French women’s rights champion Simone Veil set for rare Pantheon burial in July
French Holocaust survivor and rights icon Simone Veil, who died last year aged 89, will receive the rare honour of a burial in July at the Pantheon in Paris, the president's office said Monday.
Published: 20 February 2018 09:07 CET
Veil will become only the fifth woman to be buried in the Paris monument, which houses the remains of great national figures, and only the fourth to be interred there on her own merits.
She will join Polish-born French scientist Marie Curie; two French Resistance members who were deported to Germany, Genevieve de Gaulle-Anthonioz and Germaine Tillion; and Sophie Berthelot, who was buried alongside her chemist husband Marcellin Berthelot.
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.
Macron stands in front of the flag-draped coffin of French politician and Holocaust survivor Simone Veil. Photo: AFP
Her biggest political achievement was pushing through a law to legalise abortion in France in 1974 in the face of fierce opposition.
French President Emmanuel Macron said at her funeral last year 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.”
France's National Monuments Centre said Monday that Veil's body would spend the night of June 30 under the watch of the Republican Guard before being deposited in the Pantheon's crypt in a ceremony to be broadcast live on television the following day.
Among the other luminaries buried there are writers Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola.
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.
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.
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.
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