PARIS, France — Hundreds of people are expected to line the streets of Paris on Sunday to honor Holocaust survivor and women’s rights icon Simone Veil, who will be given the rare honor of burial at the Pantheon a year and a day after her death at age 89.
Veil’s death prompted an outpouring of emotion, as she had long been considered one of France’s most popular and trusted public figures.
She will be only the fifth woman buried at the monument to France’s dignitaries, where she will be laid to rest with her husband Antoine, a high-ranking civil servant who died in 2013.
“Mum never thought she would be placed in the Pantheon. The only one in the couple who imagined she would enter the Pantheon was our father,” Jean Veil, the oldest of their three sons, said last week.
Simone Veil was 16 when she was deported along with family members in 1944 to Auschwitz. Her mother, father and brother were killed in the Holocaust.
After her return she became a resolute advocate of women’s rights as well as European reconciliation, securing her biggest political victory in 1974 by convincing the French parliament to legalise abortion despite fierce opposition.
She also became the first elected president of the European Parliament in 1979, a post she held for three years.
“The fact that we have built Europe has reconciled me with the 20th century,” despite living with the trauma of the Holocaust, Veil once said in a television interview.
The transfer of Veil’s remains to the Pantheon began Friday, when her and her husband’s coffins were exhumed from the Montparnasse cemetery and brought to the crypt of the French Holocaust Memorial in central Paris, which she helped found.
On Sunday morning, the funeral cortege will be escorted by Republican Guards over the Seine and through the Latin Quarter.
Pall-bearers will then carry the coffins up the Rue Soufflot, walking on a blue carpet, “the colour of peace, of the United Nations and of course of Europe,” the presidency said.
President Emmanuel Macron, attending with his wife Brigitte and dozens of French officials, is to give a speech.
After a minute’s silence, the “Marseillaise” national anthem will be sung by the American soprano Barbara Hendricks.
The coffin will lie in state until Monday, and admission to the Pantheon will be free from July 1 to 8.