nevertheless, National Front leader Marine Le Pen tweeted Wednesday that Crif can’t stop her from attending. She has sought to distance herself from the anti-Semitism that stained her party in the past. The founder of the party, Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie, has described the Holocaust as a “mere detail of history.”
She instead focused her anger on immigrants and Islamist extremists. “We have always defended the Jews against the Islamist terrorism,” she told journalists in the march.
Booed by some participants, the two politicians were forced to leave.
Knoll, a Holocaust survivor who narrowly escaped being deported to Auschwitz during World War II, when 13,000 Jews were rounded up in July 1942 at the infamous Vel d’Hiv stadium in Paris, was found in her apartment last Friday with 11 stab wounds. The apartment itself was set ablaze after the attack and her body badly burnt. She was targeted because she was Jewish, the prosecutor confirmed.
French President Emmanuel Macron attended her funeral on Wednesday. The Élysée presidential palace said that Macron went to the ceremony in the cemetery in Bagneux, a Paris suburb, “in a personal capacity, to support the family.”
Earlier in the day, Macron denounced Knoll’s attacker as someone who “murdered an innocent and vulnerable woman because she was Jewish, and in doing so profaned our sacred values and our history.”