Fonds BC627 - OD Wollheim Papers

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OD Wollheim Papers


  • 1948-1992 (Creation)

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61 archive boxes

Name of creator


Biographical history

Oscar David da Fonseca Wollheim (1904-1995) was born on the farm Nuwetuin, outside Stellenbosch, Cape. His parents were Henri Jacques Guillaume da Fonseca Wollheim (b.1873) and Maria Johanna Justina Watney. Henri da Fonseca Wollheim had been under-manager of Groot Constantia prior to the move to Stellenbosch. He is reported to have discovered the magnificent frieze above the wine cellar at Groot Constantia after it had been buried under successive layers of white-wash.

O.D. Wollheim attended Rondebosch Boys’ High School (1911 1921) and the University of Cape Town (1922 1923), where he received the Primary Teacher's Higher Certificate, qualified to teach in both Afrikaans and English. From 1924 to 1928 he taught at the East Park Primary School in Cape Town, while studying for a B.A. degree at U.C.T. He graduated in 1928 and then proceeded overseas to teach in various schools in London, at the Fremdsprach Klub in Baden and at the Palatinate in Germany.

On his return in 1931, he taught at the Wesley Training College, Salt River, Cape Town and began his serious involvement with the Coloured people of the Cape taking a particular interest in the Eoan Group and the Citizens Housing League. In 1938, Wollheim founded the Osborne Secondary School at Mount Frere (Eastern Cape) and also obtained his Ph.D. by presenting his thesis on "The teaching of music in schools" to U.C.T. Thereafter he was headmaster of the W.T. Welsh School for Africans, East London, (1939 1948). While there he was also involved in the East London branches of the South African Institute of Race Relations; the Joint Council of Europeans and Africans; the Legal Aid Bureau; and the Civil Rights League.

Wollheim returned to Cape Town to become Warden of the Cape Flats Distress Association (CAFDA), Cape Town (1949 1964). During this period he was active in the S.A.I.R.R.; the Civil Rights League; Kupugani; a housing survey in Cape Town; the establishment of the Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation(SHAWCO); the Liberal Party and later the Progressive Party.

In 1956 he was awarded a Carnegie Corporation Travel Grant and travelled for eight months in the United States of America, Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria, investigating race relations and the work of welfare organisations in these countries. Lower income housing schemes were also studied. In 1962 Wollheim undertook a second tour to the U.S.A., Canada, Britain and Germany to publicise the work of CAFDA.

From 1965 to 1970 Wollheim represented the Coloured voters of the South Cape constituency, on the Cape Provincial Council. He took an active interest in the needs of both individuals and groups within his constituency, and was particularly concerned with problems arising through the proclamation of Group Areas and the stresses caused by legislation implementing apartheid.

Since his retirement from the Provincial Council Wollheim has maintained his interest in political, social and cultural affairs. He was elected a patron of the Civil Rights League in 1976.

Wollheim married an Austrian, Adolfine Maria Benda (b.1917) in 1937. Their son Anton was born in 1939 and their daughter Adele in 1941.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Donated by Dr OD Wollheim.

Scope and content

The O.D. Wollheim papers were presented to the University of Cape Town Libraries in 1976 by Dr O.D. Wollheim and number 10 580 items. The collection consists mainly of documents relating to Wollheim's career in welfare organisations and politics after 1947. (The earlier papers have been destroyed). There is a record of much of Wollheim's correspondence with individuals and organisations about welfare, social and political issues. This reflects his deep interest in the Coloured people of the Cape and human rights. Included in the documents relating to his involvement with organisations such as CAFDA, Kupugani, the Progressive Party, the Civil Rights League, South African Institute of Race Relations and SPRO‑CAS, are letters, reports, minutes and newspaper cuttings. Wollheim's interest in his constituents is reflected in the detailed record of correspondence from 1965 to 1970, while he was Member of the Provincial Council representing the Coloured people of the South Cape Constituency. The collection also includes family and personal papers; press cuttings; articles and letters written for press publication; speeches (1948‑1970); book reviews and pamphlets obtained while travelling on the Carnegie Grant in 1956. There are also government reports on Second World War news (1939‑1942) written in various South African Bantu languages. There are no restrictions on the use of the collection, but permission should first be obtained from the University Librarian.


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No restrictions apply

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  • English

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  • English



Accession area