Harry Frederick (Frederich) Oppenheimer (1908 - 2000)

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About Harry Frederick (Frederich) Oppenheimer

Harry Oppenheimer (1908–2000)

Born 28 October 1908 and died at age 91 on 19 August 2000, Harry Oppenheimer was a leading South African businessman and one of the richest men in the world. His father was Sir Ernest Oppenheimer and his mother was May Pollack. He was born in Kimberley, the original center for diamond mining in South Africa, and lived in Johannesburg. Although his family was Jewish and he had a Bar Mitzvah, he converted to Christianity when he married Bridget McCall in 1943. They had two children: Mary and Nicholas.

Harry was born in Kimberley in the Northern Cape Province.. He attended primary school in Johannesburg and then Charterhouse school in England. He went on to complete his education at Oxford University and graduated in philosophy, economics and politics.

When the Second World War began, Oppenheimer volunteered to be an officer in the South African Union Defence Force. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Intelligence Section. After serving on the General Staff in Pretoria, he was sent to Egypt as an intelligence officer. During a later WW II tour of service on Robben Island in South Africa, Oppenheimer met Bridget McCall, a young officer in the Women's Auxiliary Army Service, who had just returned from school in England. They married on March 6, 1943.

Harry Oppenheimer was the chairman of Anglo American Corporation for a quarter of a century and chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines for 27 years . His son Nicky Oppenheimer became Deputy Chairman of Anglo in 1983 and Chairman of De Beers in 1998. He also spent some time as the Member of Parliament for Kimberley (1948 to 1957) and became the opposition spokesman on economics, finance and constitutional affairs.

He was known for his opposition to apartheid as well as for his philanthropy and business acumen. He was a strong supporter of the State of Israel. In the 1970s and 1980s, he financed the anti-apartheid Progressive Federal Party, that later merged with the Democratic Alliance.

Africa's highest research prize - The Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship award is given every year in memory of Harry Oppenheimer by the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, in memory of Harry's commitment to an ideal of 'unambiguous excellence".

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Harry Oppenheimer's Timeline

1908
October 28, 1908
1943
1943
Age 34
2000
2000
Age 91