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Harry Reicher, leading human rights scholar, dies at age 66

October 27, 2014

Harry Reicher, Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and one of Australia’s leading international law and taxation experts, died on October 27. He was 66.

He appeared as a barrister on many occasions in the High Court of Australia and in the courts of England and the United States, and was involved in landmark cases of international human rights, international environmental law, and Australian tax and corporate law.

For the past 19 years, Reicher taught at Penn Law. His was especially known for his courses on Law and the Holocaust and International Human Rights. In 2003, he received the Law School’s inaugural adjunct teaching award.

“Harry was a beloved colleague and teacher for many years,” said Wendell Pritchett, Interim Dean of Penn Law and Presidential Professor. “He will be deeply missed by the entire Penn Law community.”

He also taught for many years at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, the University of Melbourne Law School, and law schools in the United States.

Reicher’s scholarship has appeared in the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, and recent work has appeared in Penn Medicine and as a chapter in The Law in Nazi Germany: Ideology, Opportunism, and the Perversion of Justice (Berghahn, 2013).

Born in Prague, in the former Czechoslovakia, Reicher earned his undergraduate degrees in economics and law from Monash University. He also held LLM degrees from the University of Melborne and Harvard Law School.

From 1995 to 2004, he worked — legally and diplomatically — to promote human rights and religious freedom as Representative to the United Nations for Agudath Israel World Organization, an international NGO with consultative status to the U.N. During his tenure, he worked to protect and preserve Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe and to protect Jewish schools threated with closure, among other issues.

He also served as Director of International Affairs for Agudath Israel World Organization, working on Holocaust-era restitution, reparations, and compensation, along with the related litigation.

In 2004, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, which oversees the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and he served until 2008. He also served on the museum’s Academic Committee and Committee on Conscience.

In April 2014, Reicher was named the recipient of the inaugural Rutman Teaching Fellowship from the USC Shoah Foundation-The Institute for Visual History and Education. He spent a week at the USC Shoah Foundation examining the Visual History Archive as research for his Law and the Holocaust course at Penn Law.

“He was truly passionate about teaching our students and his work on Law and the Holocaust was important to our collective understanding of the global human rights movement,” said William Burke-White, Richard Perry Professor and Inaugural Director of the Perry World House. “We have lost a special friend to Penn and a champion of human rights.”

“Harry’s work on law and the Holocaust, especially the international law aspects of the question, was a unique and major contribution,” said Jacques deLisle, Stephen A. Cozen Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science. 

“His passion and energy for teaching our students was remarkable,” deLisle added. “Harry was unfailingly generous with his time and unstinting in his interest in and enthusiasm for the work of his colleagues. And what he did for Penn was only one part of the contributions he made to human rights and to law, at the U.N., in his native Australia, and around the world.”

Updates will follow with information on the memorial service.