Annette Herszkowicz says she's lost her faith in God since her two grandnephews were slain in Toulouse
Standing outside the French Consulate in Manhattan, the great-aunt of two Jewish schoolboys slain in Toulouse said Tuesday that the slaughter destroyed her faith.
“I don't believe in God anymore, I'm sorry to say,” said Annette Herszkowicz, 64, who last saw 5-year-old Arieh Sandler and his 4-year-old brother Gabriel in October.
"I have a lot of questions for him. Why did these innocent people have to pay, these innocent children? They didn't do anything to anyone. They were happy to go to school, to get educated, to learn."
The two boys were shot in the head at school by a scooter-riding gunman who has killed seven people at four-day intervals and is expected to strike again.
Their father, Jonathan, a religious studies teacher, and the principal’s 8-year-old daughter, Miriam Monsonego, were also executed at point-blank range in Monday’s ambush.
A killer using the same motorbike and gun also murdered three paratroopers of North African or Caribbean descent during attacks on March 11 and 15.
Hundreds of police have fanned out across France in an effort to find the shooter before he finds his next targets.
“We are faced with a determined individual, ready to act again,” Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said as new details of the crimes were revealed.
All the victims were shot in the head, at such close range the gunfire burned their skin.
The gunman may have worn a camera around his neck during the school massacre.
“He was filming his cruelty to watch it again or post it,” Interior Minister Claude Gueant said.
The motive is still unclear. Agence France Presse reported that three soldiers booted from the military for Nazi salutes have been ruled out as suspects.
But authorities believe religion, race or politics fueled the bloodshed.
“The Jewish school attack was an anti-Semitic crime,” French President Nicholas Sarkozy said.
“But the soldiers? Was it because they were back from Afghanistan? Was it because they were from minorities? We don’t know.”
Like many, Sarkozy was appalled by the the cold-blooded nature of the murder.
“There are beings who have no respect for life. When you grab a little girl to put a bullet in her head, without leaving her any chance, you are a monster,” he said.
At the school in Toulouse,
wails filled the air as hearses carried away the bodies of the dead for a Wednesday burial in Israel.
Relatives said Sandler’s 1-year-old daughter had woken up in the middle of the night shouting, “Papa! Papa!”
Herszkowicz, 64, a retired bank official who recently moved to Fort Lee, N.J., from Paris, joined a memorial rally outside the consulate.
She recalled the last time she saw the Sandler family five months ago in Toulouse.
We spent Shabbat with them," she said. "The children played together with their other cousins.
They're so cute," she said. "They were wonderful. They were a bunch of joy."
She said she has not been able to bring herself to call her niece, who is coping with the death of her husband and two kids.
I don't know what to say,” Herszkowicz said. “I'll burst into tears."