“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” Elie Wiesel

France pays tribute to Veil, Holocaust survivor and women’s rights icon

PARIS (Reuters) – France paid homage on Wednesday to Simone Veil, who survived the Nazi death camps and went on to make her mark in the male-dominated world of French politics by championing the legalization of abortion as health minister in the 1970s.

President Emmanuel Macron said Veil, who died aged 89 on June 30, would be laid to rest with her husband in the crypt of the Pantheon mausoleum alongside other national icons including Emile Zola, Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas.

At a ceremony in the sun-drenched courtyard of the Les Invalides military museum in Paris, her two sons, prominent criminal affairs lawyers, delivered moving tributes to their mother’s dogged defense of tolerance and the feminist cause.

“I forgive you for emptying a jug of water over my head because of a remark you considered misogynistic,” said one of the two sons, Jean Veil.

A Jewish survivor of the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen with the prisoner number 78651 tattooed on her arm, Simone Veil was a fervent European and fighter for civil liberties, elected president of the European Parliament in 1979.

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