TRIBUTES have poured in for Stéphane Hessel, author of the short book Indignez-Vous [Outrage], who has died, aged 95.
Green party politicians Julien Bayou and Eva Joly have even, in a petition and an opinion piece in Libération, called for him to be buried in the Pantheon, a tribute reserved for France’s greatest men and women.
Mr Hessel, a former resistance fighter who escaped from a Nazi concentration camp, and a diplomat named an ambassador for life who helped edit the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, became a household name in his 90s after selling four million copies of his pamphlet. It has been credited as helping inspire movements across the world including anti-corruption marches in Spain and in south America and Occupy Wall Street protests in the USA.
The €3 tract denounces a lack of solidarity and the public’s tacit complicity in the destruction of social values and calls for “outrage” at injustices.
In their petition, entitled “Outrage should enter the Pantheon”, Joly and Bayou say: “This call to indignation, this refusal of all kinds of injustices, must henceforth be part of our common heritage”.
Six Socialist MPs have asked President Hollande to organise a national homage to Hessel, saying, in a letter, his memory and values must be passed on to the younger generation, to “serve as a model for the future”.
Hollande called him a “great figure, whose exceptional life was dedicated to human dignity” and a European, who, “marked by the war, took action for the unification of our continent”. He added: “It was as a passionate humanist that he undertook all of the battles for the rights of the human being, to fight against prejudices, conformism, conservatism”.
Among other issues, Hessel recently supported gay marriage, saying “more liberty never did any harm”.
Politicians from all stripes had good to say about him, from UMP president Jean-François Copé, who hailed “a great Frenchman”, who had “strength of conviction and sincerity”, to French Communist Party leader Pierre Laurent, who said: “He was very much a courageous man of the left, faithful to his values” and who “acted all his life for a better world”.
Speaking to Connexion for our January edition, in fluent English, Hessel said he was hoping to see improvements in the UK’s relationships with the rest of Europe this year and said that, despite continuing economic problems, “we have to be positive, we cannot let go.”
He added: “We must be confident in our possibility of building a more just world and we must all work together.”