SIMONE VEIL PASSES AGED 89

«Puisse son exemple inspirer longtemps nos compatriotes, qui y trouveront le meilleur de la France» – Emmanuel Macron . “ May her example inspire our fellow citizens, as the best of what France can achieve” – Emmanuel Macron.

Simone Weil

Nice-born political icon and Auschwitz survivor, Simone Veil, most definitely represented “the best of France” throughout her life.

Very few politicians can command support and admiration across the political spectrum. This, however, was the case with Simone Veil, France’s universally loved and respected former health minister who has just passed away at age 89.

Expressing his condolences, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “May her example inspire our fellow citizens, as the best of what France can achieve”, while his predecessor Francois Hollande said she “embodied dignity, courage and moral rectitude.”

Veil’s life and political career were admirable in many ways. In her autobiography, A Life, which was released in France in 2008 and the following year in the UK, she recounted all aspects of this extraordinary destiny that saw her successively become a survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, a mother of three boys, a health minister, an abortion pioneer, the first president of the directly elected European Parliament, and a member of France’s Constitutional Council, before being enthroned in 2010 as one of the French immortals, becoming only the sixth woman in 375 years to join the Académie Française (the French Academy).

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Veil’s nomination to the prestigious French Academy which is the organization that regulates the French language and whose members are nicknamed “eternals” after the inscription on the seal of the academy “to immortality”, was a beautiful conclusion to a remarkable life.

Born Simone Jacob in Nice, she was arrested in the streets of her hometown on 29th March 1944, the day after taking her baccalaureat examinations and nearly two months before D-Day, and was sent to Auschwitz with most of her family. She and a sister survived, but her father, mother and brother never came back from the death camps.

Upon her return to France, Veil married another secular French Jew, Antoine Veil, a diplomat, civil servant and senior aviation executive, and went on to become a judge. In 1974, she became Minister for Health (1974 – 1979) under President Giscard d’Estaing, where she successively fought to legalize abortion.

She later served as the first President of the European Parliament from 1979 to 1982 before returning to domestic government as Minister for Social Affairs, in Jacques Chirac’s government from 1993 to 1995. Three years later, Simone Veil was appointed to the Constitutional Council, an institution principally tasked with ensuring the constitutionality of French law. She also presided over the Foundation for the Memory of Shoah and provided multiple patronages all throughout the country.

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No less than three French presidents, Nicolas Sarkozy, Jacques Chirac and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, all political allies, attended her induction ceremony to the Académie Française, which was broadcast live on French television.

Wearing a green uniform designed by Karl Lagerfeld and a sword engraved with her Auschwitz camp number, 78651, which was still tattooed on her wrist, Weil declared in her inaugural speech: ” I think of my mother every day, two-thirds of a century after she died in the hell of the Bergen-Belsen camp,” (…) “And it is also my father, who was deported and died in the Baltic countries, who is with me here.”

PHOTO EXHIBIT REVEALS HIDDEN SIDE OF JACKIE KENNEDY

Une belle expo sur Jackie Kennedy en ce moment à Nice. A nice exhibit about Jackie Kennedy currently under way in Nice!

Jackie

Galerie Ferrero hosts a very interesting exhibit put together by one of the Kennedy clan’s most famous biographers, Frédéric Lecompte-Dieu.

 

Former US First Lady Jackie Kennedy once said of her life

I have been through a lot and have suffered a great deal. But I have had lots of happy moments, as well. Every moment one lives is different from the other. The good, the bad, hardship, the joy, the tragedy, love, and happiness are all interwoven into one single, indescribable whole that is called life. You cannot separate the good from the bad. And perhaps there is no need to do so, either.

Running until the end of May, the 130 photograph exhibit entitled « Elle s’appelait Jackie! », (Her Name was Jackie!) pays tribute to a woman who was an undisputed icon of style and reveals hidden sides from all stages of her life, from childhood to just before her death at age 64.

While some pictures are more glamorous, like for instance those of her wedding day or of the 1961 visit to Paris with JFK, others have a definite historical value, like the ones taken on that fateful day in November when Jackie, in a pink suit and matching pillbox hat, saw her husband assassinated before her eyes. And of course, some are just personal, like the photo showing her as a student in 1949, when she attended the University of Grenoble for six weeks, or the picture of her holding her children, Caroline and John-John, looking simply happy and relaxed.

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On display also is a replica of Jackie’s bouffant wedding dress, created from almost 50 feet of ivory silk taffeta by African-American dressmaker Ann Lowe, the President’s rocking chair, as well as a few letters written by Jackie herself, some magazines and a 45 minute long movie.

As her brother-in-law, the late Senator Ted Kennedy put it, “Jackie would have preferred to be just herself, but the world insisted that she be a legend….”.

After seeing all those pictures, it is clear that, more than 20 years after her death, Jackie Kennedy still holds an unparalleled place in American history and will continue to fascinate many more generations to come.

« Elle s’appelait Jackie! » runs until the 29th of May at Galerie Ferrero in Nice. Entrance is 10 euros (5 euros for students) and opening hours are Monday to Friday from 10:30am to 7pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10:30am to 7:30pm.

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CONTACT DETAILS
Galerie Ferrero
6, rue du Congrès
06000 Nice

Tel: +33 4 93 88 34 44

 

Lead image by Cecil Stoughton, White House [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; all other images courtesy Galerie Ferrero