Ruth Deech, Baroness Deech
Ruth Lynn Deech, Baroness Deech, DBE (née Fraenkel; born 29 April 1943, Clapham, London) is a British academic, lawyer and bioethicist, most noted for chairing the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), from 1994 to 2002, and as the former Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford. Lady Deech sits as a Crossbench peer in the House of Lords (2005-) and chaired the Bar Standards Board (2009-2014).
Deech studied Law at St Anne's College, Oxford, graduating with a first in 1965. She returned to the college in 1970 to be a tutorial fellow in Law, a job she retained until 1991 when she was elected principal of the college. She retired in 2004, and was succeeded by Tim Gardam. The college has since named its latest building after her; the Ruth Deech Building, the fourth to be named for a principal.
Deech held many other positions during her career; she served as Senior Proctor of the University of Oxford between 1985 and 1986, as a member of the University's Hebdomadal Council of the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority from 1994 until 2002, and was appointed to a four-year term as a Governor of the BBC in 2002, the same year that she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE), in recognition of her work at the HFEA.
On 22 July 2005, it was announced by the House of Lords Appointments Commission that she would be made a life peer, sitting as a Crossbencher. On 5 October 2005, she was created Baroness Deech, of Cumnor in the County of Oxfordshire, and introduced in the House of Lords on 25 October 2005. She delivered her maiden speech on 24 November 2005.
In 1999, The Observer newspaper named her as the 107th most powerful person in Britain, and in 2001, Deech was placed at no.26 in Channel 4's "The God List", which ranked "the fifty people of faith in Britain who exercise the most power and influence over our lives". In November 2007, Deech published IVF to Immortality: Controversy in the Era of Reproductive Technology, with co-author Anna Smajdor.
Deech is the daughter of the late historian and journalist, Josef Fraenkel (b. 1903, Ustrzyki Dolne, Poland) who fled Vienna and then Prague from the Nazis. He arrived in Britain on 3 September 1939, the day the Allies declared war on Germany. Several other members of her family were murdered in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Her first cousin is Maurice Frankel, Director of the UK Campaign for Freedom of Information.
World War II restitution
In 2008, it emerged that a 101-yr old Polish artist living in Kraków, Eugeniusz Waniek, had in his possession a set of silver cutlery which had once belonged to Deech's father's family, the Fraenkels. Waniek had been a (Polish Christian) neighbour and friend of the Fraenkels in pre-war Ustrzyki Dolne, a small town near the Polish/Ukrainian border. Deech's grandfather, Moses Fraenkel, had been a long-serving Mayor of the town.
Nazi German troops raided Ustzyki Dolne in September 1942, rounding up the town's large Jewish population. Deech's aunt - Helena Fraenkel - managed to pass a bundle of the silverware to Waniek for safekeeping - risking her life in doing so. Other Jews in the town were shot for refusing to hand over valuables. Helena was sent to her death in the Sobibor concentration camp. Waniek looked after the silver, at one stage burying it in his garden to hide it from the Nazis - which would have also been punishable by death. He never saw the Fraenkels again.
When the story was uncovered by a neighbour of Waniek's, Marek Marko, and historian Professor Norman Davies in 2008, Deech and her British family visited the frail Waniek in his small Kraków apartment. He presented to them the silverware that he had kept in a drawer for 67 years. He died 8 months later, aged 102.
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- IVF to Immortality: Controversy in the Era of Reproductive Technology by Ruth Deech and Anna Smajdor, Oxford University Press, November 2007
- Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA)
- UK Bar Standards Board
|Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford