Simone Jacob was born on 13 July 1927 in Nice. The only survivor, along with her sister, of a Jewish family deported to Auschwitz in 1944, Simone Veil studied law and became a magistrate in the post-war period, notably assigned to the prison administration.
In 1969, she joined the cabinet of René Pleven, Keeper of the Seals in the Chaban-Delmas government, and entered politics when she became Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's Minister of Public Health in the Chirac and Barre governments (1974-1979), a position she held concurrently with responsibility for Social Security (1976), and then for the Family (1978). It was then through her action in favour of liberalising access to contraception (1974) and above all through her fight to get hostile parliamentarians to vote in favour of the law on the voluntary interruption of pregnancy (the Veil law, 1975) that she became known and appreciated by the public.
Charged by President Giscard d'Estaing with leading the UDF list in the first European elections by universal suffrage in 1979, Simone Veil entered the Strasbourg Parliament, where she held the presidency symbolically, as a woman and former deportee, until 1982. A convinced pro-European, she became involved again in 1984 by heading a RPR-UDF union list, then in 1989 by leading the Centre list (dissident from the UDF).
An independent and popular figure, she was Minister of Social Affairs, Health and Urban Affairs, with the rank of Minister of State (granted for the first time to a woman) in the Balladur government, which she supported during the 1995 presidential campaign.
President of the High Council for Integration from 1997 to 1998, Simone Veil then sat on the Constitutional Council from 1998 to 2007. Despite her duty of reserve, she supported the draft European Constitution submitted to a referendum in May 2005 and, once her term of office was over, came out in favour of Nicolas Sarkozy, notwithstanding their differences of opinion on the issue of immigration, in the 2007 presidential election. On 18 January, at the Panthéon, she paid tribute to the Righteous of France alongside the President of the Republic Jacques Chirac. Her autobiography, published the same year, is entitled Une vie. [Académie française, 2008].
Simone Veil died on 30 June 2017 at the age of 89. On 1 July 2018, Simone Veil entered the Pantheon with her husband Antoine. She is the fifth woman to be laid to rest there.