On Saturday, I spoke at length with Joseph, a French Jew who had family members and friends inside the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris when it was stormed by Amedy Coulibaly, an Islamic jihadist who ultimately murdered at least four Jews for the cause of Islam. He spoke to the families and some of the survivors, and told me some shocking and terrible details about what happened during the attack – revealed here for the very first time.
When I spoke to Joseph, he was grief-stricken: “I lost a good friend and it’s very hard, very hard. You have no idea how difficult it is.” Joseph was close friends with Yohan Cohen, who was murdered in the jihad attack. Coulibaly was threatening to kill a three year-old, and Cohen tried to save the child by grabbing Coulibaly’s gun; the jihadist shot Cohen in the head.
Joseph was not just grief-stricken; he was also angry, saying of the jihad attack: “I got a lot of information. I spoke to people from the inside of what happened. It was a catastrophe. This could’ve been avoided.”
Joseph explained this by pointing out that Mohammed Merah, who murdered four people, including three children, at a Jewish day school in France in March 2012, first killed three members of the French military. Coulibaly, he said, worked the same way, first participating in the jihad massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and then going to Hyper Cacher to kill Jews. “I talked to the owner of the supermarket,” Joseph said, “and apparently, from what he told me, Amedy Coulibaly was there a week ago. The owner’s brother was inside the store during the siege and he recognized Coulibaly, because he saw him a week ago. The owner’s brother was shot in the arm, and he is alive to tell the story.”
The attack, Joseph said, was “planned ahead of time. Because they knew it was Shabbat. They knew that people would come shopping for Shabbat. It wasn’t like the media said, that he saw a kosher place, he stopped by and that was it. No. This was planned by Coulibaly, his wife and the Kouachi brothers. They all had a very specific plan. The Kouachi brothers were supposed to take care of Charlie Hebdo and Coulibaly had to take care of police officers and the Jews.”
The plan unfolded swiftly. Joseph recounted: “Someone who had been close to one of the people who died told me that when the terrorist came in, he asked for the store to be closed. He immediately shot two people – some tell me he shot three – and asked the woman at the register to go out and close the curtains at the storefront. And she did. But unfortunately someone came to the door and said, ‘Listen, I forgot my challah.’ And she told him, please get out. But he said, ‘Please, I beg you, it’s shabbat, I forgot my challah, please help me.’ And when the terrorist heard him, he said, ‘Bring him in.’ And as soon he came in Coulibaly shot him in the head.”
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The hostages were in the grocery for about five hours. Some were stuck in the freezer, some were upstairs. Coulibaly killed four people and shot two others. There were around fifteen people downstairs, in the supermarket freezer. “The people in the freezer were able to be protected for some time, but then he found out that there were people in the freezer and he asked them to come up. Now some of them were too scared to. Because he was alone, he couldn’t leave the hostages, so he would send someone who worked in the store to go downstairs and get them. Some were too scared not to do what he wanted them to do, because some of them apparently were hoping to live. So they were saying, ‘All right, we’ll do what he wants and he’ll keep us alive, but some said no. So some went up, and apparently used the freight elevator to run out of the grocery from the back.” Only one person complied with Coulibaly’s demands to come out of the freezer and come upstairs; he was shot in the head. It was fifty degrees below zero in the freezer; one of those inside was an eighteen-month-old baby. Many got frostbite; a friend of Joseph who was in the freezer still cannot move his legs.
Joseph recounted the now-famous story of the Muslim who hid Jews in the freezer and locked the door. “A black Muslim guy who was employed there and was helped by Jews for a long time actually hid them.” He also left through the freight entrance in the back. This is how police learned the details of what was going on inside. “The police took the Muslim guy and asked him for all the information of how things were inside, where the entrances where. They wanted the whole plan of the whole building.”
Inside, Coulibaly began conversing with the hostages. “It was very weird,” said Joseph. “He came in and he asked everyone, what’s your name, what do you do for a living, what’s your religion. He had disgust for Jews. He insulted everyone and then he hit them. Women, too. One source told me that he took a Jewish woman by the hair and started moving her around with the hair, calling her a dog. He threw her on the ground. The four dead bodies were right there on the floor. One person inside the store left me a message crying, he said, ‘That poor, poor man dead on the floor with his challah.'”
Coulibaly, according to Joseph, “wanted to blow the place up. He was ready to die. That was clear from what everybody told me. They told me about the fear they had when they saw him and starting to pray, to pray as Muslims do before they blow themselves up.”
He was heavily armed, with two 9 mm pistols, a grenade, dynamite bars and more. Says Joseph, “So he was ready to blow the place up. He told them they were all going to die. They were getting to a point where he was becoming more insane and was starting to scream and insult them, saying, ‘You dirty Jews, you oppress us. I will go to heaven.’ He was starting to scream and insult everyone, saying, ‘We will take over France and we will put the flag of jihad over the Élysée Palace. And he was going more and more crazy.”
As the police started their offensive, Joseph said, Coulibaly “was checking everything. Somebody was calling him and giving him all the information that was happening in the hideout of the Kouachi brothers. He was using the supermarket phone, and he didn’t hang up the phone properly, so the cops were listening in on all of his conversations. So the cops realized that he was praying and getting ready to die, so they said, we gotta go in now.
In the aftermath of the massacre, Joseph pointed out that during a news report about the attack, Muslim children gathered behind the journalist, happily making the hand signal of firing a gun, making the V sign, and celebrating. “This is in their blood,” Joseph said. “It’s not something that Americans understand. But I’ve been stabbed, I have had a lot problems with them. I know their hatred. These are people whom the Koran commands, very clearly, many times, to kill us. We are supposed to be murdered. Yet I see these people reports on TV saying, ‘Oh well, Jews and Muslims lived side by side for many years in Muslim Spain.’ But you can talk to my, to my grandparents. You can talk to those who lived under Muslim occupations. They were dhimmis, they had to pay more taxes, and the day that the Muslim king wasn’t happy, he’d come in and kill everyone.”
Now that the same kind of society is being created in France, Joseph said that he was doing everything he could to get Jews out of the country. “One source I have,” he said, “told me that apparently this was just the beginning. Something else is coming that’ll be bigger. And
all the synagogues were closed today” – for the first time since World War II. This, Joseph said, was because when Coulibaly “killed the cop Thursday, he wasn’t shooting for the cop, he was shooting for the Jewish school. There was a Jewish school in Montrouge and he was looking to shoot there. It’s very funny that he starts shooting and there’s a Jewish school right close by.”
The situation for Jews in France is dire. Yohan Cohen is the second friend of Joseph to be killed by jihad murderers. The first was Sebastien Sellam, a popular Paris disc jockey. Joseph recalls, “I knew him very well. I knew him very, very well. He was a very good friend of mine.” A Muslim stabbed him multiple times in the neck with a fork, and then exclaimed, “I have killed my Jew.” Says Joseph, “Sebastien was murdered by his best friend. By what he supposed was his best friend. I talked to Sebastien the day before he was murdered. I told him, I said, ‘Please, he’s nuts. Stop going out with him. Stop it.” I begged him many, many, many times I begged him. Because I know Muslims and Sebastien was a good man. He constantly thought that his friend was a good guy, and he was murdered like a dog. It was disgusting. It destroyed his whole family. He was such a good, good guy, such a good person, such a good soul.”
Joseph concluded: “America has to do something for the French Jews. America has to do something for the French Jews because Israel cannot take in all the French Jews. Everybody’s trying to get to the U.S. You know how many people call me, asking, ‘how can I get to the U.S., it’s so difficult.”
It’s understandable that they want to come. Joseph himself has been stabbed, and his mother was assaulted because she was Jewish. Joseph recalls: “A couple of Muslim guys came in, popped her in the head, called her a dirty Jew, dirty Jewish whore. My mother went to the police station with her head banged up, went into the police station and said, ‘I was hit by Muslims, they called me a dirty Jew.’ The police officer looked my mother in the eye and said, ‘Well, you’re lucky you’re alive.’ Because as a Jew they shouldn’t be. My mother was shocked. And this is France today. I’m not even talking about the stabbings, the insults, and the beatings. I’m not talking about that, because that is a daily occurrence that happens maybe 50, 60 times a day. And you’re afraid to go to the police station because if you go to the police station then you’re dead, because they’ll find where you live.”
Joseph added: “The reason why I am so angry is that day, I was watching stadiums in France where they had flyers that said JeSuisCharlie and no one would talk about the fact that four Jews died — one of my friends, 22 years old, Yohan Cohen. My God, a beautiful child died. A young man. Fathers died. Four people died.”
Nor is this something new. Joseph noted that “in the past two months there have been shots fired at synagogues and kosher restaurants. Many Jews have been killed in the past ten years in France. But no one is doing anything about it, and the French government cannot do anything about it. They are powerless and they know they’re powerless. They know they have no options on the table, because there are thousands of young French Muslims going to Syria and Iraq. They’re fighting, going to Yemen, going to Afghanistan, going to Pakistan, coming back to France, thousands, thousands, and thousands. They’re insane. They get back, the only thing they want is to kill Jews.”
And they will.