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Writer and Resistance fighter Hessel dies at 95

The Local/AFP · 27 Feb 2013, 10:05

Published: 27 Feb 2013 10:05 GMT+01:00

France's Stéphane Hessel, who survived a concentration camp during World War II to go on to become a best-selling author and respected diplomat has died at the age of 95, his wife confirmed on Wednesday.

Hessel, whose 2010 work "Indignez-Vous!" (Time for Outrage) sold more than 4.5 million copies worldwide, died overnight, his wife Christiane Hessel-Chabry confirmed. He was a prominent Resistance figure during World War II and later widely admired as a rights activist.

Hessel was born in Berlin in 1917 but became a naturalized French citizen in 1939. His role in the French Resistance, however, led him into danger and he was arrested by the Gestapo. He was later moved to the Buchenwald and Dora concentration camps.

He survived the war and in 1948 he was involved in the editing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, while working as a diplomat at the United Nations.

Hessel regularly spoke up for the cause of the downtrodden, demanding the French government provide housing for the homeless. He was also vociferous in his condemnation of Israeli rocket attacks on Lebanon.

In his book 'Indignez-Vous', Hessel argues that the French need to again become outraged like those who participated in the Resistance under General Charles De Gaulle during World War II.

His reasons for personal outrage included the growing chasm between the haves and have-nots, France's treatment of its illegal immigrants and the abuse of the environment.

His call to arms inspired the the "Occupy Wall Street" movement which began in New York's financial district and quickly spread worldwide.

In spring 2012, Hessel was a keen supporter of Socialist Party candidate François Hollande in the French presidential elections. Following Hollande's victory, Hessel spoke of the need to be patient with the new president.

In 2012 at the age of 94 in an interview with French TV TF1, a typically philosophical Hessel spoke lucidly about his inevitable death.

"Death is a big project of mine, the experience could perhaps be the most interesting of my life," he said. "It's important not to live too long. Life is enjoyable as long as you have the ability to express yourself."

"Life is behind us, for me it was beautiful," he added in an interview with Audrey Crespo-Mara

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Throughout his life Hessel was honoured with numerous awards and titles including the Legion of Honour, which was bestowed upon him in 2006.

In 2011 Foreign Policy magazine named him among the world's top global thinkers "bringing the spirit of the French Resistance to a global society that has lost its heart".

Hollande's wife Valerie Trierweiler was one of the first to express her condolences over Hessel's death, paying tribute to his "extraordinary life".

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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