France honours Holocaust survivor and women's rights campaigner Simone Veil

Judge and minister who fought to legalise abortion is interred at the Panthéon


The French Holocaust survivor and women’s rights champion Simone Veil has been interred at the Panthéon, the mausoleum for the country’s most illustrious citizens.  

President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the campaigner and minister, who died a year ago at the age of 89. 

Born in 1928 to a Jewish family in Nice, she was just 16 when she was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and later transferred to Bergen-Belsen. 

After the war she would become a laywer, a politician and an influential campaigner. 

She played an instrumental role as health minister in her county’s legalisation of abortion, overcoming a hostile parliament, while her concentration camp experience fueled her support of European integration as a member of the European Parliament.

Her career came to a close in 2007 when she stepped down as head of France's top constitutional court.

OBITUARY: Simone Veil

In recognition of the deep respect she commanded in French society, President Emmanuel Macron and two of his predecessors attended Sunday's ceremony, while hundreds of mourners braved the July heat to line the route her coffin took to the Panthéon. 

The camp number tattooed to her arm — 78651 — was shown on large screens along the Paris street that her procession followed. 

"France loves Simone Veil and loves her for her struggles," President Emmanuel Macron said during the ceremony. 

 "We wanted Simone Veil to enter the Pantheon without waiting for generations to pass, so that her battles, her dignity and her hope remain a compass in these troubled times." 

Veil’s mother, father and brother died during the Holocaust, with her sister dying in a car accident in the 1950s. 

Antoine Veil, to whom she was married for 66 years until his death in 2013, was also interred in the Panthéon to ensure the couple could remain together. 

Veil was survived by her three sons, Jean, Nicolas, and Pierre Francois. 

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