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July 26, 1991 - Image 87

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-07-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Another factor was his
status as a refugee from
Nazi Germany, he added.
Mr. Schwarz was born in
Cologne, and in 1933, when
the persecution of Jews be-
gan to take on serious di-
mensions, Mr. Schwarz and
his family fled the Nazi
nightmare.
They ended up in South
Africa after bids to enter the
United States and Great
Britain failed. Gratitude to
South Africa for providing
his family with sanctuary,
he said, has been a pillar of
his long career in public ser-
vice.

While Mr.
Schwarz's
anti-apartheid
credentials appear
genuine, some say
he always
represented the
most conservative
elements in that
movement.

"During the time after we
left Germany, we went
through a very rough time,"
he said. "My parents were
struggling; my father
couldn't get a job, and these
were factors that affected
my attitude towards people
who themselves are unem-
ployed, deprived and disad-
vantaged. And since I was a
direct victim of a racist
system, I had an abhorrence
of that kind of behavior that
has stayed with me."
During World War 11, Mr.
Schwarz served in the South
African air force, driven, he
said, by his loathing of Adolf
Hitler.
One of the puzzles of
Harry Schwarz's current in-
carnation as South Africa's
ambassador is that he now
represents a government
still dominated by the Na-
tional Party, some of whose
members supported Hitler.
But Mr. Schwarz refuses
to join the party, a fact that
has added to the confusion
about exactly whom he rep-
resents in Washington, and
what policies he speaks for.
Trained as a lawyer, from
the early 1950s his life has
been dominated by politics.
He was a member of the
Johannesburg City Council,
and a member of the
Transvaal Provincial Coun-

cil for 16 years. He was a
founder of the Reform Party
and later, of the Democratic
Party. And he served as a
member of Parliament from
1974 until his appointment
as ambassador to Washing-
ton.
Throughout that steady
upward climb, he said, his
loathing of apartheid was a
thread that tied together his
diverse political and com-
munal activities.
However, some observers
point out that while Mr.
Schwarz's anti-apartheid
credentials are genuine, he
always represented the most
conservative elements in
that movement.
"He is not seen by the
black majority in South
Africa as any great oppo-
nent of the South African
government," said Geoffrey
Norman, a director of the
Fund for a Free South
Africa, the main fundraising
arm for the African National
Congress in this country.
"He was always on the
right wing of the opposition,
on the conservative end of
liberal white politics. In that
sense his new position in
Washington is not surpris-
ing. Now that the nation-
alist government has moved
slightly towards the left in
South African politics, there
are people in the white oppo-
sition who are willing to play
a role within the nationalist
party umbrella."
"There's no doubt that
[Mr. Schwarz has] a very
concrete objective here — to
get sanctions lifted," added
Stephen Cohen, a professor
of law at Georgetown Univ-
ersity who teaches a course
on South Africa, and a for-
mer White House staffer on
human rights during the
Carter administration.
"That's Ambassador
Schwarz's mission here; he
has a very specific assign-
raent."
According to Diana Aviv,
assistant director of the Na-
tional Jewish Community
Relations Advisory Council:
"The extent to which he will
be able to pry Jewish groups
away from sanctions is un-
clear. I have some doubts
about the degree to which he
will be effective.
"He's an ardent and effec-
tive speaker, but he is ad-
vocating an old position that
has not convinced us in the
past." ❑

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

87

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