Iconic French leader Simone Veil dies at 89

The late Simone Veil

Simone Veil, an iconic French politician and Auschwitz survivor, passed away today in Paris at the age of 89.

Simone Veil, a Holocaust survivor who became a French Cabinet Minister and President of the European Parliament, attends a cocktail event after receiving the "Charles V European Award 2008" from Spanish King Juan Carlos during a ceremony at the Monastery of Yuste, in the western Spanish region of Caceres, June 18, 2008.

"May her example inspire our compatriots", President Emmanuel Macron tweeted. She published a best-selling autobiography in 2007 titled "A Life". She was Minister of State and Minister of Health, Social Affairs and the City.

"Her name is associated with women's equality, the memory of the Shoah and the European community", CRIF added. The following year, she was elected to the Académie Française-a rare honor for a politician.

In a message addressed to Macron, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier hailed a "great European" whose life embraced "both the horror and the hopeful construction of 20th-century Europe".

Mme Veil was born in Nice, Alpes-Maritimes on July 13, 1927. Veil, who had three children with her late husband, died at her home, according to her son.

She was a passionate supporter of the European Union, inspired by her wartime experiences as a Jew in Paris where she was detained with her family and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and then Bergen-Belsen, where her mother died. The couple had three sons. She saw herself as an advocate for the downtrodden, and devoted much of her early career to improving conditions in French prisons.

Mme Veil was the first elected president of the European Parliament in 1979.

She rose to become the Minister of Health in France in 1974, where she helped make contraceptives more accessible for women.

She also frequently took part in World War II commemorations and spoke out against the far-right National Front (FN).

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