CHOL – Community History On-Line

A forum for those involved in preserving the footprint of Southern African Jewish community life in digital form


Many South Africans have written personal or family memoirs to remember and document the past for future generations. Click the entries below to read these fascinating memoirs (the majority of which have not been commercially published). This is yet another way of engraving the footprint of our people into the 'clouds' of our common sky.

Memoirs are listed in alphabetical order by title. Clicking the title will bring up the memoir. There is also a 'search' feature on the top right of the table that allows you to search the table for a writer or a topic.

We would love to have your feedback on the memoirs uploaded onto these pages. Please email us with your comments, questions or suggestions at

To read the many creative stories that we have posted on CHOL, go to the Share Your Stories page.

Title Writer and place, and date written/published Topic, period covered and no. of pages Date posted
Scenes from a World Long Gone Hoffmann, Jack
Denmark, 2015
Covers Jack's early life in Johannesburg from 1945-1972. It depicts scenes from nursery school, primary school, cheder, King David High School, Betar, Wits medical school and surgical specialisation. (207 pp) 2023.08
Johannesburg – A Memoir Moss, Stanley
Boston, 2000
Stanley Moss (1936-2000) was an architect, pianist, archivist and conservation specialist involved in the Big Dig Boston program. The memoir covers the period when he lived in Johannesburg. The memoir was submitted by Leon Moss, Stanley's older brother. (103 pp) 2023.08
From Butcher to Professor to Professor. Journeys from Papile to Bloemfontein to Johannesburg to Ughill Brown, Colin Bertram
England, 2023
Adventures of father and son, both professors of medicine in South Africa and England in the 20th century, as well as the history of their forebears. Colin studied medicine and specialised in nephrology in England. (19 pp) 2023.08
History of the Louis Family in South Africa Louis, Lionel
The memoir covers several decades of the history of the Louis family from the turn of the 20th century. It includes their experience in the Boer War and relates their history until 1939. Submitted by Lionel Louis's son, Peter Louis, who lives in San Diego. (7 pp) 2023.08
Letters in a Shoe Box, 1940-1945 Rapeport, Naomi Schamroth Julian Meyer, from Pietersburg, was a POW in WW2. He sent letters home to his mother, Fanny, which were kept in a shoe box. Julian died in 1993 and Naomi Schamroth Rapeport compiled this memoir from the letters, which were scanned in 2015. (108 pp) 2023.08
Bubba Meise – My Jewish Johannesburg Nathanson, Saul David MD
Detroit, 2023
Tales of my Jewish youth, growing up in Johannesburg from the mid-1940s to mid-1970s. (16 pp) 2023.08
Malmesbury: Shtetl Life in the Swartland - A Vanished Era Kretzmar, Julius H.
Cape Town, 1986
Growing up in the Jewish community of Malmesbury, Western Cape in the 1920s. (12 pp) 2023.07
Family Chronicle, Cohen Wollach, Clare
Tel Aviv, 1992
The story of the extended Cohen family who left Agustov, Poland, and settled in Cape Town at the turn of the 20th century. Their story is one of passion, adventure and a deep connection to the tradition of their Jewish roots. (98 pp) 2023.06
Jewish Life in District Six in the 1920s Wilkin, Esther, based on interviews with Gwynne Robins
Cape Town, c1990s
Jewish life in District Six in the 1920s 2023.05
Rev Pulver’s Plight Robins, Gwynne
Cape Town, 2010 (first published in Jewish Affairs, 65:1, Pesach 2010)
Kosher meat or a complacent congregation – ministering to the fledgling Cape Town Jewish Community, 1849-1851 2023.05
From Eastern Europe to South Africa Schrire, Gwynne
Cape Town, 2007 (published by Jacob Gitlin Library and Western Province Zionist Council)
Memories of an epic journey over land and sea from Eastern Europe to South Africa, 1880-1937 2023.05
Right Moves Kaplan, David E.
Israel, 2021
Fonda Dubb's teaching in Port Elizabeth at the Toynbee, Gelvandale School for Coloured students during the 1960s-70s (6 pp) 2023.04
Debutante Ball Dubb, Fonda
Israel, 2023
Teaching ballet and fund-raising for this purpose in Port Elizabeth in the 1960s-70s at the Gelvandale School (13 pp) 2023.04
Soldier and His Diary Green, Harris Zvi
Israel, 2023
Biography of Corporal Solomon Green (1911-1982) and his war diary in Libya of 1942 (190 pp - large print) 2023.02
Birzh Family Saga Sheinbaum, Miriam
As told to her niece Doris Hersch, Johannesburg, 1973
Tumultuous and dangerous life in northern Lithuania and Courland in the early 20th century (9 pp) 2023.02
Hidden Life of a Smous: Philip Borkum Levy, Lorna
Cape Town, 2016
Trial of two men for the murder of her grandfather, a smous from Kimberley, Philip Borkum. He was married to Ella Heydenreich – see Heydenreich Family Saga. (63 pp) 2023.02
Letters to My Wife in Lithuania Kretzmar, Tuvye
Edited by Gwynne Schrire and Phil Kretzmar, Kaplan Centre, UCT, 2021
'Trying' 1899-1903 - to make his way in the Cape, so the family could be reunited in Malmesbury (web format) 2023.02
Letter to My Grandchildren Chazan, Pearl
Jerusalem, 2011
Describes the rich Jewish life in Upington of her Nurick (from Goldingen, Courland) and other Upington families from the early 20th century to early 1940s (128 pp) 2023.02
Family Saga: Harris Mirvish, Sidney
Nebraska, c2002
Extensive saga of family from Ospezin, Poland, who emigrated to South Africa in 1880s, to 2002. Covers Kimberley, Zwartmodder, Upington and Cape Town; Waverley and South African Woollen Mills (1912). (c50 pp) 2023.02
Family Saga: Heydenreich Hoffman, Anna (née Heydenreich)
Johannesburg, 1954 (aged 83)
A learned, well-to-do and well-connected family in business, arts and professions from Courland (Mitau and Goldingen) across Europe to the UK. Some emigrated to Southern Africa, Kimberley, Johannesburg and Bulawayo (1880s to 1950s). (c8 pp) 2023.02
Kimberley Jews and the Second World War Auerbach, Geraldine MBE
London, 2020/2021
The stories of most of the 50 Jewish men who joined the South African or British army and served ‘up north’ in army, air force and navy and who all thankfully came home safely. (49 pp) 2023.02
Beit, Alfred, Part 1: Diamonds in Kimberley Auerbach, Geraldine MBE
London, 2017/2023
Much admired strategist and financier on the diamond and gold fields. Great friend and associate of Cecil John Rhodes, responsible for the financial deals and strategy of the amalgamation of the mines and establishment of De Beers Consolidated Mines. Randlord from a Jewish family in Hamburg became a British citizen and benefactor. (79 pp) 2023.02
Durbanville Scher, Vicky
Israel, 2023
Living in Durbanville, 1950s to 1970s (13 pp) 2023.02
Loon, Celia née Antonis Lustig, Gail née Loon, and her family
Israel, 2020
A tribute to her grandmother Celia, Dvinsk/Johannesburg, 1903-1988 (39 pp) 2023.02
Levy, Hazel: Physiotherapist Lustig, Gail née Loon
Israel, 2021
A tribute to her aunt, Hazel Levy (1926-2001), who helped rehabilitate child polio victims in Israel in the 1950s. 2023.02
Family Saga: Bergman, Jacob and Amalie Auerbach, Geraldine
London, 2018
The story of her grandparents and their family from Courland in the 1870s via Schmidtsdrift to Kimberley and diamonds plus contemporary feedback. (26 pp) 2023.02
My Life as an African - an online memoir Derman, Emanuel
New York, 2021-2
Growing up in Cape Town in the 50s-60s. The memoir consists of 33 essays written between November 2021 and May 2022 and may be read on the Substack website. An introductory page telling about the writer and his memoir follows, together with a link to the site. 2023.03
Education - My Life: Memoirs of a Hebrew Teacher Levin, Alexander C.
Translated from Hebrew by Michael Belling
Born in a Lithuanian shtetl in 1882 Levin describes with great perceptive detail, his early life becoming a Hebrew teacher and travelling widely in the Russian Empire. He arrived in South African in 1928. He was a pioneer in Jewish education, became the founding headmaster of Herzlia School in 1940, eight years originally proposing the idea. First published 1954, new translation published on the Kaplan Centre website 2019. (310 pp) 2023.03