France’s new prime minister is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and French Resistance hero

She is the first woman to hold the post in over three decades


French President Emmanuel Macron has appointed a descendant of a Holocaust survivor his new prime minister following his re-election last month. 

Élisabeth Borne, a self-described “woman of the left”, was appointed to the role succeeding Jean Castex, becoming the first woman to hold the post in over three decades. 

Borne, age 61, was born and raised in Paris to Marguerite Lecèsne, a pharmacist from Normandy, and Joseph Bornstein, a Jewish refugee from Poland. 

Her father Joseph and his family fled Belgium arrived in France in May 1940, according to records from the time, and they settled in the city of Nîmes in the South of France.

As the Nazi invasion of Europe advanced, Joseph joined the French Resistance in the south-eastern city of Grenoble. 

However, in 1944 he was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau along with his father, his older brother Leon and his younger brother Albert, who were all executed on arrival at the concentration camp. 

Joseph survived the Holocaust, eventually finding his way back to France along with his older brother, Isaac, where they both settled once again. 

Sadly, Joseph passed away in 1972 when Borne was just 11 years old, and she became what is known as a “Pupil of the Nation”, which is a status given to the children of people who were injured or killed as a result of war, a terrorist attack, or another public service. As a result, Borne received a full scholarship for her education. 

Borne has a reputation as a technocrat, having spent her career working in different local and national government departments, and her appointment is seen as key to the success of Macron’s second term where he plans to implement controversial reforms to the pensions and benefits systems. 

Borne has previously spoken about being the child of a single mother, saying in an interview: “It has not always been easy. I lost my father when I was very young and so we ended up with my mother, who had two daughters and who did not really have an income." 

Borne began her career in public service in 1997, joining the Environment Ministry, and has since served numerous Socialist Party Ministers.

She has worked as Director of Strategy for the French railway company SNCF, Director General of Town Planning in the French City Council, and held a number of roles in various ministries before being appointed Minister for Transport in May 2017, having voted for Emmanuel Macron in the election the previous month and joined his party, La Republique en Marche (LREM). 

While holding the role, she held out against weeks of strikes and protests by SNCF employees and trade unions as the government put an end to a generous pension and benefits system to help bring the partially state-owned company back towards profitability. 

In 2019, she was moved to the role of Environment Minister, and during the pandemic she led a push to repair 170,000 bicycles by the end of the year to help the French people cycle more, eventually pushing that to one million bicycles. 

In 2020, she became Minister for Labour, Employment, and Integration, and has now been appointed as the France’s first female prime minister since Edith Cresson briefly occupied the post in the early 1990s. She also becomes the first member of Macron’s political party, LREM, to hold that position. 

Borne is expected to play a key role in Macron’s second term as he attempts to push through controversial reforms like raising the retirement age and reforming the pensions system. 

It is also thought that her left-wing credentials will be useful to Macron during the legislative elections next month where socialist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon hopes to win a majority in parliament after narrowly missing out on a place in the run-off presidential election last month.

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