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Jacques Chirac (1932–2019), former president of France

Hubert Fanthomme/Paris Match via Getty Images

He was the first French leader to acknowledge that the French were in part responsible for the deportation of 75,000 French Jews to Nazi concentration camps during World War II

Jacques Chirac was the president of France from 1995 to 2007, as well as mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995 and prime minister of France from 1974 to 1976 and 1986 to 1988. As president, he led a divided nation, presiding over far left and far right factions of the government. Chirac is remembered for his opposition of the U.S. war in Iraq and for championing the formation of the European Union. In 2000, as he was serving his first term as president, he introduced a referendum reducing the French president’s term from seven years to five. It was successful, and with his second term, Chirac became the first French president to serve a five-year term. He was the first French leader to acknowledge that the French were in part responsible for the deportation of 75,000 French Jews to Nazi concentration camps during World War II — previous French leaders had placed the blame for this solely on the Nazis who occupied France.

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Died: September 26, 2019 (Who else died on September 26?)

Details of death: Died at home in Paris at the age of 86.


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Corruption charges: Chirac was accused of corruption during his time as mayor of Paris. The charges involved an embezzlement scheme — one that didn’t enrich Chirac’s own bank account, but funneled city money into his political party’s coffers. The charges arose toward the end of his term as mayor, as he was preparing to take the office of president. Chirac was found immune to prosecution while he served as president, but in 2007, just after he left office, charges were filed. A 2011 trial found Chirac guilty, though he neither attended his trial nor spent any time behind bars, due to his advancing illness and neurological problems. He was given a two-year suspended sentence and emerged from the scandal with his reputation bruised but not destroyed.

Notable quote: “France is not worried about a powerful United States. In the world of today, it is a real necessity. I don’t like the idea of presenting Europe and the United States as competitors. We are partners.” —from an interview in the first year of Chirac’s presidency

What people said about him: “Much to say about Chirac, but one thing that deserves to be remembered today is when, in July 95, he officially recognized France’s culpability in Nazi deportations and the Holocaust. A watershed moment and an act of courage, even if long overdue.” —James McAuley, Washington Post Paris correspondent

“Grandiose, strategic, wily, at times decisive, at other times flip-flopping, possibly corrupt but the first French leader to admit France’s role in the Nazi crimes, thus helping heal a terrible wound. To many, the personification of late 20th century France. RIP Jacques Chirac.” —entrepreneur Daniel Korski

Full obituary: New York Times

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