Friends Remember Anti-apartheid Leader Who Hid Nelson Mandela

Arthur Goldreich, who died Tuesday at 82 in Tel Aviv, fought in the pre-state Jewish underground in Israel before returning to S.A. in 1954 to fight against apartheid.

Local South Africans and others took time this week to remember anti-aparthied fighter and artist Arthur Goldreich, who died Tuesday at 82. Those close to Goldreich, who helped hide Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress in the 1960s before being imprisoned and moving to Israel, said he didn't speak much about his activities during the last years of his life, instead focusing on his art.

"By the time he came here he didn't speak about his past," said Lynn Lochoff, the managing director at Beit Protea retirement facility for English speakers in Herzliya, to which he had moved two years ago. "But he was very proud of all the pictures he had painted and that he had in his room," Lochoff said.

Goldreich Mandela
David Kaplan

She added that he was especially happy about a painting of Mandela that adorned his room. "He was very proud of the relationship he had with Mandela," she said.

Born in 1929 in Johannesburg, Goldreich came to Israel in the 1940s to fight in the pre-state Jewish underground. He moved back to South Africa in 1954 and became a successful artist, but is well-known mainly for his fight against apartheid.

In the 1960s, Goldreich and his family pretended to operate a farm outside Johannesburg, which really served as the underground headquarters of the ANC and its leaders, including Mandela, who posed as a worker on the farm. In 1963, South African authorities raided the farm and Goldreich was imprisoned. He escaped to Britain but immediately decided to move to Israel.

"He was this unbelievably flamboyant guy, incredibly good looking and charming," said David Kaplan, a former Telfed Kfar Sava head who met Goldreich in the 1990s when they co-organized a leadership seminar for young South African politicians in the city. "The women went crazy for him. He was really a charmer, good-looking, with long hair."

Shimshon Zelniker, a close friend of Goldreich's since the early 1980s, described him as humorous, imaginative and creative. "When he walked into a room, he simply filled it," he said. "Yet he had an enormous intricate inner life. As open and flamboyant as he was, he was a secretive person who conducted a double life as an active underground operation leader while at the same time living a so-called normal life."

After immigrating in the 1960s, Goldreich, an abstract painter and architect, became a leading figure at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, founding its environmental and industrial design department.

"Arthur played a major role in developing the industrial design and architecture departments at Bezalel," the institution's president, Arnon Zuckerman, told Anglo File. "His mastery and skill helped transform them into internationally recognized centers for design, and his generosity and philanthropy, through the Arthur Goldreich Foundation, has helped many Bezalel students to achieve their goals."

Although Goldreich - whose Israeli-born wife, Tamar de Shalit, passed away a few months ago - will be remembered for his role in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, he was also highly critical of certain Israeli policies.

"He was a staunch supporter of withdrawing from the occupied territories, as he called them, but he was also a staunch member of a small group of South African liberal anti-apartheid movement leaders who fought against this facile and stupid equation between Israeli foreign policy vis-a-vis apartheid," Zelniker said. "He was a critic, he was a very progressive, left-wing oriented person, but at the same time he was a very warm patriot who saw in Israel his real home."

Goldreich is survived by his sons Nicholas, Paul, Amos and Eden. He will be laid to rest this Sunday at 6 P.M. on Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha, near Petah Tikva.