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Human Rights Day 2020

On December 10th, we celebrate Human Rights Day, marking when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 and which proclaims that every person is entitled to inalienable rights as a human being.

Simone Veil – Holocaust survivor, feminist, lawyer, and politician – was a champion of human rights. She is remembered in France for improving the lives of women and the conditions of prisoners. Veil served as France’s health minister, and pushed to legalize abortion in France. In 1979 she became the first female president of the European Parliament, a post she held until 1982. Veil is also known across Europe for honouring and preserving the memory of the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust, and for her commitment to European values and unity.

Veil was born in 1927 in a Jewish family in Nice, France. In 1944 her family was arrested and deported to Nazi concentration camps. Simone was sent to Auschwitz. While Simone and her two sisters survived, her parents and brother died in the camps. It was Veil’s traumatic experience which shaped her commitment to the idea of a unified Europe – to a Europe where such atrocities cannot happen again.

Veil served 14 years in all in the European Parliament In the later years of her career she returned to French politics. She was the first president of the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah (Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah), and was awarded numerous honors for her work. She passed away in 2017, and is interred in the Panthéon mausoleum in Paris.