France names daughter of Holocaust survivor as health minister

Father of hematologist Agnes Buzyn was deported from Lodz ghetto to Auschwitz, spent seven years in mandate Palestine and Israel

This photo taken on December 23, 2011 shows Agnes Buzyn, then Head of the National Cancer Institute, attending a press conference in Paris. (AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS GUILLOT)
This photo taken on December 23, 2011 shows Agnes Buzyn, then Head of the National Cancer Institute, attending a press conference in Paris. (AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS GUILLOT)

France’s new health minister, a hematologist and professor of medicine, is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.

Agnes Buzyn, 54, received the health portfolio in Edouard Philippe’s newly announced government. President Emmanuel Macron had announced that he wanted to appoint specialists to head the ministries, who will be able to carry out reforms based on their knowledge of the field.

The new health minister previously served as the president of the French National Authority for Health (HAS), an umbrella authority for improving quality of patient care and to ensuring equality within the healthcare system.

Her father, 88-year-old Elie Buzyn, is an orthopedic surgeon at the St. Marcel clinic. He was in the Lodz ghetto from 1941 to 1944, and was deported to Auschwitz in August 1944.

In January 1945 the camp was evacuated and Elie Buzyn and the other inmates were forced to walk from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Buchenwald, 56 kilometers (35 miles) away over 10 days, in one of the infamous death marches.

After the Holocaust Elie Buzyn moved to what was then British mandate Palestine and the nascent State of Israel where he lived for seven years before returning to France in the 1950s.

Agnes Buzyn’s mother Etty is a psychologist and psychoanalyst specializing in early childhood. She was born in Paris in 1935 and spent the war years living with a family in Miribel in the Ain district of eastern France.

Agnès Buzyn has three children and is married to AIDS specialist Yves Lévy, director of Inserm, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research.

Balancing act

The new cabinet of 22 people meets campaign pledges of being smaller than its predecessors and having gender parity, with European lawmaker Sylvie Goulard landing the prestigious defence portfolio.

She will take over from veteran Socialist Jean-Yves Le Drian who will move over to foreign affairs, while rightwinger Bruno Le Maire was appointed economy minister.

Other key figures instrumental in Macron’s sensational victory in this month’s election were given senior roles, with the Socialist mayor of Lyon, Gerard Collomb, named as interior minister while centrist ally Francois Bayrou becomes justice minister.

Macron and his centre-right prime minister Edouard Philippe faced a tricky balancing act in choosing their first government, with 39-year-old Macron needing to keep his allies happy while opening up positions to Philippe’s rightwing Republicans party.

France’s youngest ever president wants to create a new centrist force in French politics — at the expense of the traditional Socialist and Republicans parties — which will be put to the test in parliamentary elections next month.

Without a parliamentary majority, he will find it hard to push through his ambitious plans to loosen France’s strict labor laws, boost entrepreneurship and reduce class sizes in tough neighborhoods.

Other non-politicians included several new faces drawn from the sports, arts and NGO worlds.

Olympic fencing champion Laura Flessel was named sports minister, star environmentalist Nicolas Hulot — who had spurned multiple offers of cabinet roles from previous presidents — accepted the ecology brief and crusading publisher Francoise Nyssen took charge of culture.

The education and transport portfolios also went to newcomers, all of them experts in their field.

The far-right National Front dismissed the changes as window-dressing, accusing Macron of “recycling” politicians from the mainstream left and right.

read more: