French Holocaust survivor and pro-abortion campaigner Simone Veil dies at 89

PARIS (Reuters) - Simone Veil, a French politician and Holocaust survivor who secured the legalization of abortion in France in the 1970s, died at her home in Paris on Friday, her family said. She was 89 years old.

A Jewish survivor of a Nazi death camp at Ravensbruck with the prisoner number 78651 tattooed on her arm, she was a fervent European and fighter for civil liberties, becoming the first directly elected president of the European parliament in 1979.

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Simone Veil holocaust survivor and politician
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Simone Veil holocaust survivor and politician
Simone Veil en discussion avec le nouveau pr�ident du parlement europ�n Emilio Colombo. (Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
French Minister of Health Simone Veil launches an anti smoking exhibition at the Ministry of Health. (Photo by Elisabeth Andanson/Sygma via Getty Images)
Undated picture of French Health Minister Simone Veil. / AFP / - (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
FRANCE - JUNE 17: Health Minister Simone Veil In Paris, France On June 17, 1974 - Simone Veil, portrait. (Photo by Jean-Pierre BONNOTTE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
French Health Minister Simone Veil reading a French National Assembly information report in her garden during summer vacation. Simone Veil served as Health Minister in Prime Minister Jacques Chirac's government from May 28, 1974 to August 25, 1976 under the Presidency of Valery Giscard d'Estaing. (Photo by Elisabeth Andanson/Sygma via Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE: Simone Veil health ministry since May 1974 under the presidency of Valery Giscard d'Estaing, makes a speech 26 November 1974 on the abortion law at the French parliament house in Paris. (Photo credit should read AFP/Getty Images)
FRANCE - 1975: Simone Veil, French politician. Years 1975-1980. JAC-11757-15. (Photo by J. Cuinieres/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)
FRANCE - APRIL 14: Simone Veil at home in Paris, France on April 14, 1977. (Photo by Gilbert UZAN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Simone Veil dans un avion du Glam lors des �ections europ�nnes le 31 mai 1979, en France. (Photo by Gilbert UZAN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Simone Veil est �ue pr�idente de l'Assembl� Europ�nne de Strasbourg le 17 juillet 1979, �Strasbourg, France. (Photo by Gilbert UZAN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
FRANCE - 1979: Simone Veil with Judith, the daughter of Simone Veil's son Jean during 1979 in France. (Photo by BOTTI/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Simone Veil servs on the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and the Committee on Political Affairs. She is also a member of Parliament's delegation. (Photo by Yves Forestier/Sygma via Getty Images)
FRANCE - MAY 27: Simone Veil visits Suburbs Rehabilitated in Seine St.Denis On May 27th, 1994 (Photo by Gilles BASSIGNAC/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
AUSCHWITZ, Poland: (L to R) Former Auschwitz prisoner and former French Health Minister Simone Veil holds a speech ad French President Jacques Chirac listens, 27 January 2005 at the former nazi death camp Birkenau, during the ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the biggest Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, where more than one million people died. World leaders from 44 countries will stand alongside survivors of the camp and soldiers of the Soviet Red Army in a solemn tribute to the victims of Auschwitz. At (R) is French writer Marek Halter. AFP PHOTO PATRICK KOVARIK (Photo credit should read PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images)
Natzwiller, FRANCE: French President Jacques Chirac (L) holds former European parliament president Simone Veil's hand during the inauguration of a memorial to European resistance fighters who were deported to their deaths during World War II, 03 November 2005, on the site of the only Nazi concentration camp on French soil in Natzwiller. Some 22,000 men and women perished at the Struthof death camp between May 1941 and November 1944, when it was liberated by US forces. Simone Veil was deported at the age of 17 to Auschwitz death camp. AFP PHOTO POOL PATRICK KOVARIK (Photo credit should read PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images)
Simone Veil on the set of TV show 'Cette Annee La'. (Photo by Eric Fougere/VIP Images/Corbis via Getty Images)
Simone Veil, former State Minister and president of the European Parliament, with her family, sons Pierre Francois and Jean (R), her grandson Aurelien and his wife Stephanie, her granddaughters Aurelie (on her knees) and Beatrice (L) and Beatrice's mother Isabelle. (Photo by Micheline Pelletier/Corbis via Getty Images)
PARIS - MARCH 12: President of Israel, Shimon Peres with Simone Veil attends the Gala Dinner hosted by Robert Parienti from the Pasteur Weizmann Institute, to honor the President Shimon Peres, of Israel, at the Opera Garnier, on March 12, 2008 in Paris, France. (Photo by Michel Dufour/WireImage)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) shakes hands with French former minister and European Parliament President Simone Veil after she was awarded with the Grand Officier of the Legion d'Honneur during a ceremony at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris, on April 29, 2009. AFP PHOTO POOL PHILIPPE WOJAZER (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE WOJAZER/AFP/Getty Images)
FRANCE - MARCH 18: French Simone Veil, an Auschwitz survivor and the first elected president of the European parliament, is congratulated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy as she joined today the prestigious French Academy, the guardian of the French language at the Institute of France (French prestigious Arts and Sciences Institution which includes five academies) in Paris. The 82-year-old Veil, a former French minister who ranks among the country's most respected politicians, is only the sixth woman to join the 40 'immortals'. Veil's tattooed Auschwitz prisoner number 78651. Simon Veil in Paris, France on March 18th, 2010. (Photo by Alain BENAINOUS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
French lawyer, politician and former President of the European Parliament Simone Veil gives a speech during a ceremony organised by France's state-owned rail company SNCF, to launch a project to transform an old railway station into a memory place on January 25, 2011 in Bobigny, outside Paris, to pay respect to the 22.000 Jews of Drancy camp, deported from that place to the gas chambers in Nazi camps. As SNCF has expressed remorse for hauling thousands of Jews to their deaths in Nazi camps, the company insisted it had been forced by France's World War II German occupiers to help deport 75,000 French Jews to the gas chambers, and noted that 2,000 of its own rail workers were executed. AFP PHOTO BORIS HORVAT (Photo credit should read BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images)
(L to R) Paris Police Prefect Michel Gaudin, Paris Police Deputy Prefect Melanie Villiers, French former Minister Simone Veil, and Deputy Minister for Veterans Marc Laffineur attend a ceremony marking the anniversary of infamous Vel D'Hiv round-up of 13,000 French Jews on July 17, 2011 in Paris, in front of the Monument commemorating the victims of racist and anti-semitic persecutions in the French capital. On July 16 and 17, 1942, some 13,000 Jews, mostly of non-French origin, were detained and taken to the Velodrome d'Hiver cycling stadium near the Eiffel Tower, where they spent a week in appalling conditions, before being deported to Nazi concentration camps. AFP PHOTO MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
French Former Health Minister Simone Veil attends on April 6, 2013 the awarding of the Political Book Prize at the National Assemby in Paris. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)

Although out of the national limelight since 2007 when she left her seat at France's top constitutional court, she commanded wide respect across the political spectrum and remained among the most popular politicians in opinion polls.

President Emmanuel Macron offered his condolences.

"May her example inspire our fellow countrymen, who will find in her the best of France," Macron said in a message to the family.

Her concentration camp experience turned her into a passionate advocate of European union but she was best known in France for legalizing abortion when she was health minister in 1974 under then President Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

Virtually unknown when she joined the cabinet, she fought doggedly against a hostile parliament and divided public opinion to push through a bill that became known as "the Veil Law", making France the first mainly Roman Catholic country to legalize abortion.

She was born Simone Jacob in Nice, on the Riviera, on July 13, 1927. Her whole family was arrested by the Germans during World War Two. Her father, mother and brother died in concentration camps.

After the war, she studied law at Sciences Po in Paris and became a magistrate, winning honorary degrees from the U.S. Princeton university and Israel's Weizmann Institute.

She was married to Antoine Veil, a prominent businessman who led several leading companies and died in 2013. They had three sons.

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