Arthur Goldreich

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Biographical information

Arthur Goldreich

Synopsis:

Artist, industrial designer, architect, member of MK, political prisoner and lecturer 

First name: 
Arthur
Last name: 
Goldreich
Date of birth: 
1929
Location of birth: 
Johannesburg
Date of death: 
24 May 2011
Location of death: 
Tel Aviv, Israel

Arthur Goldreich was born in Johannesburg in 1929. He grew up in Pietersberg in the Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo). 

One morning, his secondary school headmaster announced that students would be learning a foreign language, German. The implication was clear, many Afrikaners, including some of their political leaders, hoped and believed that Hitler would win the war. When Goldreich's teacher distributed the German "textbook", Goldreich a Jewish boy found himself staring at a Hitler Youth magazine. He balked and wrote to the Prime Minister, Jan Smuts, refusing to learn German and demanding to be taught Hebrew. Goldreich got his way.

Goldreich moved to Israel to fight in the Arab-Israeli war as part of an elite underground Jewish army.  During the 1940s he was a member of the Palmach, the military wing of the Jewish National Movement in Palestine.  He returned to South Africa in 1954 and won South Africa's Best Young Painter Award the following year for his figures in black and white. He created the sets for King Kong, a celebrated South African musical tracing the tragic story of a real-life boxer.

Goldreich and lawyer Harold Wolpe bought Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, Johannesburg, in 1961 as headquarters for the South African Communist Party which was forced underground by the apartheid state. Lilliesleaf Farm also became the secret headquarters of Umkonto We Sizwe (MK), where the underground leadership of the banned African National Congress (ANC) met secretly.   Goldreich and his family provided refuge at their home on Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, to Nelson Mandela and other freedom fighters in 1961. Mandela moved to the farm in October 1961, using the alias of a gardener named "David Motsamayi" to hide from the police.

During his speech from the dock on 20 April 1964 in the Rivonia Trial Mandela said: "Whilst staying at Liliesleaf farm, I frequently visited Arthur Goldreich in the main house and he also paid me visits in my room. We had numerous political discussions covering a variety of subjects. We discussed ideological and practical questions, the Congress Alliance ... Because of what I had got to know of Goldreich, I recommended on my return to South Africa that he should be recruited to Umkhonto weSizwe, the armed wing of the ANC."

As a member of the military arm of the ANC, Goldreich helped to locate sabotage sites for MK and draft a disciplinary code for its guerrillas.

Goldreich was arrested at the farm on 11 July 1963 in the now infamous Rivonia Raid.  On that day, the security police raided the farm and captured 19 members of the underground, charging them with sabotage.

Goldreich, along with Harold Wolpe, Mosie Moolla and Abdulhay Jassat escaped from custody at Marshall Square Police Station in Johannesburg on 11 August 1963, after bribing a young prison official.

Eventually he made his way to Swaziland disguised as a priest. His escape infuriated the prosecutors and police since Goldreich was considered to be "the arch-conspirator."

He moved to Israel in 1964 after his dramatic escape. He lived in Herzliya on Israel's Mediterranean coast. Goldreich became an architect in Israel and went on to found the architecture department at Jerusalem's Bezalel Academy where he also taught.

Goldreich briefly returned to South Africa after 1994 to attend a reunion at Liliesleaf. Today the farm has been restored into a museum detailing the events leading up to the Rivonia Raid.

Arthur Goldreich, passed away on Tuesday, 24 May 2011 in Tel Aviv, Israel, aged 82.   He is survived by his sons Nicholas, Paul, Amos and Eden.


References:
• Anon (2011), King Kong designer - and MK fighter - dies from SowetanLive, 25 May 2011 [online] Available at www.sowetanlive.co.za [Accessed 26 May 2011]
• SAPA, (2011), Arthur Goldreich dies at 82 from Timeslive, 25 May 2011 [online] Available at www.timeslive.co.za [Accessed 26 May 2011]
• Anon, Arthur Goldreich from http://cosmos.ucc.ie/ [online]. Accessed on 26 May 2011
• Anon (2011), Arthur Goldreich Friend to Mandela, 82   from Philly.com, 26 May 2011 [online] Available at http://www.philly.com/ [Accessed 26 May 2011]
• McGreal C, (2006) Worlds apart from The UK Guardian 6 February 2006 [online] Available at www.guardian.co.uk [Accessed 26 May 2011]
• Bryson D, (2011) Arthur Goldreich S. African anti-apartheid veteran dies in Tel Aviv from Tributes.com [online] Available at http://nh.tributes.com/show/91571338 [Accessed 26 May 2011]

Last updated : 01-Nov-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 27-May-2011