French far-right insists on joining tribute to slain Jewish woman
Despite Jewish group's objection, Marine Le Pen's National Front party calls on members to attend silent marches around the country Wednesday to honor 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, who was stabbed to death in her Paris apartment in an anti-Semitic attack.
Her National Front party called on members to attend silent marches in Paris and around the country Wednesday in tribute to 85-year-old Mireille Knoll, stabbed in what authorities call an anti-Semitic attack.
The head of the CRIF Jewish group said the National Front and members of the far-left would not be welcome at the marches because of anti-Semitic sentiment among their members.
Le Pen tweeted Wednesday that the CRIF can't stop her from attending. She has sought to distance herself from anti-Semitism that stained her party in the past, instead focusing anger on immigrants and Islamic extremists.
Knoll 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 burnt. Police suspect that part of the motive for the killing was because Knoll was Jewish.
"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 tension and 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.
But while CRIF was adamant about the far-right and far-left staying away, Mireille Knoll's son Daniel said the rally should be open to everyone.
"CRIF is playing politics but I'm just opening my heart," he told RMC radio, saying a ban was not the right approach.
Other rallies in honor of Knoll, who narrowly escaped being deported to Auschwitz during World War II, when 13,000 Jews were rounded up in July 1942 at the Vel d'Hiv velodrome in Paris, are planned in Lyon, Marseille and Strasbourg.
France's far-left France Unbowed movement has also said it would take part in Wednesday's march.
"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."
Ministers in President Emmanuel Macron's government said the rally should be a moment of national unity.
"Everybody is welcome to come and honor the memory of this woman today," government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told Radio Classique.
Despite Marine Le Pen's efforts to modernize her party, France's top court provided a reminder of its past—it confirmed on Tuesday the conviction and her father for describing the Nazi gas chambers as a "detail" of history, and reaffirmed a 30,000 euro fine against him.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.