French women’s rights champion Simone Veil given coveted burial place in Pantheon

French Holocaust survivor and women's rights icon Simone Veil will be buried in the Pantheon mausoleum alongside many other great French figures, the French president announced on Wednesday during a service in homage to "France's most admired woman".

French women's rights champion Simone Veil given coveted burial place in Pantheon
Photo: AFP

Despite thousands signing a petition demanding Veil be buried in the famous Pantheon monument, Veil's family had indicated that she would be buried at Montparnasse cemetery alongside her husband, who died in 2013.

But during the national homage to Veil at the Invalides in Paris on Wednesday President Emmanuel Macron announced that both Veil and her husband Antoine will be interred in the Pantheon.

“Simone Veil will rest alongside her husband at the Pantheon,” said Macron.

The president said he had decided to honour her with a place in the Pantheon to show “the immense gratitude of the French people to one of its most loved children.”

Located in Paris, the Pantheon is reserved solely for the remains of great French figures, although the vast majority are men, including Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola.

Until now, only four women have been interred there: scientist Sophie Berthelot – wife of French chemist and politician Marcellin Berthelot, scientist Marie Curie, and two resistance fighters Genevieve de Gaulle-Anthonioz and Germaine Tillion.

Two petitions on had urged the French government to bestow the rare honour on Veil, with one of the letters saying she “deserves the Pantheon”.

“Simone Veil is certainly the most deserving woman to be featured at the Pantheon,” said the other.
Both gathered tens of thousands of signatures in just a matter of days.
Veil, an Auschwitz survivor, became a towering figure in French politics after pushing to legalise abortion in the face of fierce opposition. She died on June 30 at the age of 89.
Veil was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 while still a teenager.
She survived the concentration camps that claimed the lives of her mother, father and brother, and went on to become an indefatigable crusader for women's rights and European reconciliation.
Her biggest political achievement was pushing through a law to legalise abortion in France in 1974 in the face of fierce opposition.
Several hundred dignitaries, relatives and friends attended her funeral Wednesday at the Invalides military hospital and museum in Paris.


France honours women’s rights icon Simone Veil with coveted Pantheon burial

Holocaust survivor and women's rights icon Simone Veil will be given the rare honour of burial at the Pantheon in Paris on Sunday, a year and a day after her death at age 89.

France honours women's rights icon Simone Veil with coveted Pantheon burial
A collage of images of the late politician Simone Veil and her husband Antoine Veil hang at The Pantheon in Paris on June 28, 2018, ahead of a ceremony on July 1, where they will be buried. Photo: AFP
Veil's death prompted an outpouring of emotion across the country, with thousands signing a petition asking President Emmanuel Macron to bury her alongside France's most illustrious dignitaries.
She will be only the fifth woman inhumed at the monument on the Left Bank of the River Seine, and will be accompanied by her husband Antoine, a high-ranking civil servant who died in 2013.
“Mum never thought she would be placed in the Pantheon. The only one in the couple who imagined she would enter the Pantheon was our father,” said Jean 
Veil, the oldest of their three sons.
“He would often say jokingly… that it was out of the question to separate them after 67 years of living together,” he told CNews television.
French women's rights champion Simone Veil given coveted burial place in Pantheon
Photo: AFP
Simone Veil was 16 when she was deported in 1944 to Auschwitz during the Holocaust, when her mother, father and brother were killed.
After her return she became a tireless crusader for women's rights as well as European reconciliation, securing her biggest political victory in 1974 by convincing parliament to legalise abortion despite fierce opposition.
She also became the first elected president of the European Parliament in 1979, a post she held for three years.
A model of composure, Veil was considered by many a secular saint for her unwavering stance on moral issues.
Polls consistently showed her to be one of France's most popular and trusted figures.
“The fact that we have built Europe has reconciled me with the 20th century,” despite living with the trauma of the Holocaust, Veil once said in a television interview.
'Light within' 
The transfer of Veil's remains to the Pantheon begins Friday, when her casket and that of her husband will be exhumed at the Montparnasse cemetery.
Their coffins will then be displayed for two days in the crypt of the Holocaust Memorial in central Paris, which Veil helped found.
On Sunday morning the funeral cortege will be escorted by Republican Guards over the Seine and through the Latin Quarter.
Pallbearers will carry the caskets up the Rue Soufflot, walking on a blue carpet, “the colour of peace, of the United Nations and of course of Europe,” the presidency said.
France pays homage to its 'most admired woman' Simone Veil
National ceremony honoring Veil at les Invalides in July 2017. Photo: AFP
They will pause three times to sing, including the “Song of the Deported”. 
President Emmanuel Macron, attending with his wife Brigitte and dozens of French officials, will give a speech followed by a minute of silence.
“You brought into our lives that light that burned within you and which nobody could ever take away,” Macron said at her funeral last year.
The “Marseillaise” national anthem will then by sung by the American soprano Barbara Hendricks.
The caskets will lie in state until Monday, and admission to the Pantheon will be free from July 1 to 8.
Veil was already given a state funeral, and commemorative two-euro coins will enter circulation in July along with postage stamps bearing her image.
Last month Paris renamed a Metro stop “Europe – Simone Veil” in her honour.