French police investigate possible anti-Semitic killing in Paris

PARIS, March 26 (Reuters) - French police are investigating whether the death of an elderly Jewish woman stabbed and burnt to death in her Paris apartment last week was an anti-Semitic murder, a judicial source said on Monday.

Mirelle Knoll, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, was found dead on Friday inside the blackened remains of her apartment, which police suspect was set ablaze after she was attacked.

Two suspects have been detained but have not yet been charged.

The investigation by the Paris prosecutor's office is trying to establish whether it was a killing "motivated by the real or supposed adherence to a religion," the source said.

France's chief rabbi described Knoll's death as a "horror." Jewish leaders have called for a march in her memory.

21 PHOTOS
Mireille Knoll -- Holocaust survivor found stabbed, burned to death in her apartment
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Mireille Knoll -- Holocaust survivor found stabbed, burned to death in her apartment
This AFP TV video frame grab shows a picture of Mireille Knoll posted on the door of her apartment in Paris on March 27, 2018 after she was found dead in her apartment on March 23 by firefighters called to extinguish a blaze. Two people have been charged with the murder of an 85-year-old French Jewish woman, who was stabbed and whose body was then set alight in a crime being treated as anti-Semitic, a judicial source said on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Laetitia PERON (Photo credit should read LAETITIA PERON/AFP/Getty Images)
This general view shows an apartment block in the 11th arrondisement of Paris on March 26, 2018, where the alleged murder of an 85-year-old Jewish woman took place. French prosecutors are treating the murder of a woman whose partly charred body was found in her Paris home as an anti-Semitic attack, judicial sources said March 26, 2018. Mireille Knoll, who managed to flee a mass roundup of Jews in Paris during World War II, was found dead March 23, 2018, in her apartment in the east of the French capital, where she lived alone. / AFP PHOTO / Thomas Samson (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Two people place a picture and tributes to Mireille Knoll on the fence surrounding her building in Paris on March 27, 2108, after she was found dead in her apartment on March 23 by firefighters called to extinguish a blaze. Two people have been charged with the murder of an 85-year-old French Jewish woman, who was stabbed and whose body was then set alight in a crime being treated as anti-Semitic, a judicial source said on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Lionel BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
This general view shows an apartment block in the 11th arrondisement of Paris on March 26, 2018, where the alleged murder of an 85-year-old Jewish woman took place. French prosecutors are treating the murder of a woman whose partly charred body was found in her Paris home as an anti-Semitic attack, judicial sources said March 26, 2018. Mireille Knoll, who managed to flee a mass roundup of Jews in Paris during World War II, was found dead March 23, 2018, in her apartment in the east of the French capital, where she lived alone. / AFP PHOTO / Thomas Samson (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A man stands in front of a picture of Mireille Knoll and a message announcing a 'Marche Blanche' condemning the alleged antisemitic motive for of her killing, placed on the fence surrounding her building in Paris on March 27, 2018, after she was found dead in her apartment on March 23 by firefighters called to extinguish a blaze. Two people have been charged with the murder of an 85-year-old French Jewish woman, who was stabbed and whose body was then set alight in a crime being treated as anti-Semitic, a judicial source said on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Lionel BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on March 27, 2018 shows a picture of Mireille Knoll, heart-shaped documents and seals of the police posted on the door of her apartment in Paris after she was found dead in her apartment on March 23 by firefighters called to extinguish a blaze. Two people have been charged with the murder of an 85-year-old French Jewish woman, who was stabbed and whose body was then set alight in a crime being treated as anti-Semitic, a judicial source said on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Lionel BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on March 27, 2018 shows the window of the apartment of Mireille Knoll in Paris sealed by the police, after she was found dead in her apartment on March 23 by firefighters called to extinguish a blaze. Two people have been charged with the murder of an 85-year-old French Jewish woman, who was stabbed and whose body was then set alight in a crime being treated as anti-Semitic, a judicial source said on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Lionel BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on March 27, 2018 shows a picture of Mireille Knoll and a message announcing a 'Marche Blanche' condemning the alleged antisemitic motive for of her killing, placed on the fence surrounding her building in Paris, after she was found dead in her apartment on March 23 by firefighters called to extinguish a blaze. Two people have been charged with the murder of an 85-year-old French Jewish woman, who was stabbed and whose body was then set alight in a crime being treated as anti-Semitic, a judicial source said on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Lionel BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman places a picture and tributes to Mireille Knoll on the fence surrounding her building in Paris on March 27, 2108, after she was found dead in her apartment on March 23 by firefighters called to extinguish a blaze. Two people have been charged with the murder of an 85-year-old French Jewish woman, who was stabbed and whose body was then set alight in a crime being treated as anti-Semitic, a judicial source said on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Lionel BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
Red tape police seals and a photograph are seen on the front door of the appartment of Mireille Knoll in Paris, France, March 27, 2018. Mireille Knoll, 85, was found dead on Friday at her apartment in Paris's central 11th district. She had been stabbed multiple times and her flat set alight. REUTERS/Clotaire Achi
A picture taken on March 27, 2018 shows the window of the apartment of Mireille Knoll in Paris sealed by the police, after she was found dead in her apartment on March 23 by firefighters called to extinguish a blaze. Two people have been charged with the murder of an 85-year-old French Jewish woman, who was stabbed and whose body was then set alight in a crime being treated as anti-Semitic, a judicial source said on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Lionel BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
Journalists film outside the building of the apartment of Mireille Knoll in Paris on March 27, 2108, after she was found dead in her apartment on March 23 by firefighters called to extinguish a blaze. Two people have been charged with the murder of an 85-year-old French Jewish woman, who was stabbed and whose body was then set alight in a crime being treated as anti-Semitic, a judicial source said on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Lionel BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
Red tape police seals and a photograph are seen on the front door of the appartment of Mireille Knoll in Paris, France, March 27, 2018. Mireille Knoll, 85, was found dead on Friday at her apartment in Paris's central 11th district. She had been stabbed multiple times and her flat set alight. REUTERS/Clotaire Achi
A man places a picture of Mireille Knoll and a message announcing a 'Marche Blanche' condemning the alleged antisemitic motive for of her killing, placed on the fence surrounding her building in Paris on March 27, 2018, after she was found dead in her apartment on March 23 by firefighters called to extinguish a blaze. Two people have been charged with the murder of an 85-year-old French Jewish woman, who was stabbed and whose body was then set alight in a crime being treated as anti-Semitic, a judicial source said on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Lionel BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
This AFP TV video frame grab shows a picture of Mireille Knoll, heart-shaped documents and seals of the police posted on the door of her apartment in Paris on March 27, 2018 after she was found dead in her apartment on March 23 by firefighters called to extinguish a blaze. Two people have been charged with the murder of an 85-year-old French Jewish woman, who was stabbed and whose body was then set alight in a crime being treated as anti-Semitic, a judicial source said on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Laetitia PERON (Photo credit should read LAETITIA PERON/AFP/Getty Images)
Horrifié par la tragique disparition de Mireille Knoll, rescapée de la Shoah, presque un an jour pour jour après le… https://t.co/na6ru0Wq1T
Jewish Holocaust survivor, 85, is found stabbed to death after fire in her Paris flat https://t.co/nFRkuY2eAF
85yo Holocaust survivor’s body found charred, stabbed 11 times in #Paris apartment https://t.co/iN9LsxQY9i
Prosecutors in Paris treat murder of 85-year-old Holocaust survivor as antisemitic act https://t.co/60vbD4f4WS
Holocaust survivor stabbed and burnt to death in suspected anti-Semitic murder https://t.co/4U9NnIhzEX
Holocaust survivor, 85, found stabbed to death at home in 'anti-Semitic murder' https://t.co/Cx5DelI7ya https://t.co/4kM2JRHbLs
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French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is visiting Israel, said the theory that Knoll's death was anti-Semitic was plausible.

"It reminds us of the fundamental and permanent side of this battle (against anti-Semitism)," he said, speaking alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.

As a child in Paris, Knoll managed to evade the round-up of Jews during World War Two, Paris lawmaker Meyer Habib said.

Thousands of Jews were brought to the Velodrome d'Hiver cycling track in 1942 and sent on to Nazi death camps.

France is home to western Europe's biggest Jewish population and many in the 400,000-strong community have complained for years of a rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes.

6 PHOTOS
Tombstones vandalized in a Jewish cemetery in France
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Tombstones vandalized in a Jewish cemetery in France
French gendarmes stand in front of a fence at the cemetery of Tracy-sur-Mer, on the coast of Normandy on February 18, 2015 after dozens of graves have been defaced in the cemetery, the interior minister said on February 17, 2015 , just days after the vandalism of hundreds of Jewish tombs sparked outrage across the country. AFP PHOTO / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU (Photo credit should read CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
French gendarmes stand in front of graves at the cemetery of Tracy-sur-Mer, on the coast of Normandy on February 18, 2015 after dozens of graves have been defaced in the cemetery, the interior minister said on February 17, 2015 , just days after the vandalism of hundreds of Jewish tombs sparked outrage across the country. AFP PHOTO / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU (Photo credit should read CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
French gendarmes stand next to graves at the cemetery of Tracy-sur-Mer, on the coast of Normandy on February 18, 2015 after dozens of graves have been defaced in the cemetery, just days after the vandalism of hundreds of Jewish tombs sparked outrage across the country. AFP PHOTO / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU (Photo credit should read CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on February 18, 2015 shows a crucifix turned over and planted in the ground next to graves at the cemetery of Tracy-sur-Mer, on the coast of Normandy. Dozens of graves have been defaced in the cemetery, the interior minister said on February 17, 2015 , just days after the vandalism of hundreds of Jewish tombs sparked outrage across the country. AFP PHOTO / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU (Photo credit should read CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
French gendarmes inspect the cemetery of Tracy-sur-Mer, on the coast of Normandy on February 18, 2015 after dozens of graves have been defaced in the cemetery, the interior minister said on February 17, 2015 , just days after the vandalism of hundreds of Jewish tombs sparked outrage across the country. AFP PHOTO / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU (Photo credit should read CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
French gendarmes inspect the cemetery of Tracy-sur-Mer, on the coast of Normandy on February 18, 2015 after dozens of graves have been defaced, the interior minister said on February 17, 2015 , just days after the vandalism of hundreds of Jewish tombs sparked outrage across the country. AFP PHOTO / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU (Photo credit should read CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
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In 2015, vandals desecrated 250 tombstones in a Jewish cemetery in eastern France days after four Jews were killed in an attack on a kosher grocery in Paris.

Knoll's killing took place a year to the day after the murder of Sarah Halimi-Attal, a 65-year-old whose death prosecutors believe was anti-Semitic.

"The horror of the crime and the violence of the executioners are identical and reflect the negation of the human face," Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia said in a tweet.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry and John Irish; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Luke Baker and)

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