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Two female resistance fighters to be honored at Paris' Pantheon

Feb. 21, 2014 at 3:19 PM

PARIS, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Two women who fought with the Resistance during World War II will be honored with interment in the Pantheon, French President Francois Hollande says.

But a feminist leader told Radio France Internationale Friday Hollande is not doing enough to redress the gender imbalance. The Pantheon, where distinguished French citizens have been honored with burial since the late 18th century, now holds the ashes of only two women and more than 70 men.

Hollande announced this week that Germaine Tillion, an ethnologist who was part of a resistance network in Paris and spent two years in the Ravensbruck concentration camp, and Genevieve de Gaulle-Anthonioz, a niece of President Charles de Gaulle and also a resistance leader, will be interred in the Pantheon. Tillion died in 2008 and de Gaulle-Anthonioz in 2002.

Two men will also be honored this year, Pierre Brossolette, a left-wing journalist and resistance leader who threw himself from a window to his death after being arrested in 1944 in occupied Paris, and Jean Zay, a former education minister assassinated in 1944 by Fascist militiamen.

Clemence Helfter, a leader in the Osez le Feminisme group, said women expected Hollande to make a more dramatic move to honor women.

"The gap between men and women in the Pantheon is so huge that it will take many years before we fill this gap if we only select two women a year to enter the Pantheon," she said. "It will take more political will to fill this gap. So we call on politicians to act, and act strongly, on this."

Those interred in the Pantheon include politicians, writers like Victor Hugo and Emile Zola, and scientists. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Marie Curie, buried with her husband Pierre in 1995, is the only woman to be honored there based on her own merits. Sophie Berthelot was buried there with her husband, chemist Marcellin Berthelot.

The Pantheon was originally built as a church honoring Paris' patron St. Genevieve by King Louis XV and converted to a secular mausoleum in 1791 after the French Revolution.

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