Simone Veil (13 July 1927 – 30 June 2017)
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 II. Her father, mother and brother died in concentration camps.
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.
A Jewish survivor of a Nazi death camp at Ravensbruck with the prisoner number 78651 tattooed on her arm, she was a fervent fighter for civil liberties, becoming the first directly elected president of the European parliament in 1979.
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 Weizman Institute.
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.
She was married to Antoine Veil, a prominent businessman who led several leading companies and died in 2013. They had three sons. She died aged 89.