The far-right National Front and hard-left France Unbowed movement on Wednesday said they would defy the wishes of a prominent Jewish group and take part in a march to honor a Holocaust survivor killed in what was believed to be an anti-Semitic attack.
Mireille Knoll, 85, was found dead with 11 stab wounds at her apartment in a working-class district of Paris on Friday. The apartment was set ablaze after the attack and her body badly burned. Two Muslim men have been arrested for the crime.
Knoll was buried on Wednesday in Bagneux on the southern outskirts of Paris ahead of the march organized by CRIF, an umbrella body of French Jewish groups. CRIF’s leader told far-right and far-left groups not to attend the rally.
“Anti-Semites are over-represented in the far left and the far right, making those parties ones that you don’t want to be associated with,” CRIF director Francis Kalifat told RTL radio. “Therefore they are not welcome.”
His comments underscore the enduring alarm among France’s 400,000-strong Jewish community over anti-Semitism, which Interior Minister Gerard Collomb on Tuesday described as a cancer that must not be allowed to eat away at the nation.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry condemned Knoll’s murder and said it “underlines the need to continue combating anti-Semitism in all its variations.”
Knoll escaped being deported to Auschwitz during World War II, when 13,000 Jews were rounded up in July 1942 in the capital’s Velodrome d’Hiver.
Other marches are planned in Lyon, Marseille and Strasbourg. France Unbowed said it would take part.
“We had planned to take part in the rally and will be there no matter what,” France Unbowed lawmaker Adrien Quatennens told LCP TV. “Being associated with anti-Semitism is unbearable.”
The National Front also said its leader Marine Le Pen and other representatives would take part in the Paris march. Le Pen has strived to rid the party of the toxic anti-Semitic reputation it gained under her father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.
However, France’s highest court provided a reminder of the party’s past on Tuesday when it upheld the conviction of her father for describing the Nazi gas chambers as a “detail” of history. It confirmed a 30,000 euro fine against him.
President Emmanuel Macron’s government said the rally should be a moment for national unity.
Macron made reference to Knoll’s death Wednesday, in a national tribute at the 19th century Invalides monument to a gendarme killed last week in an Islamist terror attack.
Macron decried the “barbaric” views that fueled that attack, as well as Knoll’s killing. The president said that Knoll’s attacker “murdered an innocent and vulnerable woman because she was Jewish, and in doing so profaned our sacred values and our history.”
Later, Macron made a surprise appearance at Knoll’s funeral ceremony in the Jewish section of the cemetery in the Paris suburb of Bagneux.
Updated Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at 12:18 pm