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French writer and diplomat Stéphane Hessel dead at 95

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-02-27

Stéphane Hessel, a writer, diplomat and concentration camp survivor, has died at the age of 95, his wife said Wednesday. Born in Germany, Hessel became a naturalised French citizen and was a member of the French resistance during World War II.

Stéphane Hessel, a writer, diplomat and concentration camp survivor, has died at the age of 95, his wife said Wednesday. Christiane Hessel-Chabry told AFP that Hessel died overnight.

Hessel joined Charles de Gaulle in exile during World War II, was waterboarded by the Nazis, escaped hanging in concentration camps and took part in drafting the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

Tributes poured in for Hessel, with French President François Hollande praising "the exceptional life" of a man he said was a symbol of human dignity and the United Nations celebrating a "monument" in the history of human rights.

Portrait: Stéphane Hessel

Born to a Jewish family which joined the Lutheran Church, Hessel's parents moved to France in 1924.

They served as the inspiration for the characters of Jules and Kathe in Henri-Pierre Roche's novel "Jules et Jim," which later was made into an iconic film by French director François Truffaut.

Hessel became French in 1937 and after watching the Nazis invade France without firing a shot. In anger, he heeded De Gaulle's appeal and went to London and then became a leading resistance figure.

He was captured by the Gestapo, tortured and deported to the Buchenwald and Dora concentration camps, where he escaped hanging by switching identities with a prisoner who had died of typhus.

After the war, Hessel was involved in editing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and became an indefatigable champion of social justice, human rights and the protection of the environment.

His 2010 work "Time for Outrage" sold more than 3.5 million copies worldwide and helped inspire the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York's financial district and later spread worldwide.

In the work, he said: "The reasons for outrage today may be less clear than during Nazi times. But look around and you will find them."

Among the causes for outrage he enumerated throughout his life and in his work were growing economic disparity, France's treatment of illegal immigrants and the destruction of the natural environment.

His last published work came out in 2012. Called "Declare Peace! For a Progress of the Spirit," it comprises interviews with the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

THE FRANCE 24 INTERVIEW WITH STEPHANE HESSEL

 

Date created : 2013-02-27

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