French Politician, Holocaust Survivor Simone Veil Passes Away

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Simone Veil, former French politician and Holocaust survivor, passed away this week at the age of 89

Simone Veil, a former French politician and Holocaust survivor, has passed away at the age of 89, her family told the media in France Friday.

Veil, a scholar, former judge, feminist activist and former minister of health who in 2012 was awarded France’s highest honor, passed away this week in her home in Paris.

A lawyer by education, Veil served as minister of health under the center-right government of Valery Giscard d’Estaing and later as president of the European Parliament, as well as a member of the Constitutional Council of France.

Veil, who was born in Nice, was imprisoned at Auschwitz but managed to escape the Nazi death camp. She published a best-selling autobiography in 2007 titled “A Life.” The following year, she was admitted to the Academie Francaise – a highly prestigious institution comprising individuals, often philosophers and writers, recognized for scholarly excellence.

In 2012, then-French President Francois Hollande presented Veil with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour at the Elysee Palace. Fewer than 70 people have received the Grand Cross since Napoleon Bonaparte established it in 1802.

The president of CRIF, the umbrella organization representing French Jewish communities, wrote in a statement on Friday that he is “immensely saddened by the passing of Veil.

“With her high standards and loyalty, this activist for women’s rights has left an indelible mark on French politics and its intellectual life,” CRIF President Francis Kalifat wrote, adding Veil had done so “with courage and dignity.”

The European Jewish Congress (EJC), the representative organization of European Jewry, issued a statement of condolences as well.

“Veil was a strong fighter against anti-Semitism and on behalf of Holocaust memory and was known in France for her instrumental role in legalizing abortion in the 1970s. She went on to serve as the first president of the European Parliament,” it said.

“We have sadly lost a great moral voice, a champion of Jewish rights, combating Antisemitism and ensuring the Holocaust and its lessons were properly memorialized and a pioneer for the rights of women and an advocate for European progress,” said EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor. “Simone Veil will be missed, not just by the French People, but by European Jewry and people around the world.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed his condolences over Veil’s death as well.

“Veil never forgot her Jewish roots, the command to remember those who perished and the duty to ensure that the events of the Holocaust will never be repeated,” Netanyahu said in a statement.