HARRY Schwarz, who has died at the age of 85, was one of the most significant voices in the parliamentary opposition to apartheid, a strong individualist whose many-sided career of public service included leadership positions in the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and a successful term as South African ambassador in Washington during the transition from apartheid rule.

Although on the left in racial policies, he supported SA's invasion of Angola and the South African Defence Force on patriotic grounds.

His outspoken South African patriotism stemmed from the gratitude he felt when, as a child fleeing the Nazi terror in the 1930s, SA was prepared to accept his family when many other countries were turning away Jewish refugees.

He began his political career in the United Party as a city councillor and provincial councillor. A superb orator, conveying conviction and passion, he was soon Transvaal leader of the party. As a barrister, he was a member of the defence team in the Rivonia Trial in 1964 which led to the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and other key leaders of the African National Congress.

Coming to Parliament in 1974 as member of the United Party opposition , he became a leading frontbencher, but soon broke away to form the Reform Party, rebelling against the UP's conservative racial policies and its failure to uphold the rule of law.

With him went a number of the younger liberal-minded UP members . The group then merged with the Progressive Party of Colin Eglin and Helen Suzman, forming the Progressive Reform Party, which later turned into the Progressive Federal Party, the Democratic Party and finally the Democratic Alliance (DA). In 1977, the PFP became the official opposition, and Schwarz was spokesman on finance until 1987.

Schwarz was active in Jewish communal affairs, and was a member of the national executive, the management committee and the Gauteng Council of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.

DA leader Helen Zille said he would be remembered for his contribution to the development of South African democracy . "He had strong leadership qualities and could inspire people to great achievements. He was an outstanding debater, inside and outside Parliament. He could stand his ground against all comers."

n Harry Heinz Schwarz was born on May 13 1924 in Cologne, the Weimar Republic, and died on Friday in Johannesburg.