06:34, February 22 38 0 theguardian.com

2021-02-22 06:34:04
Other lives  Francis Deutsch obituary

My foster brother, Francis Deutsch, has died aged 94 from Covid-19, following a short illness. He was an outstanding radical lawyer and a pioneer of legal policy, whose life was driven by a sense of justice, belief in democracy and commitment to support the most vulnerable in society.

Francis came to the UK from Austria on the Kindertransport at the age of 13, arriving in Harwich, Essex, speaking no English. He was fostered by my father, Leslie Wollen, a Methodist minister, and his wife, Hilda (nee Young); he settled happily, remaining in close contact with the family. At the age of 21, he went back to wartorn Europe for two years to help with the resettlement of German refugees in the International Voluntary Service, using his native German language in working towards peace and reconciliation.

On his return from Europe, Francis went to Hull, where he met Sheila Freeman while doing entry exams for law training at night school. They married in 1955.

Once qualified as a solicitor in 1966, Francis channelled his beliefs through his work, initially at the pioneering Paddington Law Centre (PLC) in west London, and later at the Commission for Racial Equality. He was highly regarded within the legal profession and by the many victims of discrimination he supported, and continued working into his 70s, returning to PLC at the end of his career.

Born in Vienna, Francis was Jewish by birth. His father, Hermann Deutsch, a bank clerk, died of a heart attack in 1932 when Francis was six. He therefore grew up very close to his mother, Margarete (nee Jokl), a dressmaker. It was on one of the last Kindertransport trains that he came to the UK, in July 1939. His mother had obtained the necessary papers to emigrate to America; they had confirmed tickets for a passage to New York from Southampton, and planned to meet there. They said their goodbyes with no sense that it would be their final farewell.

After the war Francis learned that the remaining Jews in Vienna had been taken to the camps, his mother among them. He had lost his mother, two aunts and other family in the Holocaust.

Francis embraced the opportunities of older age, completing an OU degree in modern history in his 70s and also reflecting deeply on his own history. He contributed a survivor testimony and spoke of his experiences to schoolchildren both here and in Vienna. A lifelong member of the Labour party and campaigner for CND in the 1950-60s, he was an active member of Amnesty International and the United Nations Association in his 90s.

Alongside his passion for social justice, Francis was a great traveller, visiting Africa, Asia and eastern Europe on overland journeys. He also loved photography, cinema and Tottenham Hotspur FC.

Francis is survived by Sheila, their daughters, Gretta and Naomi, and grandchildren, Tom, Maria and Matt.

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