Jewish anti-apartheid campaigner passes away

08 February 2010

Harry Schwarz, a South African lawyer, politician and Jewish leader who defended Nelson Mandela during the apartheid regime, has died at the age of 86. Schwarz was born in Germany in 1924. In 1936, he escaped the Nazis and emigrated to South Africa. He served as a navigator in the South African Air Force during World War II.

As an opposition member of Parliament from 1974 to 1989, he was among the most vociferous campaigners against apartheid, the South Africa Jewish Board of Deputies said. Schwarz forcefully denounced the government's racial policies and spoke out strongly against anti-Semitism. From 1990 to 1994 Schwarz served as South Africa's ambassador to the United States.

As an attorney, he served on the defense team of Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists during the 1963-64 Rivonia Trial, in which ten leaders of the African National Congress were accused of overthrowing the apartheid system. Schwarz was also active in Jewish communal affairs, serving from 1983 to 2000 on the National Executive, Management Committee and Gauteng Council of the Jewish Board of Deputies.

"Harry Schwarz will be remembered for his signal contribution to the development of our democracy," Helen Ziller, the leader of the Democratic Alliance, of which Schwarz was a co-founder, said in a statement. "He had strong leadership qualities and could inspire people to great achievements. He was an outstanding debater, both inside and outside Parliament.”

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