Simone Veil, a well-known French politician and Holocaust survivor, died at the age of 89.

Veil, a scholar, former judge, feminist activist and former minister of health who in 2012 was awarded France’s highest honor, passed away this week in her home in Paris, her family told the media in France Friday.

Veil, a lawyer by education, 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 a member of the Constitutional Council of France. In 1975, she led the legislation that legalized abortions in France.

President Emmanuel Macron offered his condolences.

“May her example inspire our fellow countrymen, who will find in her the best of France,” Macron said in a message to the family.

Former French President Francois Hollande presented Veil with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour at the Elysee Palace in 2012. Fewer than 70 people have received the Grand Cross since Napoleon Bonaparte established it in 1802.

Veil, who was born in Nice, was imprisoned at Auschwitz but managed to survive the Nazi death camp. She published a best-selling autobiography in 2007 titled “A Life.” The following year, she was admitted to the Academie Francaise — a highly prestigious institution comprising individuals, often philosophers and writers, recognized for scholarly excellence.

The institution, which has 35 members, of whom only six are women, was “revolutionized” by admittance of Veil, a longtime campaigner for women’s rights, according to an obituary written about Veil by the RTL broadcaster.

The president of CRIF, the umbrella organization representing French Jewish communities, wrote in a statement that he is “immensely saddened by the passing of Veil.

“With her high standards and loyalty, this activist for women’s rights has left an indelible mark on French politics and its intellectual life,” CRIF President Francis Kalifat wrote, adding Veil had done so “with courage and dignity.”

In 2012, CRIF 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.

‘Best of France’
Veil became a towering figure in French politics after pushing to legalize abortion in the face of fierce opposition.

A model of composure who always wore her hair in a sleek bun and dressed in Chanel suits, she was seen as something of a secular saint for her unwavering stance on moral issues.

Her standout achievement as a politician was shepherding a 1974 abortion law through parliament after a 25-hour debate during which she endured a torrent of abuse, with some lawmakers likening pregnancy terminations to the Holocaust.

“I never imagined the hatred that I would unleash,” the former health minister said later.

Born Simone Jacob in the Mediterranean city of Nice on July 13, 1927, Veil was deported to Auschwitz in 1944.

Her father, mother and brother died in the Nazi death camps, while she and her two sisters, one of whom later died in a car crash, survived.

After the war she studied law and married Antoine Veil, who died in April 2013. The couple had three sons.

As a young judge she lobbied for improved conditions in French prisons before throwing herself into the battle to end backstreet abortions.

A staunch believer in European integration, she became the first elected president of the European Parliament in 1979, a post she held for three years.

Polls consistently showed her to be one of France’s most popular and trusted figures.

She also frequently took part in World War II commemorations and spoke out against the far-right National Front (FN).

FN leader Marine Le Pen said Veil had “undeniably left her mark on French political life”.