(July 2, 2018 / JNS) Holocaust survivor and women’s rights powerhouse Simone Veil was given one of the highest honors in France on Sunday, being buried at the esteemed Panthéon in a ceremony attended by thousands of people.
Veil, considered one of France’s most beloved and trusted public figures, died at the age of 89 just a year and a day before the burial, and was interred in the Paris house that contains the remains of Voltaire, Emile Zola, Louis Braille and Victor Hugo.
Veil is only the fifth woman to be buried at the historic site. She joins scientist Marie Curie, resistance fighters Genevieve de Gauelle-Anthonioz and Germaine Tillione, and wife of chemist Marcellin Berthelot, Sophie.
Veil’s coffin was joined by that of her husband, high-ranking civil servant Antoine, who died in 2013. The coffins were displayed for 48 hours at the French Holocaust Memorial, which she helped found, to allow the public to pay their respects, and then escorted through Paris by Republican Guards to the Panthéon.
Simone Veil was deported along with her family to Auschwitz in 1944 when she was 16. Her mother, father and brother were killed in the Holocaust. When she returned to France, she supported European reconciliation and became a fierce advocate for women’s rights, working to legalize abortion in 1974. She was elected the first president of the European Parliament in 1979.
Veil’s acceptance into the Pantheon was the result of nationwide petitions. Her arrival at the Panthéon was attended by former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as current President Emmanuel Macron.