Collection 466 - Bernstein Hilda and Rusty Papers 1931-2006

Identity area

Reference code

ZA MR-MM-466

Title

Bernstein Hilda and Rusty Papers 1931-2006

Date(s)

  • 1931-2006 (Creation)

Level of description

Collection

Extent and medium

39 boxes

Context area

Name of creator

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Content and structure area

Scope and content

Rusty Bernstein's Papers includes personal correspondence to family and comrades, professional documentation relating to his career as an architect and inventor, and a large collection of writing, including drafts and material for his political biography Memory Against Forgetting as well as articles, essays and literature relating to prominent events in the liberation struggle (The 1946 Mine Workers Strike, The Freedom Charter and the Rivonia Trial). The collection also includes written material relating to his political career in the Communist Party and involvement with the ANC and as editor/contributor to journals like Fighting Talk and The African Communist and a lecture series given in Moscow to young militants of the ANC.
Hilda Bernstein's papers include a series of journals dating from 1967 to 2001 and personal diaries written whilst in prison, and on travels throughout South Africa and Europe. A large part of the collection marks her involvement with women's rights and work for the ANC Women's League. There is also a considerable collection of art records documenting her career in London and Europe. The bulk of the collection is comprised of records relating to Hilda's extensive writings - books, articles and political literature. Of particular prominence is material collected for her most recent book The Rift, which captures the experiences of South African exiles. There is also a large collection of correspondence both personal and professional and political brochures relating to her position as City Councillor for the Communist Party in Johannesburg from 1943 to 1946.

The records kept by Hilda (viewed as 'evidence' of Hilda's activities) far outnumber those kept by Rusty. It would be misleading to presume that this is in any way a complete archive of the Bernstein's activities.
On the contrary, there are large gaps. For example, there is very little in the collection relating directly to the Freedom Charter, in which Rusty played a major part in the organizing committee and was responsible for drafting the country-wide submissions that would become the Charter. Consideration should also be made for the possibility that Hilda is a more conscientious record keeper than Rusty was, or that due to persistent banning and arrest Rusty was forced to destroy evidence of his activities or resist the documentation of these activities. In truth, the reasons for the shape of this collection are too numerous and extensive to state. As it stands, the researcher can at best make this deduction - that Hilda's work and influence in the liberation struggle, particularly in the role assigned to woman, is vast and unique, and deserves attention beyond the shadow cast by Rusty's political career. In Hilda's case it is a matter of the biography that has yet to be written.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

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South African History Archive Johannesburg, South Africa

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Notes area

Note

The Percy Yutar Papers are the official records of the Rivonia treason trial. Percy Yuter who was the then Advocate kept the files and sold them to the Oppenheimer family in the late 1990's. These were presented to the National Archive of South Africa in November 2008.

The report originally written as one document with a supplement has been re-arranged to give numerical order the description of comment on the files.

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