African stamps honor Jews who fought apartheid

April 17, 2011
Jews made up just 2 percent of the white population of apartheid-era South Africa, but they constituted at least half of the country’s white anti-apartheid activists, Gochin said.

Signing up for the fight against apartheid was an easy way to make life in South Africa very difficult. “We always knew that our house was under surveillance,” Lubner said. “We always knew that our phone was tapped.”
Lubner was 8 years old in 1956 when her father was accused of treason, along with 155 other eminent anti-apartheid activists. “South Africa was such a police state at that point that people were afraid of being associated with us,” Lubner said. “Very few of our relatives would have anything to do with us.”
Hymie Barsel was held for three years before the apartheid-era government dropped the treason charges. While in jail, he was brutally tortured. “They were very clever,” Lubner said of her father’s captors. “They would inflict damage on the spleen, which apparently is very difficult to detect.”
Esther Barsel, who was not tried in 1956, went to prison for her part in the anti-apartheid struggle in 1964. She spent four years in jail, followed by five years of house arrest. She had to get police permission to attend her daughter’s wedding in 1968. Lubner got married in a Johannesburg synagogue 10 minutes from her childhood home. “She [Esther Barsel] had to be home by 10 o’clock that night,” Lubner recalled.
Hymie Barsel died in 1987 without seeing the fruits of his activism. Esther Barsel, however, lived to see the end of the apartheid system, which began to be dismantled in 1990. South Africa has since honored her memory in various ways — the cell where she was incarcerated has been turned into a memorial installation, and when she died in 2008, Nelson Mandela publicly mourned her passing.

Legendary Heroes of Africa stamp sheet from Liberia featuring, from left, Helen Suzman, Eli Weinberg, Hymie Barsel, Esther Barsel (with Nelson Mandela).

In the age of e-mail, just what does putting someone’s face on a stamp really mean?

it means that these Activists died for nothing because the Black Leadership were also genocidal killers who hate Zionism. Looking back on a situation like this… there could of been greater freedom if they had kept people in separate nations. This can still happen. I’m proud of these Jews for standing up for what appeared to be right… when certainly there was so much violence coming from White South Africa at the time, it was impossible to see that their Black equivalents would be worse. Freedom is not a theory. Freedom is when people are secure of their enemies… who can live separately if they can not get along.