As a young boy, Knoll fled Nazi terror in his native Austria to become a refugee in New York City. He clashed with conservatives as a student journalist and went on to cover the exploits of presidents he loathed for outlets including the Washington Post.
In 1979, six years after coming to Madison as editor of The Progressive, Knoll beat back the full might of the federal government when it tried to block publication of an article on H-bomb design. Late in his life he gave radical insights as a regular commentator on PBS.
Knoll made his mark in Madison too. He fought the owners of East Towne for preventing him from handing out copies of the Bill of Rights. He did a radio program on WORT and occasional writing for Isthmus. When he died in 1994, he was remembered as "a lion." That he was.