Simone Veil was born in Nice in south-east France in 1927, to a non-practising Jewish family. During the Second World War, she and her family avoided arrest by using false identities and splitting up and staying with different friends until they were finally rounded up by the Gestapo in March 1944.
Veil’s father and brother were deported separately and never seen again, presumed murdered. Her sister Denise, having joined the Resistance in Lyon, was deported to Ravensbrück with her mother and one of her sisters. Simone Veil at the age of 16 was sent to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Only the three sisters survived the war.
After the war, Simone Veil studied law and political science to become a lawyer, married, and had three sons. The family left France to work in Germany.
After returning to France, later, in 1954, Veil became a magistrate then in 1974, entered Jacques Chirac’s government working as Minister of Health until 1979. She became known for two important law reforms that she pushed through in 1974: facilitated access to contraception; and, the most difficult, the legalisation of voluntary interruption of pregnancy (abortion), decriminalising abortion in France..
In 1974, Veil was elected to the European Parliament where she was immediately elected as the first female President. She is considered one of the great promoters of Franco-German reconciliation and European construction.
Beside her life in politics, Simone Veil was also President of the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah (Holocaust) and in 2010 entered the Académie Française.
Since 2018, she has been buried in the Panthéon in Paris, as a major figure in French history.