French soldier guards Jewish school, Paris
French soldier guards Jewish school, Paris Reuters

Two men have been arrested over the murder of an 85-year-old Jewish woman whose body was found after a fire broke out in her Paris apartment, police sources said Monday.

A Paris lawmaker who spoke with one of the woman's sons said that, as a child, she had managed to evade the notorious 1942 Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of over 13,000 Jews in Paris during World War II.

Fewer than 100 of those who were were detained at the Vel d'Hiv cycling track and then sent to the Nazi death camps survived.

An autopsy conducted on the woman, who lived alone, showed she had been stabbed 11 times before Friday's blaze.

The victim was identified as Mirelle Kanol.

The Paris prosecutor's office said Sunday that it had not yet determined a motive, but "is not excluding any hypothesis."

"The investigation has uncovered elements suggesting there was not an anti-Semitic motive, but this possibility has not yet been excluded," the SPCJ said in a statement late Sunday.

The CRIF umbrella grouping of French Jewish organisations urged "the fullest transparency" by the authorities investigating the killing, "so that the motive of this barbarous crime is known as quickly as possible."

France's half-a-million-plus Jewish community has voiced increasing concern over a rise in violent anti-Semitic acts.

Last month, a judge confirmed that the April 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman who was beaten and thrown out of her window was indeed motivated by anti-Semitism.

Kanol's granddaughter, Noa Goldfarb, wrote on Facebook that her grandmother had been murdered by a Muslim neighbor.

"Twenty years ago I left Paris knowing that my future was not there, neither mine nor that of the Jewish people," she wrote. “But who would’ve thought that I was leaving my relatives where terrorism and cruelty would lead to such a tragedy. My grandmother was stabbed to death 11 times by a Muslim neighbor she knew well, who made sure to set fire to her home and left us not even one object, a letter, a photograph, to remember her by. All we have are our tears and each other."

One of the suspects was a regular visitor of Knoll's whom she treated "like a son" and who had visited her that day, Kanol's son told AFP, asking not to be named.

Join our official WhatsApp group