Published November 17, 2014
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, Israel, 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 AP that "Goldreich was a romantic revolutionary.
"He had a great personality and was really fun to be with. 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 Goldreich'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 at the farm. He and three others escaped from a downtown Johannesburg police station. Goldreich made it out of South Africa disguised as a priest, and eventually settled in Israel.
Pogrund said Goldreich escaped by promising to bribe a young policeman to open the cell door. Guarding the door had been the policeman's first assignment.
For years, Pogrund said, Goldreich regretted that the bribe hadn't been paid. He paid the officer after apartheid ended, Pogrund said.
Goldreich visited South Africa after apartheid ended in 1994 for a reunion at the farm, which now is a museum.
Goldreich was an artist and designer as well as an activist. He created the sets for "King Kong," a celebrated South African musical tracing the tragic story of a real-life boxer.
Pogrund said Goldreich became an architect in Israel and taught at the prestigious Betzalel art academy.
Goldreich is survived by his sons Nicholas, Paul, Amos and Eden.
Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
Donna Bryson can be reached on http://twitter.com/dbrysonAP