A small but vigilant crowd gathered on short notice on a windy day roughly 30 hours before the start of Passover for an American Jewish Committee-organized memorial for 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, who was stabbed and burned in her home March 23 in Paris.
Knoll was one of the few who escaped the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup in Paris in July 1942, which deported 13,000 Jews to Nazi concentration and extermination camps.
In opening the memorial Thursday, March 29, at the Marcus JCC’s Besser Holocaust Memorial Garden, AJC ACCESS associate Jeffrey Silverstein said members of his family were caught in the roundup and later killed at Auschwitz.
“Her life represented the lives of all our ancestors who did not escape. Her death represents the deaths of countless Jews of the generations who have fallen victim to anti-Semitism,” he said. “These tragedies also bring the true face of contemporary anti-Semitism to our minds and our discourse.”
The memorial drew about 25 people, including a staffer from Congresswoman Karen Handel’s office, German Deputy Consul Olaf Ladegast and Irish Consul General Shane Stephens.
Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul spoke about hate, which he said passes from one generation to the next. He also emphasized the need to address hate speech, which he said can manifest as behavior, and not to tolerate bigotry in any form.
The consul general of France in Atlanta, Louis de Corail, said the murder of Knoll and the Islamic State-connected terrorist attack that killed four people in Carcassonne and Trebes, France, the same day are expressions of the same type of hate.
He said French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Édouard Philippe are committed to combating anti-Semitism and have a new government plan to protect schools and synagogues and fight anti-Semitism among youth.
Macron is pushing to force Internet platforms to remove content that promotes extremism and to educate children in elementary school about the history of anti-Semitism, Corail said.
Thousands marched Wednesday, March 28, in Paris to pay their respects to Knoll and stand against anti-Semitism, which Corail quoted Macron as saying has become the dishonor of France.
“Israel is appalled by the heinous murder of Mireille Knoll,” Israeli Consul General Judith Varnai Shorer said. “Just as it is our duty to honor and commemorate the 6 million Jews and others that were lost in the Holocaust, it is our responsibility to teach our family, friends and neighbors about the past and the dangers we all face if we ignore hatred.”
Marcus JCC Rabbi Brian Glusman, who led the Mourner’s Kaddish, compared the need to stand up against anti-Semitism to an egg being boiled: “The egg becomes hard and tough, and we too need to be more like that egg. As things get bad and as anti-Semitism spreads throughout the world, we have to be resolute and strong and gather together as a community loud and proud and say, ‘Never again.’”
AJC Atlanta Regional Director Dov Wilker issued a call to action for people to reach out to elected officials to urge action against anti-Semitism and all other forms of hate. He also said that while the French government actions cited by Corail are important, the threat extends beyond Paris.
He quoted AJC CEO David Harris as saying that he doesn’t want Jews to be the canary in the coal mine because the canary dies. “I want Jewish people to be able to live without fear. I want Jews to be able to live in societies that welcome them, that understand who they are,” Wilker said. “I want our societies not just to welcome Jews, but all people, all minorities.”
He noted that the memorial fell on the last day of the Georgia legislative session, during which the General Assembly again failed to pass a bill that would increase penalties for crimes motivated by the perceived race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identification, or physical or mental disability of the victims.
“This is not just a Jewish issue. This is an issue for our values. This is an issue about democracy. This is really about how we present ourselves, how we engage in our community and what we are going to do about it,” Wilker said. “We need to remember that we have a voice and can make a difference.”