Arthur Gol­dre­ich

The Jewish Chronicle - - Obituaries - `

THE FOR­MER anti-apartheid ac­tivist Pro­fes­sor Arthur Gol­dre­ich, founder of the ar­chi­tec­ture depart­ment at Beza­lel Academy, was a for­mer col­league of Nel­son Man­dela, writes Mau­rice Ostroff. Arthur who had been chair of the Arthur Gol­dre­ich Foun­da­tion for the Pro­mo­tion of Art, De­sign and Ar­chi­tec­ture at Beza­lel, and his late wife Ta­mar moved to Beth Protea re­tire­ment home in Her­zliya in June 2009, whereTa­mar passed away in Septem­ber of that year. Dur­ing a chat with Arthur a few years ago, he and I re­called the days when we both served in Machal, (vol­un­teers from over­seas who par­tic­i­pated in Is­rael’s 1948 War of In­de­pen­dence.) We also dis­cussed one of his least known achieve­ments which he re­called with pride. In about 1950 he and a friend, Ger­ald Abramowitz, had pro­duced prob­a­bly the first er­gonom­i­cally de­signed chair and he was as proud of this as he was of be­ing awarded South Africa’s Best Young Pain­ter in 1954.

In 1948, while I had the lux­ury of trav­el­ling to Is­rael in a Dakota air­plane, Arthur ar­rived on an over­crowded im­mi­grant ship, the Fabio. De­signed to carry 50 peo­ple, her holds had been con­verted into dor­mi­to­ries by boards en­abling it to carry ex­actly 292 souls. In Henry Katzew’s book, South Africa’s 800, one of the vol­un­teers, Morris Smith, is quoted as say­ing “You couldn’t have put a ra­zor blade be­tween us. If you slept on your back, you had to stay on your back”.

The pas­sen­gers were mainly Dis­placed Per­sons, sur­vivors of the Holo­caust, in­clud­ing a group of stunted con­cen­tra­tion camp chil­dren in the charge of a Hun­gar­ian girl and a group of about 30 South African Machal vol­un­teers. There were nine preg­nant women, two giv­ing birth.

On re­turn­ing to South Africa Gol­dre­ich be­came an early mem­ber of the ANC’s mil­i­tary wing led by Nel­son Man­dela. In 1961 Gol­dre­ich and his lawyer friend Harold Wolpe ac­quired a farm named Liliesleaf in Rivo­nia, a sub­urb of Jo­han­nes­burg, to be used covertly as head­quar­ters for the un­der­ground move­ment. Nel­son Man­dela hid there pos­ing as a gar­dener and driver.

On July 11, 1963, se­cu­rity po­lice raided the farm. The 19 per­sons ar­rested and charged with sab­o­tage, in­cluded five whites – all Jews, namely, Arthur Gol­dre­ich, Rusty Bern­stein, Den­nis Goldberg, Bob Hep­ple, and Hil­liard Festen­stein. Harold Wolpe was ar­rested shortly af­ter­wards and im­pris­oned at Mar­shall Square where Gol­dre­ich was al­ready be­ing held.

Be­fore they could be tried, Gol­dre­ich and Wolpe es­caped and fled to Swazi­land dis­guised as priests. From there they were flown to Botswana. Their es­cape in­fu­ri­ated the pros­e­cu­tors and po­lice who con­sid­ered Gol­dre­ich to be “the arch-con­spir­a­tor.”

Man­dela, who had been ar­rested pre­vi­ously and was serv­ing a five-year sen­tence was brought from Robben Is­land to stand trial, which re­sulted in life sen­tences for eight of the ac­cused, in­clud­ing Man­dela.

In De­cem­ber 2001 Gol­dre­ich at­tended a re­union of the Rivo­nia tri­al­ists, at­tended by about 150 guests in­clud­ing then Pres­i­dent Mbeki. At the re­union it was an­nounced that the Liliesleaf Trust had been formed with the ob­ject of re­turn­ing the house and out­build­ings to their orig­i­nal state as a mu­seum to record the his­tory. The chief ex­ec­u­tive of the mu­seum is Ni­cholas Wolpe, son of Harold Wolpe.

A Makarov pis­tol that was given to Mr Man­dela by Colonel Biru Tadesse in Ad­dis Ababa when the for­mer was on a trip to seek mil­i­tary as­sis­tance has now be­come the tar­get of a trea­sure hunt.

This is how. In 2003, when Man­dela vis­ited his for­mer hide-out he re­called bury­ing the weapon there. So far, al­though the gar­den was dug up, and a neigh­bour­ing home was bought and de­mol­ished, the pis­tol now val­ued at ZAR22mil­lion (£1,898,000) has not yet been found.

Dur­ing his im­pris­on­ment, sev­eral houses were built in the grounds of Liliesleaf and it is now be­lieved that an­other neigh­bour’s home is one of three pos­si­ble hid­ing places.

This house was put up for auc­tion at an ask­ing price of ZAR3 mil­lion (£435,000) which the Trust can­not af­ford.

To the re­lief of the Trust the house failed to sell at an auc­tion on May 5. Al­though there w e r e m a n y po­ten­tial bid­ders, they fell silent at the open­ing bid of ZAR2mil­lion (£172,000) and there is still hope that the Trust will man­age to re­cover this first weapon in­tended for use in the anti-apartheid strug­gle.

Arthur Gol­dre­ich is sur­vived by his four chil­dren, Ni­cholas Paul, Amos and Eden and five grand­chil­dren.

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