Arthur Goldreich - Reuters - 2001
Arthur Goldreich, right, with former ANC dissidents in 2001. Photo by Reuters
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It was an elaborate charade: A white South African family in the comfortable brick house on the northern edge of Johannesburg, a black farm worker in the tiny servant's quarters out back.

The farm worker was Nelson Mandela, hiding out in the 1960s soon after he founded the armed wing of the African National Congress. Arthur Goldreich, key to the ruse as head of the white family, died Tuesday in Tel Aviv, Mandela's office said Wednesday. Goldreich was 82.

Goldreich and his family pretended to be the owners of a farm on the outskirts of Johannesburg that was the ANC's underground headquarters in the 1960s. They played into the stereotypes of apartheid, trying to behave as masters and servant before the neighbors, who have spoken of seeing Mandela, known on the farm as David Motsamayi, in blue workers' overalls selling produce on the street outside.

But in private, they were comrades. Mandela once spoke of numerous political discussions with Goldreich, and of recommending he be recruited into Umkhonto we Sizwe, known as MK, the ANC's armed wing. In his autobiography, Mandela describes the South African-born Goldreich as having fought in the 1940s with the military wing of the Jewish National Movement in Palestine.

Mandela described Goldreich as a "flamboyant person (who ) gave the farm a buoyant atmosphere.

Benjamin Pogrund, a former South African journalist who met Goldreich in Israel, told the Associated Press that "Goldreich was a romantic revolutionary."

"He had a great personality and was really fun to be with," Pogrund said. "He was a great narrator and did everything with tremendous flair."

Mandela wrote of close calls at the farm. One day Mandela's son, leafing through a magazine while playing with Golreich's son on a visit to the farm, came across a photo of Mandela before he went underground. Mandela's son told Goldreich's son the man pictured was his father, and identified him by his real name.

"I had the feeling that I had remained too long in one place," Mandela wrote.

Mandela was not at the farm when it was raided in 1963. He was already in prison in a separate case, but became a defendant in the so-called Rivonia treason trial that arose from the farm raid, leading to decades in prison.

Goldreich was among those arrested. (Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report. )