by Ulrike Mast-Kirschning (sac)

Stephane Hessel lived through the Holocaust and survived. He went on to help put together the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has since devoted his life to promoting human rights around the globe.

Stephane Hessel calls himself a darling of fortune. But it isn’t exactly the term that comes to mind when hearing his biography.

Born in Berlin in 1917, Hessel moved to Paris with his parents when he was 16 years old. He initially studied philosophy with Jean-Paul Sartre, then international relations. In 1939, he was drafted into the French army. Two years later, he fled to England, but returned to Paris 10 months before the end of the war with an espionage mission.

The Gestapo arrested him there on July 10, 1944 and deported him to one of the largest German concentration camps, Buchenwald. Later, he was moved to the notorious off-premises camp Dora. Yet he was set free after he successfully managed to take on the identity of a deceased fellow prisoner.

So indeed, Hessel was a darling of fortune.