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Simone Veil: une nicoise among the immortals

18/03/2010

Simone Veil

Today a ceremony in Paris welcomes Simone Veil to the l’Académie Française, finally transforming her into one of what are known in France as ‘the immortals’ after her election at the end of 2008.   Born Simone Jacob on 13 July 1927 in Nice,  she and her family were rounded up and deported to the death camps in 1944.  Of the family of two parents, three daughters and one son, only Simone and one sister (whose resistance exploits landed her in Ravensbrück) survived.  When Madame Veil formally joins the Academy, she will – like all newly-elected immortals – carry the silver joined hands that mark her ‘ascension’.  In her case, engraved on those hands is the number tattooed upon her body by the camp authorities .  A formidable femme politique, Madame Veil is emphatically not someone to whom the more perjorative term, ‘politicien‘ could ever imaginably be applied.  Unusually, she has always commanded enormous respect throughout her career.  She attributes this to her independence.   But there’s more to it than that.  Undoubtedly clever and courageous, Simone Veil demonstrates generosity of spirit as well as integrity.  Down among the pettiness, emptiness and greed of cleb culture, social atomisation and political shenanigans, it helps to know that there are such people up there, near the summit.

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