Best-selling French writer Stephane Hessel dies at 95

Former French Resistance member, Nazi concentration camp survivor and post war diplomat dies at the age of 95

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 February, 2013, 12:18am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 February, 2013, 4:43am


Best-selling French writer, veteran diplomat and concentration camp survivor Stephane Hessel, whose work inspired protest movements worldwide, has died at the age of 95, his wife announced on Wednesday.

The German-born Hessel, who became a naturalised French citizen in 1939 and was a prominent Resistance figure during the second world war, died overnight on Tuesday, Christiane Hessel-Chabry told reporter.

He was arrested by the Gestapo and later moved to the Buchenwald and Dora concentration camps.

After the end of the war, Hessel was involved in editing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He also took up the cause of illegal immigrants and championed the rights of the downtrodden.

Time for Outrage, his 2010 essay that sold more than 4.5 million copies in 35 countries, provoked the “Occupy Wall Street” movement which began in New York’s financial district and spread to other countries

It coincided with the Arab Spring revolutions which felled many long-serving dictators. Protests in Spain against corruption and bipartisan politics drew their name, the Indignants, from the Spanish title of Hessel’s essay, Indignaos.

The reasons for outrage today maybe less clear than during Nazi times. But look around and you will find them

His best-selling work argues that the French need to again become outraged like those who participated in the Resistance under General Charles De Gaulle during the second world war.

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

His reasons for personal outrage included the growing chasm between the haves and have-nots, France’s treatment of its illegal immigrants and the abuse of the environment.

Hessel followed up his best-seller with another book Get Involved which focuses on saving the environment.

A flood of tributes poured in. European Parliament president Martin Schulz said on Twitter: “Stephane Hessel, a great European, always involved, never satisfied, spurred by a spirit of combat and liberty. We will miss him.”

Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe hailed him as a “world citizen” while France’s First Lady Valerie Trierweiler paid tribute to his “exceptional life.”

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 Francois Truffaut.

Hessel also served as a diplomat in Vietnam and Algeria.