An activist in the anti-Apartheid movement, a writer and fighter against prejudice & racism  

Articles & Interviews

picture of ruth
Ruth in front of parental home. Mayfair, Johannesburg, 1941



Ruth Weiss was born in 1924 to Jewish parents in Fürth near Nuremberg. His father, Richard Löwenthal, lost his job shortly after the beginning of Nazi rule in 1933 and emigrated to South Africa with the help of relatives. In 1936, after the promulgation of the Nuremberg “Race Laws”, the rest of the family, including 11-year-old Ruth, was able to join them in Johannesburg on the last ship with Jewish refugees allowed to dock in South Africa.

Here the family finds a new home (“My heart is in Africa”). Sensitized by her own fate as a Jew and by her participation in the “Independent Cultural Association”, an association of German emigrants, including numerous intellectuals such as writers and artists, the young Ruth Weiss soon developed political understanding and awareness. She has a lifelong friendship with many of these people.

Since 1960 she has been writing as a journalist against the injustice of apartheid policy in South Africa, against racism and discrimination. During this time she also met Nelson Mandela. In 1966, while on a professional stay in neighbouring Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), she was banned from entering the country by the South African government.

Only in 1992, after the end of apartheid and the first free, democratic election, which elected Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa, was she able to visit South Africa again.

As a renowned business journalist, Ruth Weiss experienced the years of independence efforts in southern Africa and had contacts with all important African freedom fighters. At the end of the 60s, she also had to leave Rhodesia because she reported all too openly how the white minority government managed to circumvent the UN sanctions.

Ruth with nobel prize nomination on her birthday
Ruth Weiss holding 1000 Peacewomen Across the Globe, 2005.

A professional activity at the “Guardian” in London and the “Deutsche Welle” in Cologne followed. She then returned to Africa, working in Zambia and Zimbabwe for well-known English, German and African newspapers, also as a trainer for journalists. During this time, she interviews Chancellor Willy Brandt and accompanies Foreign Minister Genscher on his trip to Africa in 1975. She publishes a number of books on the problems of South Africa and writes novels and books for young people.

Their lives are determined by a multifaceted travel activity. Not only has she visited almost all the countries of the African continent, her work also takes her to China and Japan. After finishing her career at the beginning of the 90s, she first settled on the Isle of Wight on the south coast of England.

Afterwards she lived for several years in her native Germany, where she continued to work as a freelance writer. In 2015, she moved to Denmark to live with her son and his family.

“In all these years, I didn’t stop learning. The most important thing was probably the experience that people are not the same, but they are equal. I learned that people from different cultures can live together, but that it’s hard to really experience a foreign culture.”

cover of a path through hard grass

An activist in the anti-Apartheid movement

I interviewed Nelson Mandela when he was on the run from the police, shortly before his incarceration. A short time later, I was forced to flee South Africa to avoid imprisonment.

My books are young adult, historical fiction. The past has a long future, as I say in my most famous work, My Sister Sara. In its 12th edition and a set work for seniors in German high schools, has created an incredible amount of discussion and has a loyal following. For the first time,  it is now available in English.



Reading Tour 7


Nadine Gordimer


It was in the early forties when I first saw Nadine Gordimer walk into the bookshop, where I worked. A delicate striking beauty, self-possessed and on her way to fame. Her short stories were already known and respected, then in 1953 the novel ‘The Lying Days’ were to cause a stir in the world of letters. I, an overawed girl Friday, made no effort to approach her, except to serve the cup of coffee I always had ready for customers. Nadine was monopolised by both my bosses, especially Hans Weiss, with whom she was to discuss not only literature throughout the decades. During the fifties, we met frequently, as she had married Reinhold Cassirer in 1954, an offspring of the one-time Berlin Jewish upper-class Cassirers, a good friend of Hans Weiss, also the sprig of a Berlin Jewish bourgeois family.

Kennth Kaunda in front of his Lusaka office with Ruth Weiss 2011


In 1963 my good friend John collected me from Livingstone airport to whisk me off to a huge United National Independence Party (UNIP) rally: after the 1962 break-up of the Central African Federation, Northern Rhodesia was on the brink of independence and in the throes of an election campaign. Later the three speakers and myself went to John’s house, where we all stayed overnight after an animated dinner. It was my first meeting with Reuben Kamanga, Sikota Wina, Dingiswayo Banda, later government Ministers. The following morning I left for Lusaka where I interviewed UNIP’s Mainza Chona, a future Vice-President. Kenneth Kaunda – Kenneth David Buchizya Kaunda – UNIP’s leader was asleep, after his return from the Copperbelt where he had met striking miners.