Monday, July 30, 2012

Belgium- Kazerne Dossin- WWII Archives on Deportation of Belgian Jews

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

Following the IAJGS Conference in ParisI was visiting Belgium where I was able to meet with the Director, Memoriaal, Museum en Documentatiecentrum over Holocaust en Mensenrechten in Mechelen, Belgium of  the Kazerne Dossin. While the Museum is closed until this November as it is building a new building, they hold documents for the 25,000 Jews deported from Belgium to Auschwitz.



Belgium by edict since 1830 does not list the ethnicity nor religion of  their citizens--they did not know which of their citizens were Jewish. However, 90% of the Jews deported from Belgium were "foreigners" who fled to Belgium starting in the 1930's from various countries. Of the 56,000 people the Nazi's had registered as "Jews"--they had to file a "foreign police " report  and in the 3 million files they were able to trace back the 25,000 deported Jews.  Forty percent of the 25,000 Jews were originally from Poland and then there many from Germany, Hungary and other countries.

The museum has documents such as their original country of issue passports, Nazi deportation lists, 17 anti-Jewish laws that were posted so no one could say they didn't know, photographs, important biographical information such as country of origin, occupation, birth dates, to when they fled to Belgium, Nazi-required municipality lists of registered Jews, letters from collaborators telling the Nazis which Belgians were hiding Jews, information on the 3,500 children that were taken to be hidden by the resistance, transport lists and much more. These records are digitized but are not on the Internet, nor will they be placed on the Internet to protect the living, The Museum's second phase is to digitize the "persecuted -hidden Jews. As this is a totally private not governmental museum--they rely on private donations to pay the staff of three--therefore, this next phase may take 5 years to complete.

They were able to acquire the Nazi documents as the Nazi's left them behind when they fled after the Allies landed in Normandy.  [ Historical note: The fighting ended the end of August when the Germans withdraw massively eastwards of the Seine, abandoning their heavy equipment and within days the western part of Belgium including Antwerp and Brussels area were liberated.  For more history of the liberation see the Brussels City website: http://www.brussels.be/artdet.cfm/5562 ].

If you wish to inquire if the records hold something of interest on your family--remember most of the deported Jews came from other European countries--so this holds a potential genealogical trove of records for many without Belgian ancestors. You can request assistance from Director Ward Adriaens  -- at:  :  info@kazernedossin.eu or view the website at: http://www.kazernedossin.eu/en
 I do not know what,  if any charge there may be for the search or copies of the records.

The archives are located at:  Kazerne Dossin
Goswin de Staassartstraat 153
2800 Mechlin-Belgie

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

French Archives On Deportation of French Jews During WWII Opened To Public for For The First Time

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

The archives of the biggest World War II deportation of French Jews opened up to public view for the first time on July 18, 2012. It coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Vel' d'Hiv roundup by Paris police of some 13,000 Jews over two days--July 16-17, 1942  before being bused to the French camp at Drancy and then taken by train to Auschwitz.death camp. The records are being shown Paris Jewish District City Hall starting July 19 and running through the end of September. The  rector of Paris wants schools colleges and high schools to visit the exhibit.

The exhibit is located in the Maire du III 2 rue Eugene Spuller open Monday -Friday 8:30-5 PM
phone number 01-53-01-75-03

The Name of exhibit: La Raffe du veldrome d'hiver  Les Archives de la Police. It is a very small exhibit, and very moving.  A 60 page brochure--only in French--has been produced but at this time I do not know if a pdf will be made available. 
Other news media have reported about this exhibit since it opened including the New York Times: 
and Haaretz in Israel: http://tinyurl.com/cn9sbge
Photographs of some of the records may be viewed at the original AP article:
http://tinyurl.com/cjz3azh
original url:
 /http://news.yahoo.com/photos/french-holocaust-records-released-to-public-slideshow/

Thank you to Randy Herschaft of the AP for alerting us to this story.

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President

JGS Conejo Valley and Ventura County August 5 Meeting: Genealogy in the Round

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV) will be meeting on Sunday, August 5, 2012  1:30-3:30 pm at Temple Adat Elohim, 2420 E Hillcrest Drive in Thousand Oaks, CA.

The Topic: Genealogy in the Round:Share Your Successes, Failures, Artifacts and Brick Walls

Come and share a genealogical success, failure, brick wall, or genealogical artifact! This is YOUR meeting-We all learn from one another-take this opportunity to share your genealogical story-success or failure, ask questions about your brick walls, and more!

If you wish to participate in the program, please contact Jan Meisels Allen at president@JGSCV.org.  Each participant will be given 5-10 minutes to share-depending on the number of presenters.  We have room for several more presenters---Whether you are a JGSCV member or a potential member-we'd love
to hear your genealogical story.

Our Schmoozing corner, which starts 15 minutes before the meeting begins will be facilitated by Werner Frank, JGSCV founding member and former board member. This permits attendees to ask questions on brick walls and get directions on how to do their research.

The 10-minute genealogical technique will be presented by JGSCV board member and publicity chairperson, Marion Werle on Citing Your Sources--this is critical when doing your genealogical research--listing where you obtained the information and how to do it!

Our traveling library will have categories A and C books.(the D category was erroneously listed in the newsletter--D category books will be available at the September meeting).  The books are available starting 30 minutes before the program to shortly after the program. To see which books are coming to the meeting, please see our website www.jgscv.org under traveling library.

See our website for directions, future meetings and more information on the JGSCV  www.jgscv.org 

The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County is dedicated to sharing genealogical information, techniques and research tools with anyone interested in Jewish genealogy and family history. (www.jgscv.org). There is no charge to attend the meeting and all are welcome to attend. Annual dues are $25 for an individual and $30 for a family. Dues paid are good through December 2012.

For more information about JGSCV see our website www.jgscv.org .

Jan Meisels Allen
President, JGSCV

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Positive Feedback

In response to yesterday's post, Ann Rabinowitz received the following email. Ann is a dedicated JewishGen volunteer, and we look forward to many more posts in the future.
-------------
From: Barbara H 

To: Ann Rabinowitz
Sent: Thu, July 26, 2012 
Subject: your story on Jewish Gen blog  


Hello –  


I just read your story on the blog and thought it was marvelous. That is just the type of information I would love to know about my family. Unfortunately, my family didn’t include storytellers and I will have to work hard to put some context to the dates and places that I have found. 


Really, I’m writing just to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your story. 


Thank you for posting it. 
Barbara H
Portland, OR

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Journey to Africa and Beyond – A Few Vignettes

Posted By: Ann Rabinowitz

Sometimes a journey begins at the beginning and sometimes not.  The following vignettes reflect just such a crooked winding journey amongst the shards of memory of my family. 

The journey takes us from a small shtetl in Lithuania to Bot Rivier, a small dorpie in South Africa’s eastern Cape Province much like the shtetls in Lithuania. Here, the family is nurtured, and moves onto America, where they again adjust and realize their destiny.  Later, it follows the search for those left in South Africa.

An Apple Crisp Winter

The family, warm and tucked in their beds awaited the morning, dreaming of the dappled daylight, frosted and apple crisp, in Simonys, Lithuania, nearby to the shtetl of Kupiskis, whilst downstairs, among the tanned hides, colonial goods, and other items, several peasants, redolent in garlic and vodka, made bold by the uncertain times, entered unbeknownst, intent on theft and, at best, murder, if interrupted,

The father, Zeev-Peretz Choritz, brave and at the same time frightened, his numerous children and pregnant wife abed, hearing noises and disruption, crept down the stairs to meet the madding peasant hordes, then an explosion of gunfire, rapid, and lethal, ended his young vital life,

Hearing the unaccustomed gunfire, the eldest daughter Celia, eyes heavy with sleep, rushed down the stairs first, her long flannel gown tangling about her feet and pigtails flying about her terror-stricken face.  She saw the men, flushed from their arduous labors, rushing from the premises, their dirty deeds done, the store a shambles and her father dead upon the stairs, blood running from his wounds.

Facing extreme poverty, the family gathered around the grandfather Ber-Zalman, who sheltered them, and they made efforts to survive this terrible loss, only to be dislodged very shortly by the approaching Germans, for it was late 1914, and soon they were forced into exile in Tambov, a stop on the rail line into Russia, where they literally starved and the grandfather perished.

Later, after the war had ended, back in Lithuania, they despaired of what to do, life was hard, food scarce, and banditry was rampant, but soon their uncle Mordechai-Yehudah called to them, whispered the words they longed to hear, come to the goldene medina, to Africa, there you will be safe and can survive, and, so they went, looking back, only to remember the blossoming apple trees and the wine-crisp apples, shiny in their coats of juicy goodness.

They traveled first by cart to the train station, their goods restricted by the long journey ahead, and the train soon came to take them over the border to Libau, the major port city, where they delayed until their ship arrived to take them further.

Waiting, they lingered in the town, bedded down in transient quarters, queuing to get the appropriate papers stamped and approved, until the boat arrived, large and crowded, accommodations were steerage, immigrants thronging to its depths to make the leap of faith into a new life,

Steaming across the frigid waters, crossing to the northeast coast of England was the plan, then by train across England to the next port and another ship, larger than the first one, this time, purpose made for South African travel, and the year was 1925 or so, it was prime time for African travel.

Arriving at the next British port, they spent a few days in the Poor Jews’ Temporary Shelter, bed and board provided, whilst waiting for their Union-Castle ship to arrive, and then it was three weeks or so across the turbulent seas to Cape Town, Table Mountain looming significantly, its blanket of clouds covering its ascent, until, at long last, they landed, passed the barrage of questions on arrival and off then to the tiny dorpie, Bot Rivier, their final destination, by ox cart, plodding slowly over the mountain passes. 

It had been a long and arduous voyage and the winter was almost over . . . the smell of the onions in the fields rose to meet them as they reached the rose-covered portal of a small traveler’s hotel and saw beyond it the general dealer’s store and their uncle Mordechai-Yehudah and Chaia-Pese, his wife, waving a warm welcome there on the stoop.  There was food aplenty and drink, the harsh life they had known was blown away on the warm winds of change from the Houwhoek Pass to the east, to that dark wintry place of death, destruction, and poverty, they had left behind. 

Nineteen Bags of Potatoes

My great uncle, Mordechai-Yehudah Choritz, a stooped, massive bearded fellow, a Torah scholar, he wandered, in search of himself, and life; my great aunt, Chaia-Pesa, faithfully by his side to the end,

He had wandered to Oudtshoorn in search of ostrich feathers, won riches and lost them, just as quickly, and eventually settled in Bot Rivier, a general dealer, in partnership with his best friend and relative, Sam Jaffe.  A masterful trader and dealer, he had wandered the breath of the Overberg Outspan, in the Eastern Cape, scouring the land for produce, settling in at the market in Caledon, ready for the ultimate deal breaker, the best value.

There, he crossed paths with his nemesis, Simon H., a venal man, who flexed his sinewy craft in many a shady deal, and it was such a deal for nineteen bags of potatoes that drew them together, becoming bitter enemies, forever locked in a vice of legal entanglements before the highest court in the land, and it was 1911 only, then.

Before the bar of justice in the case, infuriated over alleged twisted Jewish business dealings, Afrikaans farmers resorted to anti-Semitic outbursts.  British justice, uncomprehending of the mores of a rough, unschooled frontier society, lacking in niceties, grappled in a class-conscious obtuse manner with the sorties of Simon and Mordechai-Yehudah, all charges in the end dismissed, the case closed, the guilty released from penalty.

Many years later, I received a modern communication, an e-mail message, from a former South African doctor who had read about my research and family connections.  As our friendship deepened, we found that we both were descendants of that pair of bitter enemies, Simon and Mordechai-Yehudah. 

Sometimes, when I hear the soft, sibilant tones of Simon’s great nephew, my friend for many a year now, the bond of our ancestors seems to be close, tight about us, no matter how we struggle, argue, and make up,

We remain as friends, a curious unexpected harmony existing between us, sharing our heritage with each other and others, and, I wonder, if this is what karma or beshert is about, perhaps, and are we both reliving the trials of our ancestors, over and over again, in a never-ending cycle?

Ellis Island Dreaming

Early, before the day loomed hot and humid in Plainfield, NJ, my grandfather, the peripatetic butcher, picked up his supply of meats from the Swift Packing House. Meanwhile in the Watchung Mountains, simple folk watched patiently for the large, big-nosed man, his face creased and sweating, his provision-laden cart pulled languorously by Sam, the plodding nag, up and down the winding well-beaten paths, dripping melting ice blocks on the rutted dirt roads.

In winter, his cart became a sleigh, whose chiming bells cheerfully announced his arrival far into the frost-chilled morning. His fresh sausages and bacon would fry up crispy with eggs to fortify the country workers on their endless rounds of chores, and his greetings, a welcome respite for the snowbound wives eager for a bit of gossip and grateful for news of town.

During his travels, he thought listlessly of his former home in Africa which he had left as a teenager, as he slid over the icy patches and mounded snow-covered hillsides, dreaming of steaming arid veldts, vast and filled with teeming wildlife, tall natives colored ochre and strident in their occupation of the land, whilst the stocky, demonstrative patroons of the Cape, tense and possessive, were only dislodged, finally, by the British, with whom he had fought in a war maddeningly personal.

After the Anglo-Boer War, my grandfather had sailed for England, continuing on to America. At long last, he passed gratefully through Ellis Island to a boarding house run by a landsleit from Kupiskis, Shloime-Dovid Zadekowitz, the van Halton Street greengrocer, and his four eligible daughters. There he met the Hillman brothers from German East Africa. Scions of an ancient rabbinic dynasty, they had traveled via Panama and a stint in odiferous tanneries to struggle into productive enterprises making barrels, painting houses, and selling leather and shoe findings. They all then moved across the river to New Jersey, where better prospects beckoned, finally marrying the daughters and raising families. Thus were raw greenhorns turned into prosperous entrepreneurs, thereby realizing the American dream within a generation.

Death in a Strange Land . . .

My great-aunt Chaia-Pese’s marriage with Mordecai-Yehudah had been arranged. They were relatives, distant, of course, but relatives still.  It was a common occurrence in those times.  She married with expectations of a large and vibrant family, a husband wise and wealthy, long years of wifely duties, and then contented, her grandchildren upon her lap, a quiet end in the old cemetery of Kupiskis, filled with her mispocha for three hundred years.

Times were tough though and her young husband left her; left for the goldene medina of Africa, driven by tales of gold and diamonds, ostrich feather millionaires, and the like.  There were relatives there already and those who went with him.  He was assured companionship in his search for wealth and riches.  She was left to fend for herself, care for her mother and siblings.  Strong, she took on these duties willingly.

All too soon, life changed dramatically as her father, Vulf Bedil, was murdered, killed on a holy day of the gentiles, in Skapiskis, thrown from a fiery roof, as they drunkenly debauched themselves, whipped into a fury by the local priest, killing Jews, the supposed killer of their god.  She, her mother and siblings fled into the nearby welcoming forest, fled from the land of their forefathers, clambered aboard the next vessel headed in the furthest direction from the horror, fled to her husband, Mordechai-Yehudah, in Africa.   

Once there, she struggled in a tiny dorpie, Bot Rivier, with no nearby conveniences, no rabbi, no shochet, no synagogue, no bakery, no market square piled high with produce, no stores, filled with necessities, only seven other Jewish families, a number of them relatives, to share a common Jewish life with, and here she lived surrounded by gentiles speaking a kind of patois Yiddish, the Afrikaans, she learned to know so well.

Her husband was religious and he tried to maintain his religiosity in this backwater, without a congregation, without the scholars he was used to sparring with, focused for most of the time on commerce, he traveled far and wide and managed, at least, to make some religious impact on those he visited and stay with on his many travels.

Eventually, Chaia-Pese’s siblings left for America, the riches there beckoning bright, she had no children to comfort her, only her mother and herself remaining alone in Bot Rivier.  The quiet and loneliness was not to last for Mordechai-Yehudah’s family was to flee to Africa now, their father murdered as hers had been; the victim of traumatic events in Lithuania.  The children came aplenty, she now had the noise and riotousness of a busy active household, a commotion she wasn’t used to, for she had gotten older, rigid in her ways, lacking in that special softness necessary to deal with a young family, but she did the best that she could.

Things worked out though, and the family grew and prospered.  However, all too soon her mother Etta-Sora passed away, taken to a granite topped grave in Cape Town, far away.  The years passed as the children moved away to Grabouw, a neighboring town, then the economy grew worse, the family wanted better schooling and spouses for the children, and the house in Bot Rivier was boarded up and they all moved to town, to Cape Town and other larger centers.

For Chaia-Pese, the days stretched into years, her beloved husband grew older, tired, and sick, their plans aborted to spend their golden years in Palestine, their Zionist homeland.  Soon, Mordechai-Yehudah passed too from her life, buried not far from her mother, in the cemetery in Cape Town.  She was desolate, with no children of her own, no siblings, no close family; she lingered on, hoping for a change.

She wanted desperately to go to Palestine, but could not enter on her own, she had to be married.  So, through friends, she met someone, landsleit from der heim, a widower needing a wife, a Mr. Landsman.  They had the same dream of going to Palestine and so they married quickly and departed for Jerusalem in the land of milk and honey.

Sweet, their life was not to be, for her new husband was a poor and angry man, he subsisted on the meagre donations from his family and thinking she was a wealthy widow, he had married her for her gold.  He soon found that she had nothing; the last of her money had been exhausted in getting to Palestine.  He was furious and spent his anger upon her daily.  Soon, this increased until he beat her half to death and she was taken broken and alone to the poor ward in the hospital on Mt. Scopus.

There she lay, sick and wasting away, dreaming of her choices, choices always made for the good of others, choices made for herself, at the end, that had gone so wrong.  She had only one visitor, her relative, Percy Berger, from Cape Town, on leave from his regiment in the War, bringing greetings and good wishes from the family.  Seeing her state, he wrote to his mother and soon Chaia-Pese’s nephews that she had helped to raise sent money, five pounds a month, money to alleviate her poverty, assist her to return home to recuperate.

Nothing made the situation easier; she was a lonely broken woman now, aged beyond her years, and ready to die.  Her illness worsened and she passed away, far from home in a strange land, with no family around to comfort her.  She was buried somewhere in Jerusalem, her grave unknown, a pauper’s grave.  She lies there still amidst the olives on the rolling hills, pious and dutiful until the last.

Finding Mordechai-Yehudah

In the last years of his long life my father, by then old and blind, became haunted by thoughts of a family never seen or known, missing from his orphaned childhood, all in Africa. Find them for me, find my grandmother, Etta-Sora, my aunt and uncle, Chaia-Pesa and Mordechai-Yehudah, he begged, I want to know of their existence, were they happy, did they remember me, did I ever mean anything to them?
Yes, I said, I will look, far and wide, the only clue a tattered address book with a lone address, Choritz and Jaffe, Bot Rivier, CP, to guide me, and an envelope dated 1927 from my father’s last correspondence with his grandmother Etta-Sora Bedil and the Choritz family. So, I wrote, many times, and all was returned addressee unknown.

Bewildered, where else was I to look. Africa was an enigma, who knew how to reach her?  I knew no one from there, and no one else did either.  The Internet was not in evidence yet, so I could not post a message across the world.  As Jews from Africa started to arrive in America, fleeing apartheid, I questioned them, have you heard of my father’s family, do you know of them, where can I look?

Finally, a pharmacist where I worked, formerly from Cape Town, remembered, yes, there is a family there, they were my customers.  No, I don’t know where to find them now, it was years ago.  Jubilant, I now knew they existed; at least, it wasn’t just a parental hallucination. Later, friends of my mother from Manchester, England, came to visit and told us that one of my mother’s relatives, who they were also friends with, was coming to visit too.  How nice, we all thought, as the relative, now living in Cape Town, was coming to introduce his new wife.

We sat reminiscing about old times and I bethought myself to casually ask the new wife, if she knew my father’s family in Cape Town, I mentioned the hallowed name, Choritz.  Her eyes opened wide, and she stated that, of course, she knew them, Choritz was the name of her son-in-law.

From that day on, I knew them all, how the uncle Mordechai-Yehudah and his wife, my great aunt Chaia-Pese, had come to Bot Rivier and later brought the rest of the family, first Chaia-Pese’s then his, how they were joined by the Jaffe family, also relatives, my father had not dreamed it all, it was true, all true.

Later, I would make a pilgrimage to Africa, after my father had gone, sadly, little knowing of my discoveries.  I would visit Bot Rivier, meet the Choritz and Jaffe clans, and then go to the cemetery, at Woltemade #8, where I found Mordechai-Yehudah, at long last, the person who brought them all.

And, in a shady lane nearby, finally, though carelessly tripping over her still readable Hebrew-inscribed grave stone to find her, I located my great grandmother, Etta-Sora, all alone, since 1930, ninety years of age, the one memory retained by my father all those long years, my search over.

Bot Rivier . . .

The tall grass filtered the leaden sunlight onto the weed strewn banks at the edge of the pool,
Lying there, amidst the fluttering sound of the water birds diving for prey and the hooting call of the starlings, the acrid smell of fields of onions permeating the air, Unadulterated pleasure, as I noticed the Boer horses, running free across the hilly green, so shaggy and wild, the only wild herd in South Africa.  Could anything be as unfettered, or unchallenged?
Stretching, I rose and walked towards the hotel, a whitewashed rose-covered place, in a tiny dorpie, the owners now Afrikaaners, but formerly Jewish-owned, surrounded by sunlit fields of wine grapes and wildflowers.  How beguiling and all, but perfect . . . 


As I entered, the proprietor proffered a glass of local grown vintage, heady with newness, its nose not perfect yet, but ideally ready for an afternoon's sipping in relaxation. Sitting in the cozy chintz-filled parlor, I thought of my grandfather, a new arrived emigrant, joining his mother, brother, sister and brother-in-law, Mordechai-Yehudah, hoping for a better life in a land so rustic and filled with natural beauty, so like the Kupiskis, he had left in far-off Lithuania.




Looking through the heavy-leaded window, the general dealer's store sat in pride of place next door, waiting for yet more locals to patronize and visit, if only for a fraction of a lifetime.  It had not changed much in one hundred years, and I could visualize my grandfather sitting on the stoop, waiting, waiting for eternity . . . 


So much time had passed, an age, at least, but I was glad that I had come, had rested here, and seen the shadow of my grandfather's memory as it lay supine over this bucolic place . . . I was contented.

Originally published in “Jewish Affairs”Vol. 60, No. 1, Pesach, 2005, Johannesburg, SA.  Reprinted with permission of Ann Rabinowitz, author.

© 2005 Ann Rabinowitz

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Great Britain Royal Aero Club Aviators' Certificates, 1910-1950

Posted by Ann Rabinowitz

On April 26, 2012, one of the pioneers of Israeli Air Force, Dr. Boris Aubrey Senior, a former South African, passed away.  His passing made me think of the wonderful contribution Jewish South Africans made to the formation of Israeli aviation.  His exploits are recorded in his book which can be read online: New Heavens: My Life As A Fighter Pilot And A Founder Of The Israel Air Force ]


As Boris Senior was part of Machal, those Jews from around the world who fought for Israel, his accomplishments are included in another online resource, the World Machal site.  This incorporates stories and photos of the Machalniks.


Additionally, another resource for sharing information about South African aviators such as Boris Senior is the rewarding database on Ancestry.com, the Great Britain Royal Aero Club Aviators’ Certificates, 1910-1950, which includes Jewish and non-Jewish aviators.  The database contains 28,000 certificates and an accompanying 34 photograph albums with 13,000 photos of aviators who were issued flying licenses.  These included the first military flyers and covers the period of World Wars I and II and just afterwards.

The certificates include the following information:

  • Name
  • Birth Date
  • Birth Place
  • Nationality
  • Rank/Profession
  • Date/Place of Certificate
  • Certificate Number
In checking out the South African-born Jewish certificate holders, I found that there were approximately 12 listed out of 562 aviators who were born in South Africa:
ABRAHAM, Cecil, MD, Port ElizabethALBU, Walter George, JohannesburgALPERSTEIN, Hugo, King WilliamstownARONSON, Joseph Gustave, King WilliamstownBENJAMIN, Maurice Arthur, Port ElizabethCOHEN, Roland, BarbertonHERSOV, Basil David, JohannesburgHOFFMAN, Aaron Archibald, South AfricaLEVIN, Harry Herbert, Cape TownMARKS, Joseph Mordechai, PretoriaOSPOVAT, Leon, JohannesburgSENIOR, Boris Aubrey, Johannesburg

It is possible that there were more than these 12 South African Jewish aviators in the database.  Some of the reasons there may have been more are:

  • They may have Anglicized names that I did not recognize in the list.
  • There may have been some who were born outside South Africa (such as in England) and therefore were not contained in the search perimeter of “Born in South Africa” that I utilized.  One of those born in England, Diane Barnato Walker, was the daughter of Woolf Barnato and the granddaughter Barney Barnato.  She was the first British woman to break the sound barrier. 
  • It is possible that many may not have gotten certificates from this source such as Harold “Smoky” Simon, Simon Eliastam, George Cohen, Cecil Lionheart, and others.  In regard to Harold “Smoky” Simon, he survived his aviation exploits and you can listen to his history which includes his training and participation in the battle of El Alamein .  However, the two other South African Air Force volunteer aviators mentioned were killed.  Simon Eliastam was killed in a training mission, July 22, 1942, his body was never found and his name is inscribed at the El Alamein Memorial in Matruh, Egypt.  One can find Lt. George Cohen’s  grave too at:  He was killed on September 27, 1942.  Lastly, Cecil Lionheart was killed over the Somme in France on July 1, 1916.
  • Others may have gotten certificates later than the 1950 end date of the database.
It is interesting to note that there were 10,000 South African Jewish recruits in World War II out of a Jewish population of 103,435 and 357 of those were killed in action.  The first South African Jewish death in World War II was Harold Rosofsky who was killed in the opening days of the war.  He is one of many aviators who served alongside volunteers from various commonwealth nations such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the like.  Many times, one will find the record of the individual’s military career in sites devoted to the volunteers from particular countries.


England had declared war on September 1, 1939, and Harold Rosofsky, scheduled to fly over Germany, never even got there at all as his plane crashed after takeoff not far from his airbase in England on September 8, 1939.  The finale of Harold Rosofsky’s aerial wartime career is to be found in the following New Zealand resource: http://adf-serials.com.au/nz-serials/nzwellington.htm.


Apparently, Harold was flying with a primarily New Zealand crew and the report of their demise was noted on the site.  The following information was provided . . . “1939: 8th September; Plt Off H Rosofsky. Air-firing Ex.  Hit trees while low flying over Berners Heath range and crashed near Elveden, 4 miles south-west of Thetford, Norfolk“.


In addition, an interesting resource for some South Africa aviators is the following Aerodrome site for flying aces of World War I.  An example is the military record of Maurice Arthur Benjamin of Port Elizabeth.


According to the site: Maurice Arthur Benjamin was the son of Michael and Rose Benjamin and although he is listed as being born in South Africa, he and his family were resident in Paddington in 1901 as were his parents in 1911.


  • NAME - Maurice Arthur Benjamin
  • COUNTRY - South Africa
  • RANK - Captain
  • SERVICE - Royal Flying Corps, Royal Air Force
  • UNIT - 48
  • VICTORIES - 8
  • BORN - July 10, 1883
  • PLACE OF BIRTH - Cape Colony
  • DIED
  • PLACE OF DEATH
The record also stated that Maurice Arthur Benjamin was awarded a Military Cross - 2nd Lt. Maurice Arthur Benjamin, R.F.C., Spec. Res.  For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He helped to attack two large hostile machines, one of which was seen to crash to the ground. Previously he helped to engage three hostile scouts, one of which was destroyed and the remainder dispersed. He has helped to destroy four hostile machines in all.  From the Supplement to the London Gazette, 18 July 1917 (30188/7221).

His eight victories are enumerated below:

Victories
Date
Time
Unit
Aircraft
Opponent
Location
1
06 Apr 1917
48
Bristol F.2a 1
EA (OOC)
Douai
2
09 Apr 1917
a.m.
48
Bristol F.2a 1
Two-seater (DES)
E of Arras
3
23 Apr 1917
48
Bristol F.2a 1
Albatros D.III (OOC) 2
Vimy
4
25 Apr 1917
48
Bristol F.2a 1
Albatros D.III (DES)
E of Arras
5
27 Apr 1917
48
Bristol F.2a 1
Two-seater (DES) 3
Vitry, SW of Douai
6
26 May 1917
1945
48
Bristol F.2b (A7119) 4
Albatros D.III (DES)
SW of Douai
7
26 May 1917
1945
48
Bristol F.2b (A7119) 4
Albatros D.III (OOC)
SW of Douai
8
15 Jun 1917
1940
48
Bristol F.2b (A7117) 5
Albatros D.III (OOC) 6
Fampoux


1
2
Shared with Fred Holliday & Capt AHW Wall, Roger Hay, William Winkler & Ernest Moore
3
Shared with Roger Hay
4
Pilot Lt J W Warren
5
Pilot Lt HM Fraser
6
Shared with Harold Pratt & Hugh Owen

Further resources are:

  • National Museum of Military History in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, South Africa,.  The Lt. Gen. A. M. L. Masondo Library at the museum has a remarkable collection of over 70,000 books, periodicals, primary archival materials and photographs, all of which can be researched.
An example of a World War II aviator who was not in any of the online site mentioned was Ernst Rosenstein, the son of German World War I ace Willie Rosenstein who settled in Rustenburg, South Africa.  Willie Rosenstein’s career can be seen here  Further information on Ernst and his family can be found by clicking here

  • ROSENSTEIN, Lieutenant (Pilot), ERNST WILLY, 328895V. 185 Sqdn, South African Air Force,  April 2, 1945, Age 22, Son of Willy and Hedwig Rosenstein, of Rustenburg, Transvaal, South Africa V.A.5.
  • ROSENSTEIN, Lt. ERNST., (February 20, 1923 – 1945), a pilot of the British Royal Air Force was shot down over the Mediterranean Sea in combat action during World War II.
Ernst is included in a listing on the following site as well, with the discussion under the “MILAN WAR CEMETERY.”On 3 September 1943 the Allies invaded the Italian mainland, the invasion coinciding with an armistice made with the Italians who then re-entered the war on the Allied side. The Allied advance was stalled for two successive winters: in 1943 on the German defensive position known as the Gustav Line, stretching from the river Gargliano in the west to the Sangro in the east, and in 1944 on the Gothic Line in the northern Appenine mountains.
At the beginning of April 1945, the Allies launched their final offensive against the German positions spread out in a line across Italy, south of Bologna. German resistance was by now beginning to disintegrate and the Allies were able to fan out rapidly across the Po valley. Milan, already freed by Italian Partisans, was entered by the US 4th Corps on 2 May 1945, the day of the German surrender in Italy. As Milan fell to the Allies largely without a fight, the Commonwealth forces suffered few casualties.

Most of the graves in Milan War Cemetery were those of prisoners-of-war or airmen and were brought in from the surrounding towns and villages - places such as Bergamo, Boves, Carpi, Cicagna, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Turin and Val d'Isere - after the war. Milan War Cemetery contains 417 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 27 of them unidentified. There are also six war graves of other nationalities.

Three further resources provide information on Jewish aviators and/or soldiers are:

  • This is a movie in process which will memorialize many of the Jewish aviators’ contributions.  It is the story of 150 aviators from around the world who served in the Israeli Air Force in 1948, many of whom were from South Africa.
  • This is an on-line portal for a Museum of Jewish Militaria (1790 – World War II).   These medals awarded to Jewish soldiers include seventeen South Africa soldiers who served in World War II:  Max Appel, Miss Estelle Barnett, Robert Reuben Blumenthal, Lionel Louis Davin, Ralph Deitch (South African Air Force Air Gunner), Sydney Feinson, Philip Garb, Max Harris, Erwin Jonas, Clarence Kaplan, James Kroll, Hyman Rubin Lipchin, Richard Michael Myers, Douglas Montefiore Phillips, Jack Popelsky, John Derrick Schwartz, and Teddy Waks.  This site also contains information regarding Jews who served in the Boer War.
There are so many other things to be found on the Internet about aviators, South African Jewish aviators and Jewish soldiers.  One has only to look carefully.  As an example, a final aviation resource provides information on the first professional Jewish aviator in America, the remarkable Al Welsh, born in Kiev, Ukraine, who served in World War II.

Mazal Tov to the JGS of Great Britain

Posted by: Brittney Feinzig

Mazal Tov to our friends at the JGS of Great Britain upon winning the IAJGS “outstanding publication” award for their journal, Shemot. 


The citation for the award reads: 
Shemot, the outstanding journal of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain is published with a distinct theme three times each year.  
Each issue attracts contributors with expertise in the theme and provides articles with breadth and depth. The content of this relevant, informative and worthwhile journal reflects the skill set of a strong network of member and non-member contributors. Although the high-quality and original articles are primarily of interest to individuals researching British roots and those whose families trans-migrated through Great Britain, they are relevant to all researchers. 
Shemot, which means “Names” in Hebrew, owes its pre-eminence to its long-serving editorial team of Bernard Valman and Mike Gordon, not to mention its many interesting, informative and authoritative articles. Some recent themed issues have included Jewish genealogy in South Africa, the East End of London, and Leeds. 
Shemot was founded in 1992 and is circulated to all JGSGB members, as well as dozens of other Jewish genealogy societies and libraries including the New York Public Library.

Maccabi USA

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