(A)Bram Fischer

by Elisa Chen

Important Quote

"What is needed is for White South Africans to shake themselves out of their complacency, a complacency intensified by the present economic boom built upon racial discrimination. Unless this whole intolerable system is changed radically and rapidly, disaster must follow. Appalling bloodshed and civil war will become inevitable because, as long as there is oppression of a majority, such oppression will be fought with increasing hatred." -Bram Fischer

He was one of the few Afrikaners who stood with the anti-apartheid movement.

His Life and Accomplishments

Born on April 23rd, 1908 in the Orange Free State. Died May 8th, 1975.

He was born into a wealthy family as the son of Percy Fisher, a respected Free State Judge, and grandson of Abram Fischer, also a highly regarded conservative politician. His grandfather was prime minister of the Orange River Colony from 1907-1910. He was a well-educated man, having studied law at Grey, the University of South Africa, and becoming a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford. His family and education lined Fischer up to possibly be a very important figure in the government, with people expecting him to become chief justice or even prime minister. However, over his life he came to betray those expectations.

Bram Fischer was remarkable South African lawyer of Afrikaner descent who was dedicated to communism and is known for being the legal defense for important anti-apartheid figures. Bram Fischer was a lawyer and chairman of the SACP.

While at Oxford, Fischer visited the Soviet Union and converted to Stalinism. In 1937, he married Molly Krige and they both became members of the CPSA.

As for his career, his practice gradually expanded and he came to specialize in mining law for the great mining houses.

Contribution to the Anti-Apartheid Movement

To begin, in 1943, Bram Fischer helped A.B. Xuma revise the ANC constitution and was charged with encouraging the mineworkers' strike in 1946. He was also a member of the Congress of Democrats. In 1952 Fischer defended Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and 18 other ANC leaders for the Defiance Campaign. Even though he and his supporters were attacked by the government in the form of police raids, that didn't stop the incoming briefs to Fischer, an outstanding lawyer.

"In court, he was the epitome of the ideal English barrister: quiet, unassuming, exquisitely polite and thus often disarming to a hostile witness, and, when necessary, devastating in cross-examination." (South African History Online).

Fortunately for those were at Lilies leaf farm on July 11, 1963, Fischer hadn't been there when the police raided it, so he led the defense team. It was a brave action, for some of the documents seized at the farm were actually in Fischer's own handwriting. In the end, Mandela and seven other accused were found guilty. The only significant accomplishment which may be attributed to the defense team, was that the accused were sentenced to life imprisonment, and not death.

Life and Accomplishments Part 2

After defending so many anti-apartheid figures and becoming involved with the movement, Fischer was bound to come under suspicion of illegal activities himself. On September 23, 1964, he was arrested for violating the Suppression of Communism Act. In 1965 he was released on bail to work a case in London, but then skipped bail and went underground. Just a year later, he was found guilty under the Suppression of Communism Act again and subject to life imprisonment. In 1967, he received the Lenin Peace Prize.

Works Cited

"Abram Fischer." South African History Online. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.

Bram Fischer. Digital image. ZAR.co.za. ZAR.co.za, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

"ZAR.co.za - Biography of Bram Fischer." ZAR.co.za - Biography of Bram Fischer. Web. 15 Nov. 2015