Citizenship award 2011: Stéphane Hessel

Stéphane Hessel was born in Germany but carries France in his heart (hence his decision at the age of 20 to naturalise as a Frenchman). Hessel saw the light of day in Berlin in 1917. Early on, the map of Europe was drawn in the palm of his hand. Like Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, Stéphane Hessel was tossed back and forth between France and Germany in his childhood, until the war began. Throughout his life, Hessel remained scarred by this, witness his European commitment

After spending his early years in France and Germany, Stéphane Hessel went to Paris to begin higher studies at the Ecole libre des sciences politiques, after a stopover at the London School of Economics. As the tide began to turn in Germany, Stéphane Hessel enlisted as a front-line resistance fighter in 1940. That same year, Hessel was captured, but managed to escape and joined General De Gaulle's resistance army in London. During the long war years, Hessel worked as a liaison officer, but on a mission in France he again fell into the clutches of the Gestapo. This is followed by a true "torture tour" between the camps of Buchenwald, Dora and Bergen-Belsen, where he is able to escape.

After years of national isolation, Hessel devoted his subsequent life to broadening the nation's outlook to Europe and the whole world. Among other things, as a French and international diplomat, he co-wrote the 1948 "Universal Declaration of Human Rights".

An associate of the great tenors of the political scene and following the example of Mendès France or of Rocard, Stéphane Hessel refused to trade his freedom of thought for political fame. His statements found resonance in various con icts between Israel and other nations (Palestine, Lebanon). Despite his Jewish origins, Hessel did not shy away from taking Israeli politicians to task on several occasions.

At the national level, Hessel stood up for the movement of illegal immigrants in 2008 or supported the "sustainable" candidacy of Nicolas Hulot with the French Greens in 2011, among others.

In 2010, writer and essayist Hessel published the sharp pam et Don't take it! (followed in 2011 by Do something about it!). In it, he denounces the ills of our modern age from historical context, zooming in on poverty and the arrogance of the "financial markets". At ninety-three, Stéphane Hessel remains an eminent pioneer.

31 December 2011

With the support of logo pv group