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Harry Frederick Oppenheimer (28 October 1908 – 19 August 2000) was a prominent South African businessman and one of the world's richest men. In 2004 he was voted 60th in the SABC3's Great South Africans.
The son of May Pollack and Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, Harry was born to an assimilated Jewish family of German origins in Kimberley, the original centre for diamond mining in South Africa, and lived most of his life in Johannesburg. He had a formal Bar mitzvah ("coming of age") ceremony in the Kimberley synagogue when he turned thirteen. He converted to Christianity when he married his wife.
After completing his primary schooling in Johannesburg, he attended Charterhouse School in England, before going on to study at Christ Church, Oxford University, graduating in 1931 in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. When he married his wife Bridget (née McCall), he chose to enter the Anglican Church, but remained a supporter of Jewish causes during his entire life. He authorized the flow of diamonds to Israel's important diamond-sorting and diamond-cutting industry.
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 until he retired from those positions in 1982 and 1984 respectively. His son Nicky Oppenheimer became Deputy Chairman of Anglo in 1983 and Chairman of De Beers in 1998. His daughter Mary Slack resides predominantly at Brenthurst, but has houses in Muizenberg and London, and a commercially successful thoroughbred breeding farm situated about an hour-and-a-half north from Cape Town. The stud farm trades under the name Wilgerbosdrift Stud, and has bred some incredibly successful horses.
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. His opposition to apartheid was well known as were his philanthropy and business acumen.
He was also extremely generous to the official philanthropies of the State of Israel. He personally directed that Israel receive the necessary diamond raw products from De Beers in order to establish itself as one of the world's diamond polishing and exporting countries.
Kimberley conferred Freedom of the City on Mr Oppenheimer on 4 September 1973 as a tribute to "an illustrious son of the city" who continued to promote Kimberley as "the diamond centre of the world."
The Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship Award Africa's premier research prize, is awarded every year by the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, in memory of Harry Oppenheimer's commitment to an ideal of "unambiguous excellence."
|Chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines|
Albert van der Sandt Centlivres
|Chancellor of the University of Cape Town|