JTA — French President Francois Hollande has awarded France’s highest honor to Simone Veil, a French politician and Holocaust survivor.
Hollande personally presented Veil, 85, with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour at the Elysee Palace on Sept. 10.
A lawyer by education, she served as Minister of Health under the center-right government of Valery Giscard d’Estaing and later as President of the European Parliament, as well as member of the Constitutional Council of France.
Veil was imprisoned at Auschwitz but managed to escape the Nazi death camp.
Fewer than 70 people have received the Grand Cross since Napoleon Bonaparte established it in 1802. Earlier this year Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, received the lesser title of Knight of the Legion of Honour.
An announcement by CRIF, the umbrella organization representing French Jewish communities, described Veil as “one of France’s most cherished personalities and someone who plays an important role in keeping her camp from succumbing to the temptation of allying with the Front National” nationalist party.
“Her name is associated with women’s equality, the memory of the Shoah and the European community,” CRIF added.