Simone Veil the immortal, return on the life of the favorite French politician.

Today, in our series of powerful French women, discover the figure of Simone Veil, probably one of the most important French politicians. Young Auschwitz survivor, Minister of Health at the origin of the legalization of abortion, President of the European Parliament, immortal at the French Academy... A look back at an exceptional career. Discover the story of this woman with an incredible destiny.

Early years and youth

Simone Veil, born Simone Jacob, was born on July 13, 1927 in Nice, in the south of France. His father is an architect, his mother is a trained chemist but a housewife. Simone's family is explicitly Jewish, but not practicing and "very secular". Simone is the youngest of four children, two sisters and a brother.

Then came the Second World War. The Gestapo then begins its work of deportation of Jews in Nice. Simone, having false papers in the name of "Jacquier", which her parents had obtained, stopped going to high school to work at the municipal library, and, at her mother's request, found accommodation with her literature teacher, Mme de Villeroy. In March 1944, she nevertheless passed her baccalaureate. On March 30, 1944, while she was going, with a friend, to join the girls of her class to celebrate the end of the baccalaureate exams, which her family had forbidden her to do, she was controlled in the center of Nice by two Germans in civilian clothes who detected the falsification of her identity card and arrested her. Simone warns a friend of her arrest, so that he in turn, warns his family. This friend is followed by the Gestapo, and her family is arrested. All four were sent to the Drancy camp, from where the three women left for Auschwitz on convoy no. 71 of April 13, 1944.

WW2 and deportation

Simone, her sister and her mother are separated from the men in the family. They were sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, the main Nazi extermination camp, where they arrived on the evening of April 15, 1944, after two and a half days of transport in "suffocating, overcrowded" cars in which people of all ages were crammed. Simone was then 16 years old. A French-speaking prisoner advised her to say that she was 18, in order to pass the selection and avoid extermination. She was indeed selected for work, and received the number 78651, which was tattooed on her arm. The work consisted of "unloading trucks with huge stones" and "digging trenches and leveling the ground". A former prostitute turned kapo saves her life by transferring her to an annex of Auschwitz, telling her: "You are too beautiful to die. She accepts, on condition that her mother and sister follow her. Simone, along with her mother and sister, were transferred in July to the annex camp of Bobrek, five kilometers from Birkenau. 1945 was the end of the war. The Nazis evacuated the Bobrek camp, where Simone was being held, in the face of the Red Army's advance. The SS took their prisoners on a 70 kilometer death march to Auschwitz. The journey lasted 8 days, without food or water, in the cold and snow. They were assigned to the Bergen-Belsen camp. Her mother, too weakened, died of typhus in March. Her sister Madeleine, who was also affected by typhus, was barely saved by the arrival of British troops on April 15.

the return to France

Simone and her sister returned to France and found refuge with their family. She learns that her father and brother died in deportation. She is ready to talk about what she experienced, but has the impression that almost nobody wants to hear her, it's the omerta. She learns of her success in the 1944 baccalaureate. In 1945, she enrolled in the Faculty of Law in Paris and in the Institute of Political Studies in Paris. She met her husband Antoine Veil. They got married in 1946. Together, they will have three sons, and 12 grandchildren. Simone rebuilds herself little by little but will never forget.


French career: a life of combat

Simone became a successful magistrate in 1956. From then on, she held a senior position in the prison administration at the Ministry of Justice, where she dealt with judicial matters. The cause of prison conditions became her priority. Member of the Syndicat de la magistrature, she became in 1970 the first woman secretary general of the Conseil supérieur de la magistrature. At a time when only 40% of French women were working, and even less so in the circles of the Parisian bourgeoisie, Simone Veil's professional career came as a surprise. She enters politics in the MRP (popular republican movement). After the election of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing to the presidency of the Republic, she was appointed Minister of Health in the Jacques Chirac government in 1974. She is the second woman to become a minister in France. She is in charge of presenting to the Parliament the bill on voluntary interruption of pregnancy, which decriminalizes abortion, which she considers as the French drama, killing hundreds of women per year. She is the figure of the struggle of women for the legalization of abortion in France, which makes her the French feminist figure, still today. As a minister, she remains known for her strong character and her demands on her collaborators.

In March 1993, Simone Veil was appointed Minister of State, Minister of Social Affairs, Health and Urban Affairs in the Édouard Balladur government. In this position, she introduces, among other things, the contractual assistant practitioner (CAP).

In 1996, when the number of women in the assemblies reached a ceiling of 6%, she signed a petition in L'Express entitled "Manifesto for parity", bringing together five women politicians from the left and five from the right. In 2000, the law on parity in politics was adopted, obliging political parties to be represented by as many women as men.

Appointed member of the Constitutional Council in March 1998, she was a member of the high court until March 2007.

European career for the construction of the Union

In 1979, Simone was sent by Valery Giscard d'Estaing to represent the Union for French Democracy list for the first elections to the European Parliament by universal suffrage. She is elected president of the European Parliament. Her actions are mainly towards human rights, women's rights and around the Franco-German reconciliation.

She left her duty of reserve in 2005 to call for a "yes" vote in the French referendum on the treaty establishing a constitution for Europe.


last years and legacy

From 2001 to 2007, she chaired the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, of which she was subsequently honorary president. As an example of resilience, she agreed on December 22, 2004, to return to Auschwitz with five of her grandchildren. On October 31, 2007, his autobiography, entitled Une vie, was published. The book has been translated into fifteen languages and sold more than 550,000 copies in France. It is a success. It was awarded the Lauriers verts prize in 2009. In 2008, she was appointed to the French Academy. Her sword of academician was given to her at the Senate by Jacques Chirac on March 16, 2010. On her sword of Immortality are engraved the serial number that was inscribed on her arm in Auschwitz, as well as the mottos of the French Republic and the European Union: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" and "In varietate concordia", symbol of her convictions.

 Simone Veil died at her Paris home in Place Vauban on June 30, 2017, just days before her 90th birthday. A national tribute was held on July 5 at the Invalides, where military honors were paid to him in the presence of the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, and his predecessors Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande. At the end of this tribute, the President of the Republic announced that, in agreement with her family, Simone Veil would be laid to rest "with her husband in the Pantheon".


Simone Veil is a figure of "child of the century", she herself having gone through the trials of the XXth century.Simone is recognized today for her fight for the decriminalization of abortion, the fight for the construction of Europe after the Second World War, the fight for the living conditions of prisoners, and also for the transmission of memory for the Holocaust.

A poll conducted by Ifop in 2010 presented her as the "favorite woman of the French".


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