Holocaust survivor Simone Veil to be honored with Pantheon burial in July

"I request that you accept the incredible gratitude of the French people for one of its most loved children whose example will never leave us."

February 21, 2018 04:43
2 minute read.
Holocaust survivor Simone Veil to be honored with Pantheon burial in July

Simone Veil, who died on June 30, 2017 at the age of 89, will be buried at the Pantheon in Paris on July 1, 2018. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)


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Former French politican and Holocaust survivor Simone Veil will be buried at Paris's Panthéon monument on July 1, the French President's Office said Monday, becoming only the fifth woman to be buried at the mausoleum reserved for France's most distinguished citizens.

Veil, who died on June 30, 2017 at 89 years old, survived both Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps and was widely known for her work regarding women's rights in France, including improving access to contraception and championing France's 1975 law legalizing abortion.

Born in Nice, she was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944, several days after completing her high school education. Her mother, father and brother were all killed during the Holocaust.

A former French minister of health who served under three different prime ministers, Veil enjoyed a trailblazing career, including being elected the first female president of the European Parliament in 1979. A lawyer by training, she was appointed to France’s Constitutional Council in 1998.

From 2000 to 2007, Veil presided over the newly-established Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah, with the establishment of the organization marking France's growing acceptance of French responsibility in the Holocaust.

French Republican guards carry the flag-draped coffin of late French politician Simone Veil during a national tribute ceremony at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris, France, July 5, 2017 (Reuters)

In 2010, Veil was elected to the prestigious Academie Française (French Academy), joining the ranks of the "immortals" responsible for the protection of the French language and becoming the sixth woman to be join the academy in the 375 years since its inception. She insisted that the sword traditionally received by members of the academy would be engraved with her Auschwitz camp number.

Veil was honored with the Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur, France's highest honor, in 2012 when she was presented the prestigious medal by then-president Nicolas Sarkozy.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced at Veil's July 2017 funeral ceremony at Les Invalides that she would be honored with reburial, with her husband Antoine, at the Panthéon.

"You have, madame, granted our nation gifts which have made it better and more beautiful," Macron said in his funeral address. "I request that you accept the incredible gratitude of the French people for one of its most loved children whose example will never leave us."

General view of the Pantheon in Paris (Reuters)

Veil will become the fifth woman to be buried at the monument, alongside scientist Marie Curie, French Resistance heroines Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz and Germaine Tillion, and Sophie Berthelot, buried with her chemist husband Marcellin Berthelot.

The Panthéon is also the burial place for notable French citizens including Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo and Émile Zola. In January 2007, at a ceremony attended by Veil, former president Jacques Chirac unveiled a plaque at the Panthéon celebrating the 2600 French citizens recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance center.

The night before Veil's reburial, her body will be spent under the watch of France's Republican Guard. She will be interred the following day in a state ceremony broadcast live on television.

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