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I am sad today, very sad today in-fact.  The world has lost one of the most inspiring people overnight.

Stephane Frederic Hessel – RIP

Born to Jewish parents in Berlin 20 Oct. 1917 he first arrived in France when he was 8 years old.  He became a naturalized French person in 1939.  His parents, Franz and Helen were the inspiration for Francois Truffaut’s romantic film Jules And Jim which became a classic in France.  Based on the Book Jules and Jim by Henri-Pierre Roche.  His parents inspired the books characters Jules and Kathe (Catherine in the film adaptation).

Stephan became a prominent member of the French Resistance during WWII and was imprisoned in Buchenwald and Dora concentration camps after being discovered and arrested by the Gestapo.  Plainly he survived and became a diplomat after the war representing France at the UN where he was a member of the team who drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

According to Gilles-William Goldnadel, a French Jewish Activist; France’s leftist press idealized the former Resistance fighter, a strong critic of Israeli policy, as a “secular saint”.  He championed the cause of France’s Illegal immigrants and the rights of the oppressed generally.

In 2010 he published his thoughts in his manifesto Time for Outrage (Indiginez-Vous) inspiring social protesters, world wide, its even thought he may have in part inspired the Occupy Movement.  It expresses his outrage at the growing gap between haves and have-nots, France’s treatment of illegal immigrants and damage to the environment.  It was a best seller, selling over 3.5 million copies world-wide.

In his essay he argues that French people must re-learn how to be outraged.  In the book he calls for peaceful and non-violent insurrection by the people, for the people.

In 2011 his latest (and last) writings were published in Engage-Vous (Get Involved) where he makes the case for people to save the environment, embrace the positive and emphasizes the importance of good luck.  The book became a best seller in France and has been translated into 15 other languages.

French President Francois Hollande said he had learnt “with great sadness” about Hessel’s death.  “His capacity for indignation knew no bounds other than those of his own life,” he said in a statement. “As that comes to an end, he leaves us a lesson: to refuse to accept any injustice.”

He was a great favorite at the BBC, because he was unfailingly courteous. Diplomacy was his natural calling. He would often wear a dark suit and a homburg hat – then, put before the microphone, argue gently but irresistibly on the subject at hand.

He lived in the 14th Arrondissement where he had first settled in 1927! A Parisian at heart and a true French Hero committed to Liberte, Egalite et Fraternate!

Whilst I do not hold with all of his views he was never-the-less a great inspiration and leader of thought.  Gentle, thoughtful and resourceful whilst maintaining a keen intellect into his mid-90’s.  He will be missed by many.


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