Tributes to the politician Simone Veil, and a ‘soft power’ accolade for France.
Simone Veil, the French politician, women’s rights champion and Holocaust survivor who has died at the age of 89, is to be laid to rest in the Panthéon in Paris. President Emmanuel Macron announced that the former minister would receive the rare honour to show the “immense gratitude of the French people to one of its most loved children”.
He paid tribute to the politician at her funeral at Les Invalides, where the Garde Républicaine carried her coffin.
Born to a Jewish family in Nice in 1927, Simone Veil was arrested by the Germans during the war and sent to Auschwitz and then Bergen-belsen concentration camps.
The Holocaust survivor was appointed health minister in Valéry Giscardd’estaing’s centre-right government in 1974 and steered through landmark laws, including the right to abortion and legalisation of the oral contraceptive pill. The controversial abortion legislation, named the Loi Veil, was passed in 1975 and is considered one of the foundations of women’s rights and secularism in France.
Simone Veil went on to serve as the first elected President of the European Parliament in 1979, and re-entered French politics in the 1990s. In 2010, she joined the Académie Française – guardians of the French language – becoming only the sixth woman to join the ‘immortals’, as the 40 academy members are known.
She will become the fifth woman to be laid to rest in the Panthéon, alongside 76 men. Other national figures buried there include writers Émile Zola and Victor Hugo, and scientist Marie Curie. The body of her husband, politician Antoine Veil, who died in 2013, will be moved to join her in the crypt.
ABOVE: Simone Veil in the uniform of the Académie Française; BELOW: Her funeral at Les Invalides