(Submitted by his Son David Joel Gelfand)
Bennie Gelfand was born on the 15th June 1915 in Wynberg; in the
Province of the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Town, South Africa according
to his Birth Certificate, however the true date of his birth was the
16th May 1915 but his Father registered his birth a month later. He
was the third child of Lewis Gelfand
His Father, Lewis had a shoe shop as did his brother and for extra income Lewis was also a Bootmaker. His Mother Ethel was a housewife.
Bennie celebrated his Barmitzvah on the 18th May 1928.
Whilst at Wynberg Boys High he played First Team Rugby. His Brother Michael was considered to be the finest Fly Half the school has ever produced.
After leaving school Bennie decided that he would like to do Medicine and enrolled at the University of Cape Town Medical School and was accepted. However due to the fact that his Brother Michael was already at Medical School at UCT this placed a huge financial burden on the family finances he decided to quit Medical School and decided to study Accountancy. He became articled to a firm of Accountants by the name of Alex Thal and Company in 1933. On the 15th April 1936 he was advised to present himself on the 6th May 1936 at 8; 45am in the morning at the Technical College in Longmarket Street in Cape Town where the Intermediate Examination would be held.. On the 20th July 1936 he was informed by a letter from The Society of Incorporated Accountants & Auditors that he had passed the Examination. He paid ₤5.15s and 6d in order to write this exam. He completed his articles with Alex Thal and Co. in January 1938 and then decided to leave Cape Town and take up employment with a firm of Caterers in Northern Rhodesia by the name of Northern Caterers, which was owned by the Kollenberg Family. Bennie’s Brother Michael married Esther Kollenberg.The Head Office was in Kitwe with Branches in Luanshya, Nkana, Nchanga and Mufulira. He was employed as an Accountant from 23rd March 1938 until 28th February 1946. Whilst doing his articles Bennie also played First Team Rugby for UCT in 1937. The programme for the 28th August 1937 lists the following players who played for UCT that day.
C.F. Luyt, S.Raath, H.Brunow, W.Miller, P.de Wet, E.Tucker, H.Greeff, G.Osler
N.Wells, B.Gelfand, H.Kock, J.Commerill, K.Wilson, W.Gie, M.C.Marais (Capt)
On the 3rd September 1939 World War Two broke out while Bennie was working in Northern Rhodesia and he decided that he wasn’t going to miss out on this war and he returned to South Africa in early 1940 and after having managed to persuade his Parents enlisted in the South African Army on the 9th July 1940 at the age of 25 and became Pvt. Bennie Gelfand, Serial No. 108239. He became a member of the 2 Ack Ack Regiment and was sent up north to fight with British Forces in East and North Africa.
At the fall of Tobruk Bennie was taken prisoner and there started a long march from North Africa into Italy and then into Germany itself. Because he was a Jew, Bennie was sent to work in the Salt Mines along with other forced labourers. His fellow prisoners arranged to get him sent back to them as they needed him as a teacher. He was eventually taken to STALAG V111C where he remained until liberation came in 1945. During his time as a prisoner at Stalag V111C he used much of his time teaching other prisoners bookkeeping and relevant subjects. He often communicated to his Parents back in South Africa by writing letters which at that time were heavily censored by the German Authorities.
Envelopes were addressed to him at the camp were as follows:
Gunner B. Gelfand
British Prisoner of War No. 108239
Prisoner of War No. 76236
Stalag V111 C
A letter written to his Parents back in South Africa on the 13th December 1942 whilst he was still in Italy read as follows”
Gunner No. 108239
75 P.M. 3450
My Darling Mom, Dad, Sisters, Mike and Esther and Abe,
This Past week has been a very happy one, had my first sight and share of a Red Cross Parcel and Cigarettes, thus am feeling very much better and looking forward to some more mail from you now. I hope you are all keeping very well. Please try to arrange study materials and clothing and cigarette parcels from England.
All my love to you all, the relations and Kollenbergs………….Bennie.
A letter written to his Parents back in South Africa on the 27th March 1943 whilst he was in Italy read as follows”
My Dear Parents,
Received your Red Cross Cable and Esther’s letters of 3rd & 27th December yesterday. Very happy to read that you are all well. I am still very fit and well, looking forward to when we shall all be together again, which should be soon. Waiting to hear how Freda fared and how married life is going with Baba. Keep well.
All my love to everybody
Another example of such a letter written to his Parents was written on the 23rd October 1943. It read as follows:
My Dear Parents,
Another week has passed. I am in excellent health. The past six or seven days have been very sunny. So have spent long periods in the open to enjoy the sun. Last Monday the issuing of food parcels commenced. Am still sharing with Laurie who is also fit and well. A library has been started. Sincerely hope you are all well. Please do not worry. All my love to you, the Family and friends…………..Bennie.
Prisoner of War Post was often received by him in StalagV111C through the British Red Cross who oversaw that prisoners received food parcels and mail. One example of such a letter was written to him on the 13th January 1944, it read as follows:
My dear Gelfand,
I have received a cable from Dr. Gelfand of Salisbury, in which he asks me to send parcels to you.
I am accordingly arranging for the quarterly next of kin parcel to be sent to you. If there is anything that you require especially, please let me know right away, and I will try and obtain it and send it on to you. I am also sending you some cigarettes every month, so if you prefer tobacco, please let me know this as well.
Hoping that the parcels will reach you in the near future and will be to your liking.
With Kindest regards
Office of the High Commissioner for Southern Rhodesia.
Red Cross Parcels were received from time to time. One such parcel was marked the 18th January 1944 and was addressed to him in Stalag V111c in Germany consisting of the following items:
1 Blanket, 1 pr Pyjamas, 1 pr Long Pants, 1 pr. Running Shorts, 1 Face Cloth, 1 Ever Ready Razor, 1 Shaving Soap, 2 Dentifrice, 1 Brilliantine, 1 Tin Shoe Polish, 1 Comb,
1 Pencil, 1 Khaki Shirt, 3 Handkerchiefs, 1 Woollen Vest, 1 Hussif, 1 Nail Brush, 12 Razor Blades, 2 Toothbrushes, 1 Steel Mirror, 1 Keatings Powder, 1 Shoe Brush, 2prs Boot Laces, 1 Dorothy Bag.
Another such letter was written to him on the 6th April 1943
Dear Gnr. Gelfand
In reply to our cable to S.A. for news of your family to forward on to you, we have today received the following message:
“Inform Gelfand all well, have written, sent parcel
Love Mommy, Daddy and Family”
I’m sure this will please you and set your mind at rest.
Do let me know if there’s anything special we can do for you.
W. Du Toit
South African Red Cross
Whilst he was a prisoner of war in Stalag V111c Bennie and the other prisoners formed a rugby team called the “Olympics” and they played games of rugby with other prisoners on a few occasions. The members of that team were:
M. De Laney, J. Shone, A. Desfontain, E. Peart, J. Fourie, P. Skeels, S. Barnes, J. Pollock, B. Gelfand, I. Shepherd, A. Noble, T. Dilley, B. Davidson, A. Dixon (Capt), N. Newell.
Bennie and his fellow prisoners were force marched for 300 miles to the West by the Germans trying to escape from the Russians approaching from the East. The prisoners of war were rescued and released by the Allied forces advancing from the West. During the march Bennie suffered greatly and was helped by his friend Laurie Solomon and others.
On the 13th April 1945 a telegram was sent to Doctor Gelfand, Government Radiologist, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia. It read as follows:
VERY PLEASED TO SAY YOUR SON BENNIE LIBERATED AT PRESENT IN HOSPITAL PARIS SUFFERING FROM FATIGUE OTHERWISE QUITE WELL REQUESTS YOU SEND ALL MAIL TO RHODESIA HOUSE AS HIS PRESENT ILL HEALTH IS ONLY VERY TEMPORARY ALSO REQUESTS THAT HIS BROTHER BE ADVISED.
On the 20th April 1945 there was great joy in the home of the Gelfand Family in Wellington Road, Wynberg, Cape Town, South Africa.
A telegram addressed to Mrs. Lily Wolpowitz read as follows:
“DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE WISHES TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR BROTHER 108239 GNR. BENNIE GELFAND HAS BEEN RELEASED AND ADMITTED TO HOSPITAL IN THE UNITED KINGDOM ON THE 15th APRIL 1945.”
Thus a terrible period of anxiety and worrying was over for the Gelfand Family of Wynberg, The Son and Brother was safe and sound in England.
A letter written to Bennie in England on the 24th April 1945 by his mother Ethel read as follows:
My darling Benny,
What a wonderful day it was for all of us to hear the good news that you were released. The excitement was great. I collapsed with joy and for 3 days I did not know where I was, but now I am much better and the phone rings all day. Everybody in Wynberg were very excited and came to wish me luck to know you will soon be home. It was wonderful, I phoned Mike and you can imagine the excitement of Mike. He knew before us. The Red Cross let Mike know at 1:15 pm that you were released and your cable came at 4:30pm. I am glad to hear you are better. I hope you are enjoying yourself. We are counting the days to see you my darling. Mike is coming to meet you so we shall all be happy again. No more news, look after yourself my darling
Your loving Mum and Daddy.
After the war ended Bennie returned to Cape Town, South Africa and was officially discharged from the South African Army on the 11th September 1945. On his discharge he was given the amount of Thirty Pounds and some Civilian Clothing.
On his return to Cape Town, Bennie decided to complete his Accountancy course which he had not yet completed having only completed the Intermediate Examination The Final Examination needed to complete his Degree was to be held on the 19th, 20th, and 21st November 1946. On the 26th October 1946 he paid the Entrance Fee of Six Guineas in order to write the Examination.
A letter written to Bennie on the 13th March 1947 informed him that he had passed the Final Examination which he had written in November 1946. The letter was received from the Honorary Secretary of “The Society of Incorporated Accountants & Auditors (South African Western Branch.
A further letter written on the 9th April 1947 to the Secretary of the Cape Society of Accountants and Auditors read as follows:
“This is to certify that Mr. Bennie Gelfand passed the Final Examination of this Society held in November 1946, gaining First Certificate of Merit and Prize.”
Bennie again resumed his Rugby playing career at UCT playing for the First Team during the years 1946 and 1947.On the 19th March 1947 he received a letter informing him that he was to be awarded a FULL BLUE for having represented UCT during the 1946 season.
On the 11th May 1946 he played for UCT’S First Rugby Team at Intervarsity and the team that day contained a few players who were to become Springboks in the near future. The team that day read as follows:
S. van der Spuy, B.Butler, A.Smith, D.Fry, M.Beyers, W.Griffiths, D.Lonsdale, H.Barry, P.Duvenage (Capt), B.Gelfand, E.Marais, N.Vincent, S.Fry, F.Stephen, L.Steytler
After having completed his Board exam in Accountancy Bennie left UCT with the following reference from The Department of Accounting at UCT.
6th December 1946
To Whom it May Concern
This is to certify that Mr. B. Gelfand attended this University before going on active service, and again during academic year 1946. He attended a number of classes, and passed their examinations. His work in accounting and statistics was well above the average, as is shown by his being awarded first-class passes in several of his courses.
Mr. Gelfand impresses me as being a sound student, and as one who is likely to do well in his profession. He takes with him my best wishes for his future
PROFESSOR OF ACCOUNTING
Bennie Gelfand married Marigold Singer of Muizenberg after having met her on the beach and sweeping her off her feet. They were married in the Gardens Synagogue in Cape Town on the 29th June 1947. The reception was held in the Zionist Hall in Cape Town and there were close on 800 guests at the wedding. Bennie’s Best Man was Mendel Sacks. The Bridesmaids were Freda, sister of Bennie who was the Maid of Honour, Belle Singer, sister of Bubbles, Leila Singer, a first cousin of Bubbles, Eunice Kramer, also a cousin of Bubbles, there were two flower girls, namely Shirley Singer, Bubble’s youngest sister and Lois Lazerus a first cousin of Bubbles.
On November 7th 1948 the first child was born of this very happy union, a son, David Joel Gelfand. Soon after David was born Bennie and Bubbles as she was affectionally known decided to move to Johannesburg where Bennie joined the Rosydoze Bedding Company, owned by the Unterhalter family. Bernard Unterhalter, who had married Bennie’s sister Freda on the 8th February 1947 was Managing Director of the company. However after a few months Bennie, who was missing his Brother Michael, and had been in Northern Rhodesia before the outbreak of WW11 and also had visited Michael in Salisbury, decided that this is where he would like to bring up his family and therefore after living in Johannesburg for between four and six months he and his small family moved to Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia in order to be nearer his brother. Michael had been living in Rhodesia since moving there in 1937. So Bennie, Bubbles and their young son David arrived in Salisbury in August 1949 and moved into a flat in Raymonde Court, Harvey Brown Ave.
Soon after arriving in Salisbury Bennie was approached by Stanley Jones and Harry Meyers to join their small but growing Practice. He joined up with them in 1950; however after a few years Bennie decided to go into Practice on his own, he left Jones and Meyers on the 31st March 1952 and set up on his own.
In the meantime a daughter, Ruth Arleen was born and the family was well on its way to becoming part of the closely knit Jewish Community of Salisbury. Ruth was born on the 20th June 1951 at the Lady Chancellor Maternity Hospital.
In 1953 Bennie asked Julius Levinkind whom he had known from his days in Cape Town to come and join him in his Practice and they took a suite of offices in Winston House, in Moffat Street, Salisbury Within a few years the Practice had grown to a large extent and they were now Practicing from new Premises in Robinson House, Union Ave and the Partners listed on the letterhead were as follows:
B.Gelfand, J. Levinkind, A. Berelowitz, R.L. Rosenbaum, B.C. Squires, R. Moss, G.J. Mulvey
Around about this time a Practice had been opened up in Zambia consisting of the same partners.
Julius Levinkind decided to leave Rhodesia and go and settle in London, England and he set up the Practice in London known as Gelfand, Levinkind and Isaacs.
In December 1954 Bennie and Bubbles moved into their new home which they had built in a suburb of Salisbury called Avondale. The actual address was 25b Lincoln Road.
On the 13th January 1955 the Gelfand clan was increased by the birth of Jillian who was also born at the Lady Chancellor Maternity Home. The family was completed with the birth of Tessa on the 16th August 1956.
Bennie’s love of the game of Rugby never ever diminished and during his early years in Salisbury he coached and played for Alexandra Sports Cub and in 1955 the team which he coached won the Lawson Shield, The Castle Trophy and were runners up in the Edwards Cup.
In 1962 Bennie and Bubbles embarked on a visit to Europe this was a milestone for Bubbles as it was her first trip out of Africa. They visited such countries as Israel, Holland, France, Belguim, Italy and England. Whilst in Italy Bennie purchased a Fiat motor car and from there they drove to all the above mentioned countries except for Israel.
In 1964 Bennie decided to move his Family to England in order to be closer to David who was at Boarding School there. The Family rented a home in Hampstead, London, where the girls attended school. The address was 22 Bracknell Gardens, Hampstead. At this time Rhodesia had been seeking independence from Britain and this proved to be a threat to the Gelfands as income from Rhodesia would be blocked and therefore it would make things difficult to live in London. The Family returned to live in Salisbury in 1965 in the home that Bennie and Bubbles had built in Avondale.
Bennie’s Practice was flourishing and more Partners had now joined the Practice, the Partners were as follows now:
B.Gelfand, A.Berelowitz, R.L.Rosenbaum, B.C. Squires, R. Moss, L. Levinsohn, L. Abrahamson, F.S. Salomon.
Because many of Bennie’s clients had invested in property over the years he was asked to look after the administration of these properties and in 1968 Sterling Trust came into being. Bennie also bought a few properties in partnership with his brother Michael and others who were close friends of his.
He also established a finance company (Gelfand’s Trust) which lent money to people in the business world.
South African Institute of Chartered Accountants – 1947
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales – Fellowship Certificate awarded on the 2nd. November 1966
Fellow of the Institute of Directors 29th April 1960
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales – Membership – 2nd December 1959
Bennie was also a Director of a few Public Companies in Rhodesia amongst many of them were Maceys, Morewear Industries, Zimbabwe Furnishers and J.H. Minet Blackmore
Bennie retired from public practice in 1969 but remained available to certain clients who trusted and needed his services. He still ran Sterling Trust and Gelfand’s Trust.
In 1969 Bennie joined Bill Margolis and his Family as a consultant to them and to Olivine Industries
In 1976 Bennie and Bubbles left Rhodesia to go back to Cape Town where they had both been brought up as children. He again met up with Joe Levien and joined him in his business in Cape Town helping him to run and develop further the interests of the Levien Family.
Bennie died in Kenilworth on the 25th July 1991 after a long illness and was buried on the 28th July at Pinelands No. 2 Cemetery in Pinelands, Cape Town.
A TRIBUTE TO BENNIE GELFAND
(Eulogy given at the funeral by Hymie Wolf)
In paying tribute to an old and valued friend I would like to capture, for a brief moment the character and spirit of one of nature’s gentlemen.
First and foremost, Bennie Gelfand was a family man – a devoted husband and a loving and caring father and Grandfather. Nothing gave him greater joy and pleasure than to have his family around him, and no sooner did one visit end, then he was already planning and organizing the next, and even when he was far from fit to travel he still persisted in these family visits so that he could follow their progress and learn of their interests at close quarters. This he was able to do until the very end through the loving care and assistance of his beloved wife Bubbles.
Second only to the love of his family, was his loyalty to his selected bands of good friends. Here one could truly say of him in the words of Shakespeare “The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, grapple them unto thou soul with hopes of steel” But his friendship was also something to be sought. Why so? Firstly as I have already said he was one of nature’s gentlemen and a man of worth and integrity with whom one was proud to associate. Conversationally, it was both pleasant and instructive to be in his company for through his penchant for good reading, his exploratory mind and his remarkably retentive memory – he became a veritable encyclopedia of enviable knowledge on such diverse subjects as Jewish Laws and Traditions, South African and Rhodesian History, Sport and sporting statistics and the political policies of yesterday and today. But not least of the reasons for seeking and enjoying Bennies friendship was his modest demeanour, his humble outlook and his lovable sense of humour. This modest demeanour perhaps accounted for his reluctance to speak of his exploits in World War 11. He was amongst the first to volunteer for military service. He was taken prisoner at Tobruk, sent to Italy and Germany thence to the Salt Mines in Poland till near the end of the war when he was returned to Germany in a terrible state of health. Little known too was the episode when the POW’s were asked by a German Officer whether any of them were Jews. Only Bennie and two others had the pride and courage to step out, leaving several others to deny their Jewishness for whatever reasons.
Next closet to his heart was his love of sport and sportsmanship in the true meaning of the word. He was after all an active participant in his earlier years having played for UCT’s First Rugby Team where he was acknowledged as a solid and hard-working forward and an exemplary sportsman on the field. On his return to Cape Town he was a regular attender at his beloved Newlands and had a profound knowledge of the game of rugby and its history.
Bennie was also a Chartered Accountant with a successful Practice. It was in this capacity that I first met him so many years ago. Here his success could be attributed to his sound knowledge based on prior study of any problem at hand. Here too he gained a reputation as a man of reliability, of worth and integrity who was able to offer wise guidance and mature judgment in his professional conduct.
Bennie was a man who had a zest for life and his sheer determination would not allow him to give up even in the most adverse of circumstances, as was the case when his life drew to its close.
To his life partner Bubbles, and to his other near and dear ones may I say that it was your love and courage which sustained your loved one in the many weeks and months of his struggle. May the memories of his fortitude, his goodness of heart, and his quiet generosity give you solace in the days ahead
28th July 1991
21. Bennie GELFAND , born 16 May 1915 in Wynberg, Cape Town, South
Africa; deceased 25 Jul 1991 in Kenilworth, Cape Town, South Africa.
He married on 29 Jun 1947 in Cape Town, South Africa, Marigold SINGER
, born 20 Mar 1925 in Cape Town, South Africa. Marigold died in
Scarsdale, New York, U.S.A. on the 17th April 2005
Children of Bennie Gelfand and Marigold Singer were as follows:
46 i David Joel (now in Israel)
47 ii Ruth Arleen (now in Scarsdale New York USA)
48 iii Jillian (now in Connecticut USA)
49 iv Tessa (now in London ENGLAND)
46. David Joel GELFAND born 7 Nov 1948 in Cape Town, South Africa. He
married on 29 Feb 1976 in Cape Town, South Africa, Gillian Maureen
KAHN , born 5 Aug 1946 in Cape Town, South Africa. Lives in Kochav
Children of David Joel Gelfand and Gillian Maureen Kahn were as follows:
i Lewis Albert , born 23 Jul 1977 in Cape Town, South Africa.
ii Simon Gerald , born 21 Dec 1979 in Cape Town, South Africa.
47. Ruth Arleen GELFAND , born 20 Jun 1951 in Salisbury, Southern
Rhodesia. She married on 15 Apr 1973 in Salisbury, Rhodesia, Colin
Barry GOLDBERG , born 9 Nov 1948 in Durban, South Africa.
Children of Ruth Arleen Gelfand and Colin Barry Goldberg were as follows:
62 i Amanda Lee
ii Keri Joanne , born 20 Jul 1976 in Cape Town, South Africa.
iii David Jonathan , born 4 Sep 1979 in Cape Town, South Africa.
48. Jillian GELFAND , born 13 Jan 1955 in Salisbury, Southern
Rhodesia. She married on 31 May 1977 in Cape Town, South Africa,
Anthony Jonathan KLAFF , born 14 Nov 1951 in Durban, South Africa.
Children of Jillian Gelfand and Anthony Jonathan Klaff were as follows:
i Joshua Brett , born 18 Dec 1979 in New York, U.S.A..
ii Adam Samuel , born 6 Sep 1983 in New York, U.S.A..
iii Ben Gidon , born 6 Nov 1992 in Westport, Connecticut, U.S.A..
49. Tessa GELFAND , born 16 Aug 1956 in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia.
She married on 12 Mar 1978 in Cape Town, South Africa, Errol Stephen
RUDNICK , born 4 Feb 1956 in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia.
Children of Tessa Gelfand and Errol Stephen Rudnick were as follows:
i David Michael , born 4 Jan 1986 in London, England.
ii Annie Beth , born 22 May 1987 in London, England.
iii Samuel Jonathan , born 22 May 1987 in London, England.