Simone Veil
Simone Veil, an French-Jewish Auschwitz survivor and the first elected president of the European parliament, leaving the Institut de France after her entry ceremony as member of the prestigious Academie française, on March 18, 2010 in Paris, France. FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images

Holocaust survivor and women’s rights advocate Simone Veil, who helped legalize abortion in France, died Friday at the age of 89, as reported by France 24.

During her life, she became the first woman president of the European parliament in 1979, served on France’s Constitutional Council until 2007 and was elected to the Académie française, a body which presides over the French language, in 2008. Veil championed women’s rights while she served as health minister of France. She had a large role in passing the 1975 law that legalized abortion — a law that is still known as Veil’s law — to this day.

“No woman resorts to an abortion with a light heart,” Veil said in an opening address before the National Assembly on November 26, 1974. “One only has to listen to them: it is always a tragedy,” she continued. “We can no longer shut our eyes to the 300,000 abortions that each year mutilate the women of this country, trample on its laws and humiliate or traumatize those who undergo them.”

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After the law legalizing abortion was passed, Veil's car and home were often vandalized with paintings of swastikas.

In 1944, Veil’s French-Jewish family was arrested by the Gestapo. Veil was 16 at the time and avoided being sent to the gas chamber by lying about her age. At Auschwitz, her entire body was shaved and the serial number 78651 was tattooed on her body.

“From then on, each of us was just a number, seared into our own flesh,” she wrote in her memoir “A Life.”

After the concentration camps were liberated by Allied Forces in 1945, Veil studied law and began her ascent into politics. Veil’s mother and sister were confirmed dead, and she never heard from her father or brother again.

After she began studying law, Veil used her experiences as a Holocaust survivor to influence her politics. Memories from the war made her in favor of European unity, according to The Guardian.

“Sixty years later I am still haunted by the images, the odors, the cries, the humiliation, the blows and the sky filled with the smoke of the crematoriums,” Veil said in a 2005 interview.

An estimated 195,000 names are listed in the Registry of Holocaust Survivors, compiled by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). The Registry allows any survivors of the Holocaust, Jewish or non-Jewish, to submit their names and be on the list. Many of the names on the list are people who are now deceased, as they registered their names over the last 15 years.

“The Registry is a voluntary and testimonial list, and is by no means a comprehensive list of all survivors,” reads the USHMM website. “Furthermore, most of the survivors in our database live in the United States or Canada, although we have registrations from survivors and family members from 59 countries.”

In 2014, there were approximately 500,000 living survivors, said the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, a group which facilitates payment relations between Germany’s government and Holocaust victims.

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A conference woman representing the group said that the youngest survivors would be about 71 years old. Veil, at 89, passed this mark. After her death, several politicians, including French President Emmanuel Macron, took to Twitter to express their grief.

When Veil was inducted into the Académie française, her ceremonial sword had the French Republic’s motto (“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”), the European Union’s motto (“United in Diversity”) and the five-digit number tattooed on her in Auschwitz.