Simone Veil, a Holocaust (Nazi death camp) survivor and women’s rights advocate who was instrumental in legalizing abortion in France, has died at the age of 89.

Veil was among France’s most popular politicians, and was revered across the political spectrum. In 1979, she became the first directly-elected president of the European parliament

She sat in the assembly until 1993, when she returned to government in France as Prime Minister Eduard Balladur’s Social Affairs Minister.

A fervent European, in 1998 she become a member of France’s Constitutional Court, a position she held until 2007.

In 2010 Veil received the supreme accolade that can be awarded to a French public figure, being elected to the Academie Francaise, and took seat 13, previously held by the brilliant but anti-semitic writer Racine. The ceremonial sword she was presented with bore the same number the Nazis had tattooed on her arm.


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