‘They Threatened to Kill Us’: French Jewish Family Recounts Ordeal at Hands of Antisemitic Gang Near Paris
The Jewish family subjected to a vicious assault and robbery by an antisemitic gang near Paris last week recounted their ordeal in interviews with French media outlets on Monday.
Roger Pinto, his wife Mireille, and their son David were taken hostage in their own home early in the morning of Friday, September 8, by three intruders identified as black men in their late 20s. The gang told the family members, “You are Jews, you have money,” as they tied them up and beat them.
On Monday, the Pinto family gave a full account of the terrifying episode. Early on Friday morning, David Pinto, 41, woke up to discover that the electricity was not working in the family home in the Livry-Gargan neighborhood of Paris. Going down into the basement to check the electricity meter, David opened a door which allowed the three assailants, who had set a trap by cutting off the electricity supply, to enter the house.
Having gagged David, the three men dragged him to the first floor of the house. There, they encountered his 73-year-old mother, Mireille, who managed to alert her husband, Roger, who is 83, before she too was grabbed by the gang. Mireille said that she was “caught and gagged” by the three men.
“As I struggled, the first man threw me down,” Mrs. Pinto said, in an interview quoted by the French Jewish newspaper Tribune Juive. “He hit me. I really thought he wanted to rape me. The second one kicked me.”
The gang also attacked Roger Pinto, beating him unconscious. Pinto said that as he regained awareness, he heard one of the gang members tell him, “You are Jewish, we know that the Jews have a lot of money and you will give us what you have. If you do not give us what we ask you, we’ll kill you.”
Roger Pinto continued: “The three men had a screwdriver and a knife, which they constantly threatened us with. They threatened to kill us. That was unbearable. These thugs took our credit cards, took all the goods we had, jewelry from my wife.”
The Pinto family were tied and locked in a room while the gang carried out the robbery, which included several thousand Euros in cash. After several hours, Mireille Pinto managed to call the emergency services using David’s phone. “For us it was really an eternity,” she said. “It was a very traumatic event.”
The French national newspaper Liberation reported on Monday that the local public prosecutor had opened an investigation into the assault on the Pinto family, stressing its antisemitic nature. The three suspects, who have not been captured, will face minimum ten-year prison sentences if caught and convicted, Liberation said.
The response of the French authorities to antisemitic attacks has come under increased scrutiny since the murder in April of Sarah Halimi, a Jewish pensioner and former kindergarten teacher, by an Islamist intruder who shouted antisemitic slogans as he beat his victim. In the Halimi case until very recently, the assailant was presented by the authorities and much of the media as driven by mental illness, rather than an antisemitic motive.
On Sunday, French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb took care to note the antisemitic motives underlying the assault on the Pinto family, condemning what he called “a cowardly act” that “seems directly linked to the religion of its victims.”
On Monday, the president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, declared: “French authorities must treat this heinous hate crime with utmost severity and penalize the aggressors in the harshest terms possible to bring justice to the victims and deter future violence of this kind.”
“Antisemitic violence is running horrifically rampant in France,” Lauder said. “The Jewish community is still awaiting justice for the macabre murder of Sarah Halimi five months ago.”
Lauder concluded: “The French government has every responsibility to be vigilant in its defense each of its citizens. The Jews in France are proud citizens — they must be accorded with the protection and respect they deserve.”
Watch Roger Pinto’s interview with Israeli broadcaster I24 (in French):