Top French Writer Pays Tribute to Slain Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Emotional Poem on National TV
One of France’s most popular writers this week published a poem to commemorate Mireille Knoll — the 85-year-old Holocaust survivor murdered in her Paris apartment on March 23 — that pulled no punches in its condemnation of the antisemitic bigotry behind her fate.
Novelist and film director Yann Moix read the poem out loud on the weekly edition of national TV show “On n’est pas couché” (“We’re not lying”) on Tuesday night. Moix — a winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt for literature who co-hosts the show — told the audience that he had composed the verses in the dressing room before the filming, at one point fighting back tears as he read them to the studio audience.
In the poem, Moix referred to “velodromes” — a reminder that Mrs. Knoll survived the July 1942 deportation of French Jews forcibly gathered at the Vélodrome d’hiver, a bicycle stadium in Paris — before denouncing the “madness of Muslim Nazis” that claimed her life more than seven decades later:
Spared by fate at the time of the velodromes,
Snatched up by chance from German crimes,
Death would be waiting for you beyond the pogroms,
Hidden in the madness of Muslim Nazis.
You had escaped from this disgraceful roundup,
Perpetrated by France against a few French citizens,
Whose main crime, and whose striking fault,
Was to have the blood of this absent God.
And your people who were hated, hated since birth,
Know deep down that the stabbing of knives, used to cut you up,
Was nothing starting up again, but a hate fixed in ever-changing torturers.
Your people who were punished, punished for their essence,
Know deep in the night that this auto-da-fé,
Where you were burned alive is a burgeoning of the same evil,
Which long ago used to be endorsed.
And your people who were despised,
Despised for their science,
Know deep in their lives that the cremation,
Of a lonely Jewish woman in her old age,
Will forever bear the name of desecration.
Meanwhile on Thursday, Mrs. Knoll’s grandson issued a plea for the two men charged with her killing — one of whom was a Muslim neighbor known to Mrs. Knoll for 20 years — to face trial as swiftly possible.
David Metaxas, the lawyer representing Alexandre Knoll, said that while it was reassuring that antisemitism was being investigated as the motive for Mrs. Knoll’s murder, “the facts as they stand are already punishable by life imprisonment.” Mrs. Knoll’s partly-burned body with multiple stab wounds was discovered by firefighters who responded to a blaze started in her apartment by her killers.
Another lawyer for the Knoll family, Gilles-William Goldnadel — who also represents the relatives of Sarah Halimi, a Jewish woman murdered in a similar antisemitic attack in April 2017 — said on Thursday that it would be a mistake to separate the criminal and antisemitic motives behind Mrs. Knoll’s murder.
“The two are perfectly compatible,” Goldnadel remarked.