France mourns anti-Zionist intellectual Stéphane Hessel

Hessel dies at 95, known as champion of the Resistance, human rights and Palestinians.

March 1, 2013 03:14
2 minute read.
STÉPHANE HESSEL attends a ceremony in the gardens of the French Foreign Ministry last June

Staephane Hessel 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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PARIS – France mourned Thursday one of its biggest intellectual heroes, Stéphane Hessel, who died on Tuesday night at the age of 95, after a life dedicated to fighting Nazis, human rights violators across the world and Zionism.

The left-wing Liberation daily headlined its front page on Thursday, “The Just,” and devoted no fewer than 32 pages to the man.

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Hessel was born in Berlin during World War I. His father was an intellectual whose parents had converted from Judaism to Lutheranism, and his mother was also a Protestant (some say with deep anti-Semitic roots). The family settled in France when Stéphane was seven years old.

Hessel joined the Resistance movement of Gen. Charles de Gaulle against the German occupation in 1941 and became a senior member of the Conseil National de la Resistance led by Jean Moulin. The Gestapo arrested him and he was sent him to the Buchenwald and Dora concentration camps. He escaped twice.

Between 1946 and 1948, he took part in the creation of the United Nations, and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

He had a long career as a diplomat for the UN, for French Foreign Service, and worked for a series of governmental organizations in France.

At the same time he wrote and published many books, from the point of view of a humanist concerned with the destiny of mankind and the earth.

In the following decades he kept fighting in France, Europe and everywhere for human and social rights, and in his last years particularly for illegal immigrants in France and Europe in general.

Hessel became famous around the world in 2010 after he published “Time for Outrage!” (Indignez-vous!) a manifesto translated into dozens of languages and printed in 4 million copies.

“The driving force of resistance is outrage,” he explained. Hessel’s call and the economic crisis of 2011 inspired Spain’s Los Indignados anti-austerity movement.

Julien Bayou, a local politician from the Paris region, called on President François Hollande to bury Hessel in the Pantheon, where the great men of the France are laid to rest, among them Emile Zola, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire. No decision has been taken yet.

But what is certain, all the newspapers and television channels emphasized, is that Hessel’s anti-Zionism was very strong.

His wife, Christiane Hessel-Chabry, went a step further and openly supported Hamas and its methods. The couple had visited the Gaza Strip.

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