Rivonia's Children: The Story of Three Families Who Battled Against ApartheidHardback
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- Publisher: WEIDENFELD & NICOLSON
- Format: Hardback | 367 pages
- Dimensions: 156mm x 238mm x 36mm | 739g
- Publication date: 11 November 1999
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0297841556
- ISBN 13: 9780297841555
- Illustrations note: Black and White 2
Rivonia's Children is the harrowing and inspiring account of a handful of white Jewish activists who risked their lives to combat apartheid when South Africa plunged into an era of darkness in the 1960s from which it has only recently emerged. This is the story of Hilda and Rusty Bernstein, longtime Communists so committed to the cause that even the threat of life imprisonment did not stop them; of Ruth First, a fiery activist held for months without charge; and of AnnMarie Wolpe, an innocent bystander sucked into the maelstrom, who had to decide whether or not to risk her own freedom and the life of her sick infant by helping her activist husband escape from prison. It was at their underground headquarters in Rivonia, a Johannesburg suburb, that their fantasy of revolution was shattered after a police raid in 1963. Nelson Mandela, Rusty Bernstein and eight of their comrades were tried for treason; the Rivonia raid not only destroyed an old order of benign radicalism but also thrust radicals into a new, dangerous world of action. The regime turned a corner as well, plunging headlong into an era of grotesque oppression and brutality. A searing tale of soaring hopes and ideals betrayed, Rivonia's Children tells the gripping and extremely moving story of the impact of political activism on the lives of three families.
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Glenn Frankel was bureau chief in South Africa for The Washington Post in 1983 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1989 for international reporting. He is the author of Beyond the Promised Land and lives in Virginia, US.
The author of an erudite look at politics in Israel (Beyond the Promised Land, 1994) uses the stories of three Jewish families to dramatize the history of the struggle for racial equality in South Africa. Frankel chronicles the watershed event of the police raid in Rivonia, a white suburb of Johannesburg, in 1963 to tell the history of the antiapartheid straggle forward and backward. Afterward, Rusty Bernstein and Nelson Mandela and myriad others were tried for treason, and imprisoned, and the struggle went underground. The regime became fascist and brutal. And yet there had been a time, shortly after WWII, when Communists such as Hilda and Rusty Bernstein and liberals such as Alan Paton could join in their hopes for the kind of peaceful racial solutions that eventually won over in the US. Before Rivonia, the Bernsteins, Ruth and Joe First, Harold and AnnMarie Wolpe, and dozens of other white Jewish radicals lived prosperous middle-class lives similar to white American suburbanites of the time. Frankel tells the story of their fight against apartheid, but he also tells of what happened to these families - broken, in many ways, by the struggle. The Bernstein children, whom their parents shielded from their radicalism, were nevertheless traumatized by their parents' eventual imprisonment. Ruth First, the movement's seemingly indomitable voice for women, was eventually killed by a bomb from the secret police. And in what may be the most archetypal story of them all, AnnMarie Wolpe, a virtual bystander though her husband was a leading activist, was caught up in the terrible repression, as she tried to hold her family together. Portraits of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, and dozens of others emerge, but Frankel's true interests lie with these family casualties. A superb recounting of one of the less well-known parts of the battle against apartheid. (Kirkus Reviews)