French figures: The Auschwitz survivor who championed France’s abortion law

French figures: The Auschwitz survivor who championed France's abortion law
Photo: AFP
One of the most admired people in France, she is one of the few women buried in the Panthéon and gave her name to a landmark social change.

La Loi Veil – the Veil Law – got its name from its mother, Simone. In the mid-1970s she managed to convince the French National Assembly to legalise abortion, despite fierce resistance from fellow politicians, the Catholic church and some segments of the population.

Simone Veil (pronounced 'vey') was many things: Holocaust survivor, trained lawyer, renowned politician, senior civil servant, women's right champion and feminist idol.

She was born in a Jewish family in Nice, 1927. Her adolescent years were brutally interrupted when, not yet turned 17, she was arrested and incarcerated in Auschwitz, the largest German concentration camp, situated in Poland.

Veil and her family were later transferred to Bergen-Belsen, another camp, where her mother died shortly before British forces liberated the camp in 1945.

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Simone Veil, here with her husband Antoine, is one of the few women buried in the Panthéon, the famous building that where historical figures such as Voltaire, Rousseau and Zola were laid to rest. Photo: AFP

Veil's status as a Holocaust survivor fundamentally impacted her staunch, humanist approach to politics. She was a skilled politician and many polls have showed her to be one of the most admired people in France.

In 1979 she was elected the first directly elected and first female president of the institution we today know as the European Parliament.

In 2008, she was elected to be part of the French language guardian, Académie Française, a rare feat for politicians. 

This article is part of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – every day until Christmas we will be presenting you with a person or object that has a particular significance to life in France. 

 


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