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Veil, Simone


VEIL, SIMONE (née Jacob ; 1927– ), French politician. Veil, the daughter of architect André Jacob, was born in Nice. Deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz – where all the members of her family perished – and Bergen-Belsen from March 1944 to May 1945, she survived, and resumed her studies and married Antoine Veil in 1946 on her return to France after World War ii. She graduated in law and received the diploma of the Institute of Political Studies in Paris. She was appointed a magistrate in 1956. She was attaché titulaire to the Ministry of Justice (1957–59) and substitute detaché to the ministry (1954–65). Her first political steps came in 1969 when she joined the cabinet of René Pleven. Minister of Justice Veil represented France at the International Society of Criminology in 1959 and devoted herself to the reform of the laws concerning adoption, handicapped adults, and parental authority, and in conjunction with Professor Launay and Dr. Soule published L'Adoption, données médicales, psychologiques et sociales. She was appointed technical counselor in the cabinet of President René Pleven and was placed in charge of press relations, problems of civil law, and the judiciary. In 1970 she was appointed secretary to the Superior Council of the Magistracy. She is a chevalier of the National Order of Merit, and a member of the Council of the French ORT and of the Fondation de France. She served as minister of health in the cabinet of Jacques Chirac (1974–76), minister of health and social security in the cabinet of Raymond Barre (1976–79), and state minister in charge of social affairs, health and life in towns in the cabinet of Edouard Balladur (1993–95). In her capacity of minister of health, she initiated the law legalizing abortion in France. Her courage and dignity during that period gained her immense popularity in the country, far beyond the limits of her political camp. In July 1979 she resigned from the cabinet to devote herself to the European Parliament which she entered on a centrist list; she was elected its president on July 17. She served as president of the parliament for three years (1979–82) and was a regular member until 1993. In March 1980 she was awarded the Athenae Prize of $100,000 from the Aristotle Onassis Fund for her contribution to the rapprochement of peoples and the respect of human dignity. Her husband was appointed director general of Air Transport of France in 1971.

Continuously active in organizations of former deportees and Shoah survivors, Veil enjoyed widespread respect in the field of World War ii memorialization. In 2000, she was appointed the first president of the newly created Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah.


M. Sarazin, Une femme Simone Veil (1987); M. Szafran, Simone Veil: un destin (1999); J.N. Jeanneney et al., Les femmes dans l'histoire (2005).

[Nelly Hansson (2nd ed.)]

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