French Holocaust survivor Simone Veil dies at 89
A Jewish survivor of a Nazi death camp at Ravensbruck, Veil was best known in France for legalising abortion when she was health minister in 1974Updated: Jun 30, 2017 15:22 IST
Simone Veil, a former magistrate and Holocaust survivor best known in France for legalising abortion in the 1970s, died on Friday. She was 89 years old.
A Jewish survivor of a Nazi death camp at Ravensbruck with the prisoner number 78651 tattooed on her arm, she was also a fervent European and civil libertarian, becoming the first directly elected president of the European parliament in 1979.
Although out of the national limelight since 2007 when she left her seat at France’s top constitutional court, she commanded wide respect across the political spectrum and remained among the most popular politicians in opinion polls.
Her concentration camp experience had made her a passionate advocate of European union but she was best known in France for legalising abortion when she was health minister in 1974.
Virtually unknown when she joined the cabinet, she fought doggedly against a hostile parliament and divided public opinion to push through a bill that became known as “the Veil Law”, making France the first mainly Roman Catholic country to legalise abortion.
Macron offers condolences
President Emmanuel Macron offered his condolences.
“May her example inspire our fellow countrymen, who will find in her the best of France,” Macron said in a message to the family.
She was born Simone Jacob in Nice, on the Riviera, on July 13, 1927. Her whole family was arrested by the Germans during World War Two. Her father, mother and brother died in concentration camps.
“May her example inspire our fellow countrymen, who will find in her the best of France.” - French President Emmanuel Macron
After the war, she studied law at Sciences Po in Paris and became a magistrate, winning honorary degrees from the U.S. Princeton university and Israel’s Weizman Institute.
She was married to Antoine Veil, a prominent businessman who led several leading companies and died in 2013. They had three sons.