Veil, iconic fem­i­nist politi­cian, dies at 89

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By An­gela Charl­ton As­so­ci­ated Press file

PARIS» Simone Veil, a sur­vivor of Nazi death camps and a Euro­pean Par­lia­ment pres­i­dent who spear­headed abor­tion rights as one of France’s most prom­i­nent fe­male politi­cians, died Fri­day at 89, her fam­ily said.

A fu­neral cer­e­mony with mil­i­tary hon­ors is to be held on Wed­nes­day at Les In­valides, site of Napoleon’s tomb, the pres­i­den­tial El­y­see Palace said. In a mea­sure of the na­tion’s es­teem for Veil, French flags will be dressed in black rib­bons and Euro­pean flags will fly at half-staff.

“May her ex­am­ple in­spire our com­pa­tri­ots,” Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron tweeted.

“France has lost a fig­ure that his­tory rarely pro­duces,” Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe said, as trib­utes to the cen­trist Veil poured in from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

Veil said it was her ex­pe­ri­ences in the Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps that made her a firm be­liever in the uni­fi­ca­tion of Europe.

“The idea of war was for me some­thing ter­ri­ble,” she told The As­so­ci­ated Press in a 2007 in­ter­view. “The only pos­si­ble op­tion was to make peace.”

Her own rise from a for­mer de­por­tee to the head of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment was a po­tent sym­bol of that sought-after peace, she said.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, of­fer­ing con­do­lences in a mes­sage to Veil’s son, said she was “very grate­ful” for Veil’s com­mit­ment to Euro­pean uni­fi­ca­tion. “We will also re­mem­ber her tire­less ... com­mit­ment to the sur­vivors of the Holo­caust, whose fate she shared,” Merkel wrote.

A two-time Cab­i­net min­is­ter, Veil was best known in France for lead­ing the heated bat­tle to le­gal­ize abor­tion in the 1970s. France’s abor­tion rights law is still known four decades later as the “Loi Veil,” and she called it her proud­est ac­com­plish­ment.

In a coun­try where many women are hes­i­tant to call them­selves fem­i­nists, Veil em­braced the la­bel. She saw her­self as an ad­vo­cate for the down­trod­den and de­voted much of her early ca­reer to im­prov­ing con­di­tions in French pris­ons.

Later, she be­came one of the most vis­i­ble faces of France’s dwin­dling com­mu­nity of Holo­caust sur­vivors and spoke pas­sion­ately about the need to keep the mem­ory alive.

Born Simone Ja­cob in the Mediter­ranean port of Nice on July 13, 1927, she was one of four chil­dren.

In March 1944, the Gestapo ar­rested and de­ported Veil, her par­ents and all but one of her sib­lings.

Only Veil and her sis­ter sur­vived and the pair re­turned to France.

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