Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dr Frederick Charles Schwarz, 1913 - 2009

By my brother, John William Wilson; an obituary on our esteemed uncle:

From the early 1950s to the late 1990s, an Australian medical doctor-turned-political activist rubbed shoulders with US film stars and music celebrities, captains of industry and US congressmen. He was involved in some of the earliest live television broadcasts in the US, delivered to audiences numbering in the millions. He influenced US policy and politicians, all the way to the White House.

As founder and Director of the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade, he was one of the most influential Australians in the United States during the 1950s and 60s.

Yet, Dr Frederick Charles Schwarz, who died on January 24 this year, remains relatively unknown in his home country.

Fred Schwarz (born on January 15, 1913) described himself as an "aggressive Christian evangelist". At his graduation from the University of Queensland in 1943, the student audience reportedly broke into a rendition of the hymn 'Onward Christian Soldiers', no doubt as a good-natured but ironic and slightly barbed acknowledgment of Schwarz’s evangelical activism on campus. Schwarz, in typically thick-skinned manner, chose to take it as a compliment.

Schwarz, who was raised as one of eleven children in Queensland, graduated with a science degree and worked as a school teacher, then returned to university to study arts and medicine.

During his medical internship Schwarz came to realise that many of his fellow interns could not live adequately on their meagre remuneration. In response, Schwarz took the unusual step of leading the formation of a trade union, which successfully applied through the courts for a medical intern award, to the unbounded gratitude of those interns.

In confronting the establishment head-on in order to rectify what he saw as an injustice, Schwarz heralded both a forthrightness and a willingness to take a principled stand that would feature throughout his career.

He moved to Sydney in 1946 to take over a medical practice in suburban North Strathfield. The practice grew to become one of the busiest in Sydney's western suburbs.

A comfortable career and happy family life beckoned, but there were clouds on the horizon. With a conviction equivalent to his evangelical zeal, and, as he saw it, as a logical extension of his beliefs, Schwarz developed a deep concern about the atheistic values and ambitions of Marxism-Leninism and the Communist states, in particular, the Soviet Union.

Schwarz made a close study of the works of the leading Communist theorists, Marx, Engels and Lenin.

"Communism is not a good idea that did not work in practice"
His reading led him to challenge the popular notion that Communism was a good idea that did not work in practice. He insisted that it was a very bad idea that did work in practice, "unrestrained by law or conscience", leading to tyranny, misery and the deaths of millions.

He felt impelled to take action in the ways he knew best – careful analysis, reasoning and debate.

Schwarz eventually closed his medical practice and moved to the US, where he found an audience ready to listen to his methodical analysis of dialectical materialism and the dangers that he believed it posed to the world in general and the US in particular.

Schwarz's intriguing, tone-deaf Queensland accent and straight-talking yet penetrative analytical style struck a chord in the US. In just a few years his Christian Anti-Communism Crusade was running 'Anti-Communism Schools' attended by thousands, culminating in rallies at a packed Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in 1961, with nightly attendances of 16,000 and a live, prime-time television audience in the millions.

Schwarz shared his stage with celebrities of the day - Pat Boone, Roy Rogers, John Wayne and Ronald Reagan amongst them. Years later, as President, Reagan engaged several of Schwarz’s former Anti-Communism School students as speechwriters. Their work included the famous 'Evil Empire' speech, which heralded a new era in US political engagement with the Soviet Union.

Later, on the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, Reagan wrote a personal message to Schwarz acknowledging his life’s work and congratulating him, "Fred, you’re to be commended for your tireless dedication in trying to ensure the protection of freedom and human rights, and I know you join me in special satisfaction in the recent events in Eastern Europe. Of course, [Schwarz’s wife] Lillian is also to be commended for being supportive of your lifelong efforts."

Media savvy
Through his time in the US, Schwarz proved media-savvy, with frequent appearances on US television, on film and in the newspapers. He also wrote prolifically, with his 1961 Prentice Hall-published, You Can Trust the Communists (To Be Communists), selling well over a million copies worldwide. Other books included The Three Faces of Revolution and Beating the Unbeatable Foe, complementing his fortnightly newsletters to Crusade subscribers.

Schwarz was always ready for a debate, whether on the topic of Marxism-Leninism before a hostile corps of journalists on the US Meet the Press, or on the merits of alternative fishing spots on his annual return from the US for holidays in Terrigal, New South Wales.

His anti-Communist views put him deeply at odds with many in the liberal left through the 1960s and 1970s and his sometimes unfashionable stance saw him take many insults in debate. He was often labelled with tags that incorrectly and unfairly positioned him with extremists. Throughout these difficult times his positive disposition never seemed to waver. As he put it, "If you are handed a lemon, make lemonade".

He was as sharp in intellect as he could be blunt in his critique of opposing views, always delivered without a trace of bitterness and with a sunny Queensland twinkle in the eye.

Long-time friend and fellow anti-Communism activist, Dr Elton Wilson, remarked at his funeral that Fred reminded him of the computer interface term WYSIWYG – "What you see is what you get – candid but without cant, without hatred and without hypocrisy".

Schwarz had an extraordinarily retentive memory and could quote verbatim, for hours on end, the political works of Lenin alongside favourite poetic works from the likes of C J Dennis, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, John Masefield and Edward Lear.
Dr Schwarz retired from his Christian Anti-Communism Crusade in 1998 and permanently returned to Australia, living a quiet life in Camden, south-west of Sydney, with his beloved wife Lillian. He died on January 24, 2009, aged 96.

Consistent with his contrarian wit, Schwarz attributed his longevity to his complete lack of exercise, his high stress lifestyle and his high fat, high salt, high sugar diet. He was even known to sprinkle salt on his Big Macs.

Although Schwarz spent much of his life working in a foreign land, he was sustained on his remarkable crusade both by the strength of his personal convictions and the unwavering support of a large and adoring extended family, often from afar as the children and grandchildren were raised and educated in Australia.

He is survived by wife Lillian, three children – John (a general practitioner), Rosemary (a psychiatrist) and David (a commercial airline pilot); an adopted son, John Whitehall (a well-known paediatrician and political activist); and some dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who knew him by the affectionate name 'Nandi'.

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