Grande dame of politics leaves legacy of rights

French politician, Académie Française member and Auschwitz survivor Simone Veil, who died on June 30, aged 89, is to be buried in the Panthéon, a homage paid to France’s greatest citizens

Simone Veil, hailed by President Macron for her “dazzling victories which no one else could have carried off”, is to be buried in the Panthéon in homage to a life well spent fighting for people’s rights.

Known especially for championing legal abortion, Mrs Veil will rest alongside husband Antoine, a civil servant, politician and entrepreneur, whom she married in 1946.

Born to secular-minded Jewish parents in Nice in 1927, Simone was deported to Auschwitz aged 16 and lost her parents and brother to the Nazi camps.

She was liberated by British troops in 1945 and found she had passed the Baccalauréat exam she had taken just before leaving. After studies in politics and law in Paris, she entered the civil service and politics, where she became known for her courage and convictions. She was appointed to the Académie Française in 2010.

The decision of a Panthéon burial was made public at the end of a speech by the president, who paid tribute to her following testimonials from her sons.

It had been called for by many and the decision was made along with the family of Mrs Veil. She was known for her contributions to human rights and to the EU, and especially to rights of women including as health minister championing the 1975 law which legalised abortion in France, known as the Loi Veil.

Speaking in the courtyard of Les Invalides at an official ceremony of homage, with military honours, Presi­dent Macron said her life “never ceased to astonish us”, and spoke of her “drive towards that which is right and good” and “indefatigable energy”. He said she had embodied “what we call la grandeur”.

“She led one struggle after another – struggles of our time,” he said, listing efforts for political refugees from Algeria, ...

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