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Lithuanian Jews in South Africa

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Holocaust in Lithuania

Lithuanian Jews

Jews in South Africa


Memories of Lithuania in South Africa


Jews began living in Lithuania as early as the 13th century. 206,800 were murdered by Nazis and Lithuanian collaborators.

The South African economy was booming due partly to discovery of gold deposits at the end of the 19th century. Anti-semitism from Afrikaners grew with the result that Jews started their own schools, cultural and welfare organizations.

Today the Jewish community assumes greater dominance than is evident even Lithuania, the Jews former home.

  • The capital Vilnius, was once known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania had a thriving community of 60,000 Jews and in excess of 90 synagogues and sported the biggest Yiddish library in the world.


Many of the migrants who travelled to South Africa came from the Kaunas region (Kovno in Yiddish), but many also came from towns such as Palanga, Panevėžys, Rietavas and Šiauliai. Many travelled via the Liepāja port in Latvia on ships bound, via the Baltic Sea and (after its opening in 1895) the Kiel Canal shortcut, for English east coast ports.

Casino magnate Sol Kerzner, the late communist Joe Slovo and veteran anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman, who for 13 years was the only . //

120,000 Jews remain in South Africa rather than emigrating to Israe.

Events of the Holocaust

Out of approximately 208,000-210,000 Jews, an estimated 190,000–195,000 were murdered in the Holocaust.


Decline of the population

Prior to the German invasion, the population of Jews was estimated to be about 210,000. The number of the survivors in the concentration camps when they were liberated by the Red Army, (2,000-3,000), puts the number of Lithuanian Jews murdered in the Holocaust at 195,000 to 196,000.

Jewish genocide

In 1941, German killing squads, the Einsatzgruppen, followed the advance of the German army units and immediately began organizing the murder of Jews. Most Lithuanian Jews perished in the first phase during the first months of the occupation and before the end of 1941.

Approximately 800 Jews were shot that day in what is known as the Garsden Massacre. Approximately 100 non-Jewish Lithuanians were also executed, many for trying to aid their Jewish neighbors.
About 80,000 Jews were killed by October and about 175,000 by the end of the year.

Instead they were shot in pits near their places of residence with the most infamous mass murders taking place in the Ninth Fort near Kaunas and the Ponary Forest near Vilnius.//

By 1942 about 45,000 Jews survived, largely those who had been sent to ghettos and camps.

Organized killings

The Nazi German administration directed and supported the organized killing of Lithuanian Jews.

  • Over 1,000 Jews perished over a few days in what was the first pogrom in Nazi-occupied Lithuania.
  • The most notorious Lithuanian unit participating in the Holocaust was the Lithuanian Sonderkommando Squad (Ypatingasis būrys) from the Vilnius (Vilna, Wilno) area which killed tens of thousands of Jews, Poles and others in the Ponary massacre.
  • Another Lithuanian organization involved in the Holocaust was the Lithuanian Labor Guard. Many Lithuanian supporters of the Nazi policies came from the fascist Iron Wolf organization.

Not all of the Lithuanian populace supported the killings. Israel has recognized 723 Lithuanians as Righteous Among the Nations for risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

The genocide in Lithuania is seen by some historians as one of the earliest large-scale implementations of the Final Solution, leading some scholars to express an opinion that the Holocaust began in Lithuania in the summer of 1941.

In 1995, president of Lithuania Algirdas Brazauskas speaking before the Israeli Knesset, offered a public apology to the Jewish people for the Lithuanian participation in the Holocaust. On 20 September 2001, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust in Lithuania,

Rampant post WW2

About 25,000 Jews left Lithuania between 1923 -1939. Lithuania lost more than 90 percent of its pre-war Jewish population during the Holocaust.


Lithuanian officials state that Jews were not oppressed in Lithuania

Some examples of attacks against Jews during this period may be found here:Live Journal


In the 1930s, one of the few countries that would accept Lithuanian Jews was South Africa. Approximately 90% of South African Jews are of Lithuanian heritage.

Nazi sympathizers at Lithuania’s Genocide Center and the Judeinrein citizenship attitudes at Lithuania’s Interior Ministry, conflict with these invitations. Should Jews pay attention to Lithuanian words, or Lithuanian actions?

Permission granted by 'Grant Gochin'

Open letter to Ambassador Darius Degutis, dated 12/3/15

Letter to Consul General - Los Angeles


Lithuanian South Africans


  1. Solly Alperstein, Sally, Rochelle, Louis Robin, breeder of poultry - Phyllis wife,
  2. Gutman Alperstein (father Solly) Bausk, Lithuania, Clara daughter Dr A Aufrichtig, Max Alperstein, sportsman


  1. Esther Barsel
  2. Hymie Barsel
  3. Ali Bacher
  4. Sydney Brenner
  5. Hilda Bernstein, anti-apartheid activist
  6. Lionel Bernstein, anti-apartheid activist
  7. Harry Bloom, anti-apartheid activist
  8. Jules Browde, barrister, jurist and anti-apartheid activist. Law school classmate of Nelson Mandela.
  9. Selma Browde, physician, anti-apartheid activist, former Councilwoman - Johanesburg City Council, AIDS activist.
  10. Tania (Bornstein) Jacobson
  11. Yetta Bornstein
  12. Charles Louis Back - largest Jewish Wine Farmer in 1947, arrived Lithuania 1902
  13. Sydney Back, Cyril Back


  1. Poppy Cannon
  2. Lewis Chaiet
  3. Johnny Clegg
  4. Jean Comaroff
  5. Arthur Chaskalson, chief justice
  6. Hymie Cohen b. 28 Aug 1923, in Arcadia 1925 - 1940
  7. Jack (Boysie) Cohen 1924 - 2015


  1. Pranas Domsaitis
  2. Dworsky family (3 kids) Strand Hebrew Congregation


  1. Harry Edelman


  1. Richard Freedman
  2. Kim Feinberg
  3. Ivor Feinberg (Honorary Consul of Lithuania, Pretoria)
  4. Bernard Friedman, anti-apartheid MP


  1. Richard Goldstone - judge and war crimes
  2. Sam Gottlieb m. Sylvia Weiner
  3. Abe Gottlieb - killed WW11 age 24


  1. Lee Harris (musician)
  2. Bension Hersch
  3. Dr L Hermrman - A history poof the Jews in SA
  4. Woolf Harris - founder SA Woollen Mills



  1. Jeanette Jegger
  2. Raymond Joffe (Honorary Consul of Lithuania, Johannesburg)


  1. Sam (Shmuel) Keren (holocaust)
  2. Hermann Kallenbach
  3. Hymie Kloner
  4. Aron Klug
  5. Mendel Kaplan
  6. Gill Kaplan
  7. Jadvyga Kazlauskiene
  8. Ronnie Kasrils
  9. Olga Kirsch
  10. Moses Kottler
  11. Taubie Kushlick
  12. Sol Kerzner
  13. Sidney Klevansky b. 1916, care of Arcadia SA Jewish Orphanage from 1924 - 1935
  14. Rachel Klevansky b. 1919 "
  15. Hymie Klevansky b. 1921 "
  16. Bertha Klevansky b. 1924 "
  17. Phillip Kemp WW11
  18. Theo Kirsch, plum king
  19. J. Katzeff - Mazheik, Lithuania


  1. Roland Levinsky
  2. Lippy Lipschitz
  3. Isaac Lewis
  4. Julius Lazarus
  5. Abe Levy - uniform WW11
  6. Heymann Levit - Oral surgeon b. Lithuania 1896, to SA 1902 m. Pauline Kuritzky


  1. Wendy Machanik
  2. Sammy Marks
  3. Sarah Millin
  4. Alex Manderson WW11 Arcadia
  5. Solly Meyers/Meyer 1923-2000, WW11, Israel War of Independence
  6. Harry Meyer - worked Benoni, bottle store
  7. Philip Meyer
  8. Arthur Markowitz 1930 to Johannesburg,writer
  9. W. Miller - founder of Zionist Society in Somerset West
  10. Mr Michaelovsky - Skud, Lithuania, Mrs M. came to SA 18 months


  1. Harry Nochumsohn - b. 1925, SA military cemetery Como, Italy
  2. Fanny Nerwich - Arcadia b. 1919
  3. Louis Nerwich
  4. Alex Nerwich
  5. Barney Nerwich
  6. N. Nochemowitz, pioneer of The Strand


  1. L. Osrin (Mossel Bay)

P, Q


  1. Ruth Rabinowitz
  2. Philip Rabinowitz (runner)
  3. Louis Isaac Rabinowitz
  4. Dave Rapp
  5. Michael Rapp
  6. Isaac Rosier (Itzik Razu) and Ochberg Orphan
  7. Mark Rubenstein b. 1919 Arcadia till 1929 Max Rose, Ostrich King pioneer , arriver 1890 from Shavel, Lithuania


  1. Joe Slovo
  2. Ruth First
  3. Professor Milton Shain
  4. Alan B. Schmiedt (Honorary Consul of Lithuania, Cape Town)
  5. Albie Sachs
  6. Charles Segal (musician)
  7. Antony Sher
  8. Helen Suzman
  9. George Sussman (Squire of Andalusia), JP, ex Latvia 1913, Betty Sussman, Julian Sussman,
  10. Mr N M Sax - Sagar, Lithuania 1900, at time of Boer War
  11. Professor Abraha Sax, famous author
  12. Mendel Sacks, arrived 1880.


  1. Gavin Tannenbaum

U, V


  1. Eli Weinberg
  2. Louis Washkansky
  3. Sylvia Weiner 1925 - 2013
  4. Zena Weiner
  5. Fay Weiner
  6. Bunny Weiner


  1. Percy Yutar
  2. Eli Zagoria - SADF and POW

Politicians and activists

Joel Joffe, human rights activist Tony Leon, former opposition leader Harry Schwarz, anti-apartheid politician, lawyer and diplomat Harold Hanson, QC and strong supporter of civil liberties Robin Philip Cranko, Lawyer, anti-apartheid activist

Other Jewish ANC activists included Ruth First, Albie Sachs and five of the six whites arrested in the Rivonia Trial: Denis Goldberg, Lionel Bernstein, Arthur Goldreich, James Kantor, Harold Wolpe and Gaby Shapiro.


Abraham Manie Adelstein, UK Chief Medical Statistician[1] Selig Percy Amoils, Inventor & Surgeon[2] Moses Blackman, crystallographer Sydney Brenner, biologist, Nobel Prize (2002) Leo Camron, educationalist Sydney Cohen, pathologist (Jewish Year Book, 2005, p214, 230) Meyer Fortes, anthropologist Max Gluckman, anthropologist Frank Herbstein, crystallographer, 1926-2011[3] Aaron Klug, chemist, Nobel Prize (1982) Ludwig Lachmann, economist[4] Arnold Lazarus, psychologist Roland Levinsky,[5] biologist Stanley Mandelstam, physicist (Jewish Year Book 2005 p214) Shula Marks, historian (Jewish Year Book 2005 p215) Frank Nabarro, physicist (Jewish Year Book 2005 p214) Seymour Papert, Artificial Intelligence pioneer Peter Sarnak, mathematician Isaac Schapera, anthropologist (Jewish Year Book 2005 p215) Anthony Segal, biochemist (Jewish Year Book 2005 p214) Phillip V. Tobias, palaeoanthropologist Joseph Wolpe, psychotherapist Lewis Wolpert, developmental biologist Basil Yamey, economist (Jewish Year Book 2005 p215,315) Solly Zuckerman, UK zoologist Max Price, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town

Cultural figures

Lionel Abrahams, poet Jillian Becker, writer Dani Behr, TV presenter Harry Bloom, writer and lecturer Lisa Chait, radio presenter Johnny Clegg, World Beat musician John Cranko, choreographer Graeme Friedman, writer David Goldblatt, photographer Nadine Gordimer, writer, Nobel Prize (1991) Laurence Harvey, actor Ronald Harwood, playwright Manu Herbstein, writer Dan Jacobson, writer Sid James, comic actor Danny K, pop singer William Kentridge, artist Lennie Lee, artist Manfred Mann (Manfred Lubowitz), R&B keyboardist Sarah Millin, writer Trevor Rabin, guitarist & film composer Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro), political cartoonist Antony Sher, stage actor Janet Suzman, stage actress

Business and professional figures

Raymond Ackerman, supermarket tycoon Alfred Beit, diamond magnate Donald Gordon, founder of insurance company Liberty Life, shopping centre owner & philanthropist Sydney Jacobson, newspaper editor[6] Solomon Joel, financier[7] Sol Kerzner, hotel & casino owner Sammy Marks, early entrepreneur from Pretoria Ernest & Harry Oppenheimer, diamond tycoons & philanthropists (Harry converted to Christianity) Percy Yutar, South Africa's first Jewish attorney general and prosecutor of Nelson Mandela in the 1963 Rivonia Treason Trial.[8] Sports figures[edit] Ali & Adam Bacher, cricketers Leo Camron, rugby union player and cricketer. Okey Geffin, rugby union player Ilana Kloss, tennis player Peter Lindenberg, powerboat racer (uconfirmed) Sarah Poewe, swimmer Philip Rabinowitz (runner), 100-year-old sprinter Jody Scheckter, Formula 1 driver Shaun Tomson, surfer Mandy Yachad, cricketer

Rugby union

Max Baise, South African rugby union referee.[9] Louis Babrow Leo Camron, South African who helped introduce rugby to Israel.,[10] also a cricketer Okey Geffin, South African Rugby Union player[11] Joe Kaminer Jonathan Kaplan, South African who holds the world record for refereeing the highest number of international rugby union test matches.[9] Alan Menter, South African Rugby Union Player Cecil Moss, South African rugby union player and coach Sydney Nomis, South African Rugby Union player Wilf Rosenberg, rugby union player Fred Smollan Joel Stransky, South African rugby union player Morris Zimmerman