IF it was possible to encapsulate the recent history of Europe and humanity’s determination to survive and do nobel, uplifting things in one life then that person might well be Simone Veil, who died yesterday.
Born Simone Jacob in Nice, Veil was deported to Auschwitz at 17 with her entire family. Her father and brother were last seen on a train sent to Lithuania. Her mother, Yvonne, died in Belsen in 1945. Veil and her two sisters were among only 11 survivors of 400 Jewish children deported from her region. This ordeal — far too feeble a word — made her a life-long champion of European unity and secular principles.
In 1973, she pushed through laws to liberalise contraception and a year later she led the campaign in France’s national assembly for the legalisation of abortion. She was elected to the European parliament in 1979, becoming the first president of the assembly.
At a moment when Europe’s unity is under threat, there can hardly be a stronger argument for a return to the core principles of the EU than the inspiring life of Simone Veil.
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