The postal services of Liberia, Gambia and Sierra Leone simultaneously issue a set of three commemorative postal sheets on 1st March 2011 in memory of 12 men and women who fought Apartheid and racism in Africa.
In the struggle against South African Apartheid, according to one of the commemorative sheets, it was estimated that Jews were overrepresented by 2,500 percent in proportion to the governing white population.“This stamp issue acknowledges the extraordinary sacrifices made by Jews to the liberation of their African brethren, and these stamps recognize some of the most significant contributors to global humanity in the 20th century,” reads the text on one of the commemorative sheets.
Each sheet presents four black-and-white photos of stamps featuring the Jewish heroes. Details can be found atwww.legendaryheroesofafrica.com.
The Liberian issue will show Helen Suzman, Eli Weinberg, Esther Barsel and Hymie Barsel.
The issue from Sierra Leone will display Yetta Barenblatt, Ray Alexander Simons, Baruch Hirson and Norma Kitson. The Gambian sheet will present Ruth First, Hilda Bernstein, Lionel “Rusty” Bernstein and Ronald Segal.
Suzman (nee Gavronsky), the best known among them, was born in the South African mining town of Germiston in 1917 to Samuel and Frieda Gavronsky, both immigrants from Lithuania who had come to South Africa to escape the restrictions imposed on Jews.She was raised in a financially unstable family and educated at a convent. She later attended the University of the Witwatersrand and eventually became one of South Africa’s most famous white parliamentarians and human rights activists.
In 1959, 12 MPs, including Suzman, broke away from the United Party and subsequently formed the Progressive Party, with an openly liberal program of extending rights to allSouth Africans. As the sole voice of South Africa’s oppressed in parliament, Suzman became known for her strong public criticism of the governing National Party when this was unusual among white people.
She was called a “f***ing Jew” on the floor of parliament. She remained in parliament for 36 years and retired in 1989, but remained actively involved in South African politics. Suzman died peacefully in her sleep in 2009 at the age of 91.
Weinberg, born in 1908 in Latvia on the Baltic Sea, experienced World War I and the October Revolution of 1917 as a child, leading to his socialist political development. His mother, his sister and other members of his family were murdered in a Nazi concentration camp. Weinberg was found guilty of being a member of the Central Committee of the underground South African Communist Party (SACP) and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.
Esther Barsel, born in Lithuania, was a South African politician and long-standing member of the SACP. Her husband Hymie, a native of Johannesburg, was raised in a Zionistoriented home. During the 1930s, he was assaulted while taking part in demonstrations against the Blackshirt Movement.
Later, the couple was among 15 accused in the Bram Fischer trial. She was sentenced to hard labor for three years.
Barenblatt was born Ireland in 1913. A friend encouraged her to go to South Africa with the promise of employment, and there she became a union organizer and rose in the ranks.
In 1956, she was arrested on charges of treason but released.She was detained in Johannesburg during the 1960 State of Emergency, along with 20 other white female detainees, and went on a hunger strike for eight days.
Simons was born in Latvia.
While at school, she displayed little fear in challenging authorities, and she later took up politics.When she moved to South Africa, she was a labor activist and banned from anti- Apartheid activity, but continued nevertheless.
Hirson, a South African native, was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for his activism and served the time in the Johannesburg Fort, Pretoria Local and Pretoria Central jails.
Kitson worked with the Johannesburg underground printing press of the ANC’s military wing and was exiled to London for her activities, but she continued there, carrying out continuous picketing of the South African embassy in Trafalgar Square.
First, born in South Africa, worked as a journalist and specialized in reporting about horrible conditions of blacks on potato farms, migrant labor, bus boycotts and slum conditions in the 1950s.
Hilda and Lionel Bernstein were married in 1941. She was convicted of sedition after assisting with a black mine workers’ illegal strike, while he was arrested and charged together with Nelson Mandela, who later became president of South Africa after Aartheid collapsed.
Segal, a self-styled Socialist journalist, was a marked man, not helped by a speaking tour of US campuses, where he argued with passion for an economic boycott of South Africa.