Our story begins in Courland, now known as the provinces of Kurzeme and Zemgale, of modern day Latvia, Courland. Bordered by the Baltic Sea to the west, Lithuania to the south and the Daugava River to the north Courland was never part of the Pale of Settlement. It is interesting to note that mostly German and not Yiddish, was the spoken language of the Jewish community. (My Grandparents understood, but never spoke Yiddish.) It is here, in the historic capital, Mitau (now known as Jelgava) that my Great Grandfather, Wulf Sanders was born in 1842.

Wulf was one of four sons born to Laser and Sara Sander (as the family surname was then known). No record can be found as to the descendants of Wulf’s siblings. However census records of the town Tukums give their names as Marcus, Schapse and Nachman.

The Jewish Encyclopedia states that the Jews of Mitau “were more akin in language, manners, and dress to the Jews of Germany than those of Poland and Lithuania.” My late Grandmother, Bella Israelsohn was always very proud of the fact that her family were “Courlanders” and was always most upset if one made the mistake of saying that they came from Lithuania!

Typical of many other families, this Sanders Story is one of the “wandering Jew’, with Wulf Sanders traveling the world in search of riches and establishing a secure home for his family.

During the year of 1862, twenty-year-old Wulf Sander decided to leave Latvia in order to avoid military conscription. The Russian authorities, in an attempt to assimilate and “remove” the Jews from within their borders, forced all young Jewish men to sign up for a period of 25 years of military training. Although Wulf did not possess the correct travel documents, he managed to trick a border official into letting him cross into Poland from where he apparently boarded a ship for London. It was in the east end of London that he found work as a bookkeeper and saved up money for the next leg of his about- to- be amazing world wide journey!

In 1863, Wulf set off for the “Goldene Mediena”, the United States of America. As the ship was leaving, it ran aground on a sand bank, but thankfully re- floated on the high tide! After landing in New York, Wulf continued his journey on another ship the “Ariel”, which was heading for Panama. According to records, there were tanneries in Panama, owned by Jews and it could be possible that Wulf had found work there.

On route to Panama, the infamous confederate raider, the Alabama, stopped the S.S. Ariel. This was the time of the American
civil war. Built in England, the Alabama was a 1016 ton steam and sail cruiser with six 32 pounders, one rifled 100 pounder and an 18-inch gun. Afloat on the high seas by the summer of 1862, the CSS Alabama harried Yankee traders and shipping and took nearly 60 prizes, dealing a blow to the American merchant marine from which, at that time it never truly recovered. Commanded by Capt. Raphael Semmes and manned by a crew of 149 men, she represented a peak of achievement in both design and performance and became the most feared raider in the world at that time. She destroyed 58 union vessels during her two-year career.

On the 7th December, 1863 the Alabama came across Wulf’s ship, the Ariel, bound from New York to Aspinall. This is how the first officer of the Ariel reported the incident:

“On the 7th December, at 1.30 p.m., when rounding Cape Mayasi, the eastern port of Cuba, we saw a vessel about four miles to the westward, close under high land of Cuba, barked-rigged and under canvas. As there was nothing in her appearance indicating her to be a steamer, her smokepipe being down, no suspicions were aroused till in a short time we saw she had furled her sails, raised her smoketack and was rapidly nearing us under stream, the American flag flying at her peak. Such was her speed in comparison to ours, that in about half an hour she had come up within half a mile of us, when she fired a lee gun, hauled down the American ensign and ran up the rebel flag. No attention was paid to the summons and the Ariel was pushed to her utmost speed. She then sailed across our wake, took a position on our port quarter about 400 yards distant, and fired two guns almost simultaneously, one shot passing over the hurricane deck, between the walking-beam and smokestack and the other hitting the foremast, and cutting it half away.

A body of United States Marines, consisting of 126 men, passengers on board the Ariel, had been drawn up and armed; but the officers in command deemed it worse than folly to resist, as we could plainly see they were training a full broadside to bear upon us, and Capt. Jones gave the orders to stop the ship and haul down the ensign.

A boat then put off to us, and the boarding officer, on coming aboard, at once assured the passengers that none should be molested, and that all baggage and private property should be respected. He then demanded the keys of the special locker, together with all the ship’s papers and letter, and informed the captain he must be in readiness to go on board the Alabama with him, where he was detained as a hostage until the next day.

The money in the ship, amounting to $9,500 was taken off and the prize crew, 20 in number, all well armed, put on board. The engine-room was taken in charge by two engineers from the Alabama. The officers and marines on board the Ariel were paroled, and their arms taken, as well as some belonging to the ship.

Finding it was dangerous to venture into Kingston, Jamaica, to land the passengers, Capt Semmes took a bond for $260 000, payable six months after recognition of the Southern Confederacy, and released the Ariel. Capt. Jones carried the Ariel safe into Aspinwall, arrived at this port on the 28th December, 1863”

What an amazing story! My Grandmother, Bella Israelsohn dined out on this story, the capture of her father’s ship, by the Alabama, “while en route to America”. We in South Africa knew about the Alabama, as the raider called in at Cape Town and became part of a well known Cape Malay song: “Daar kom die Alabama!” (Here comes the Alabama). One can just imagine how, as a child, I was totally enthralled with this story. My Great Grandfather’s ship, captured by the Alabama – wow!

Source: Derrick Lewis


Another family anecdote concerns the story of Wulf Sanders coming down with yellow fever, while on his way to Panama. According to my Grandmother, her father, Wulf was “locked in a cabin next to the boiler room of the ship and left to sweat it out”. This story is corroborated by the ship’s logbook wherein it is recorded that some of the passengers contracted “Panama fever”.

We are not sure how long Wulf remained in Panama, but as the American Civil War was now at an end, opportunities must have existed for young men like Wulf, to make a new beginning. He eventually made his way to Memphis, Tennessee, where there was already a small Jewish community. He found lodgings at a local boarding house, where he gave the innkeeper his valuables for safekeeping. However, the following day when Wulf asked for some of his money, the innkeeper denied ever having received any money from him! Wulf decided the only solution would be to approach members of the local Jewish community for help.

A local grocer, Jacob K. Franklin, who originally came from Poland, and who ran a general store in partnership with his brother, Fishel Franklin, came to Wulf’s assistance. He offered Wulf a job in his store, “Franklin Bros”, situated at 339 Vance Street, Memphis. Records show that the Franklin brothers arrived in Memphis in 1862. In fact, Fischel Franklin lived in Memphis until his death on the 11th December, 1907, aged seventy seven.

In the late 1860’s, arrangements were being made to bring out to America, a niece of Fishel Franklin’s wife. His wife, Betty Franklin had family in the “shetl” of Suwalki, Poland by the name of Lasowsky. The family had taken the decision, for some unknown reason to send their eldest daughter, Lena Lasowsky to Memphis, to live with her aunt Betty. Before Lena left home, the local fortune teller was called in, as was the custom in those days. It was predicted that Lena would be involved in a train accident in “far-off America”, but thankfully she would survive. The prediction went on to describe her rescue from the scene of the accident, by a nice young Jewish man, whom she would eventually marry!

Josiel (Joseph) Lasowsky, Lena’s father, originally came from Krasnopol. In 1846 at the age of twenty-eight he married twenty one year old Chaia Rivka Sejnenska of Suwalki.(Rivka’s ancestors probably adopted the surname of Sejnenska/i, because they came from the town of Sejna.) The couple eventually had nine children, Lena, the eldest daughter was born in 1848. Why her parents decided to send her to America and not her older brother, Israel Lasowsky, is uncertain.

Interestingly, the majority of Lena’s siblings only arrived in America two decades later, most of them settling in St Louis, Missouri. The last of the family to arrive in the US were her parents, Josiel and Chaia, who landed in New York on the 19th September, 1889. The ship’s manifest listed the following:

“Arrived New York per the S.S. Galia (4808 tons) via Liverpool and Queenstown:
Jassel Lasowsky – 70 years – Peddlar- Russian citizen, resident of Poland.
Chaye Lasowsky- 66 years – wife
Samuel Lasowsky – 11 years – child.”

Lena Lasowsky arrived in New York during the year of 1868. She boarded a train for Memphis. En route a huge flood had taken place, causing one of the rail bridges to collapse. The engine driver saw the damaged bridge too late and the train went down the gorge. Miraculously, Lena’s coach, being the last, remained on the track! Out of the blue a young man came to Lena’s assistance and helped her out of the coach. Lena’s English must have been very limited and one can only imagine her joy on discovering that this young man could speak her home language, plus the added bonus of being Jewish! Lena was absolutely amazed on discovering that this young man, Wulf Sanders actually worked for her uncles, Jacob and Fishel Franklin! The fortune teller’s prophecy was thus fulfilled. A relationship began and two years later, Lena became pregnant and Wulf without any further delay, married Lena on the 19th May, 1870. The marriage ceremony was conducted by the Rev. Chas. Rawitzer (who originally came from Breslau, Germany). Jacob K. Franklin signed the marriage bond document:


That we, W.L. Saunders and J.K. Frankland of the County of Shelby and State of Tennessee, are held and firmly bound to the
State of Tennessee in the sum of Twelve hundred and Fifty Dollars, to which payment well and truly to be made, we bind ourselves, our heirs, executors, and administrators, and each and every one of us, jointly and severally, by these presents.

Witness our hands and souls this 10th day of May, 1870.
W. L. Sanders (seal)
J.K. Franklin (seal)

THE CONDITION OF THE ABOVE OBLIGATION IS SUCH, that, whereas, the above bounden, W.L. Saunders has this day prayed
and obtained a license to marry Miss Lena Lasky now if there is no lawful cause to obstruct said marriage and for which
license is desired, then this obligation to be paid, otherwise to remain in full force and virtue in law.

James Reilly clerk
By J. T. Loagner D.C.

Although Memphis was now a city of over forty thousand people, it must be assumed that the young couple’s decision to leave and travel all the way back to London, might have been based on the fact that Lena was pregnant. My grandmother told me that they wanted to visit their respective parents in Poland and Courland.

On the 4th August, 1870, Lena gave birth to baby boy in London. On the birth certificate her address is given as “2 Dorset Street, Spitalfields, London”. Her son’s name listed as “Henry”, Wulf’s occupation listed as “traveler with jewellery”. Lena registered the birth herself on the 29th August, 1870, with an “X”, being her mark. It appears she could not write.

Wulf decided not to return to Europe, but rather to investigate the possibilities and opportunities the British Colonies of The Cape and Australia had to offer. So just after the birth of Henry (aka Harry), Wulf set sail for the Cape Colony, leaving his young family behind. His intention was, that should he find suitable business opportunities and a place to set up a home, he would bring his family out to join him.

En route, Wulf was surprised to hear that his ship had by- passed Cape Town and was well on its way to Melbourne, Australia! On arrival in Melbourne, Wulf found suitable lodgings and saw that he could indeed make a good living selling wares to the outlying sheep stations. He wrote to Lena instructing her to join him as soon as was possible.

Lena made the necessary arrangements to travel to Australia and with her baby boy, who was now seven months old, left London for Melbourne on the 21st March, 1871 on Money Wigram & Company’s Steam Ship “Somersetshire” They embarked at Gravesend and arrived at Plymouth on the 23rd March, to pick up the balance of passengers. A total of 154 passengers were on the voyage.

The ship the S.S. Somersetshire was originally launched in 1867, was the first compound engine equipped steam ship on the overseas London – Australia passage. Weighing 2,342 gross tons, of iron construction with a single screw engine and a speed of 9 knots, the voyage to Australia took 76 days!

Off the coast of Victoria, Australia, the ship’s cook came down with small pox. As a precaution the ship was put into quarantine off Kangaroo Island. Eventually after the quarantine period was over, the Somersetshire arrived at the port of Melbourne on the 5th June, 1871. It was now 10 months since Wulf had last seen his family

Source: Derrick Lewis


Wulf traded as a commercial traveler, calling on farmers and outlying villages. A year later, Lena gave birth to her second child. On the 11th March, 1872, she gave birth to their first baby daughter named Annie. The following year, on the 2nd October, 1873, another son, named Moses, was born. By the time their fourth child was born, another daughter, named Bella, on the 30th April, 1875, Wulf had prospered sufficiently to own is own shop. His occupation stated on Bella’s birth certificate is given as “store keeper”. Street directories of the day show that Wulf’s store was situated on Swanston Street, Melbourne.

On the 26th March, 1877 another son was born, named Lazarus (aka Lazie), named in memory of Wulf’s father, Laser Sander, who died earlier that year in Riga. The following year on the 30th November, 1879, a fourth son, named Samuel, was born. The Sanders family had now moved from Carlton to Bay Street, Sandridge, “situated on Hobson’s bay, about 1.25 miles from the city centre and 2.5 miles by road. The streets of the town are wide and laid out at right angles. Sandridge is well drained and lighted and the foot-paths are mostly either flagged or asphalted.”

After 1879, the family, were living in the suburb of St. Kilda,( a Synagogue was erected in the suburb in 1872) On the surface all seemed well. However, the sad news was received that Wulf’s mother was dying. Lena had not met her in- laws and was missing her family in Poland. My Grandmother was under the impression that her parents were not happy with the lack of “Jewish life and culture” in Melbourne and so the decision was made to sell up, pack up and move all the way back to Latvia! It appears that Wulf had forgotten what the restricted life was like in Courland.

The Sanders family set up home at 5 Rathdowne Terrace, in the suburb of Carlton, Melbourne. With the opening of the Suez Canal, the voyage to Russia was shortened considerably. In 1881 the Sanders family said farewell to Australia, their home for the past ten years and set off via the Suez Canal and the Black Sea for Riga. While en route, sailing across the Black Sea, another baby was born to Lena! On the 15th March, 1881, Minna, known as Minnie, was born, Lena’s 7th child. As an adult, Minnie battled to obtain a passport as she could not give a fixed address as her place of birth.

Arriving back in Riga, where the remaining Sanders family were now living, Wulf must have been given an emotional and hero’s welcome. It had been 18 years since Wulf left for America, a young 20 year old and now was returning, a successful businessman, with a wife and seven children!

Wulf and his family remained in Riga for two years. We are not sure if Lena traveled to Poland to see her parents in Suwalki. However, Wulf found that the corruption and anti Semitism in Riga far worse than he realized. He longed for the open lifestyle of Australia and although Lena had given birth to another baby, a son named Max, on the 12th January, 1882, it was decided that the family would return to Australia via London where Wulf set up Lena and her eight children with suitable lodgings at 26 Stewart Street, Spitalfields.

Wulf, leaving his wife and children behind, boarded the Union Steamship “Danube” for Cape Town. The Danube sailed from Southhampton on the 3rd March, 1882 with 233 passengers on board, arriving 25 days later in Cape Town on the 28th March, 1882. Here he found accommodation at 26 Hout Street, Cape Town. Cape Town was love at first sight for Wulf. He decided not to continue to Australia and immediately wrote to Lena advising her of his change of plans. He subsequently made application to the authorities to allow Lena and the children to join him in Cape Town.

Once again Lena Sanders, now with eight children in tow, had to pack up and board a ship for a distant unknown country, to join her beloved husband. On the 1st September, 1882, Lena arrived at Southampton in the pouring rain to board the Union Steamship Nubian. There was an unusually large crowd of officials at the wharf side. What was going on?

The Zulu King, Chief Cetywayo who had been captured by the British troops in Natal, had been taken to England to meet Queen Victoria. It was “His Majesty”, the Zulu King and his entourage who were also boarding the Nubian for their return journey to the Cape Colony. The newspapers reported that Cetywayo was dressed “in the garb of an English gentleman”.

Twenty four days later, on Sunday, the 24th September, 1882, the Nubian arrived in Table Bay. Imagine how impressed Lena must have been seeing the beautiful and unique Table Mountain. However, once again there was a delay in disembarking. “ The great small pox epidemic of 1882” (as it was to become known) at the Cape was cause for concern. There were 300 people who assembled on the pier to greet Cetywayo, but no one was allowed to board the Nubian. Bella, my Grandmother, recalling her arrival at the Cape, at the tender age of seven, loved to embellished her story by telling us that a big black Zulu Chief accompanied her on the trip to Cape Town! Until my research proved the story to be true, we always wondered if dear old Gran was simply fantasizing!

The Cape Times reported the arrival of Cetywayo in their Monday edition of September, 25th, 1882, as follows:

“Cetywayo wore a double breasted black coat made of superfine diagonal cloth, and trousers of the same material, shirt and collar of spotless white, plain black necktie and a silk hat of Lincoln & Bennet’s very latest style. In his hand he carried a silver mounted cane, and bore himself without the slightest degree of awkwardness or restraint.”

After being apart for seven months, Wulf and Lena and their children were once again reunited. Wulf had rented a home in the suburb of Mowbray, were they were to live for another two years. During this time Wulf met up with some local businessmen by the names of Cleghorn and Harris. Cleghorn advised Wulf that opening a store in the Karoo town of Oudtshoorn could be a very profitable venture as the ostrich feather industry was starting to take off and that Oudtshoorn already had small Jewish community living there.

By 1882 the impact of the East European immigration had made itself felt, even in this comparatively remote inland town. The attraction was an economic one. Oudtshoorn was enjoying an ostrich feather boom at the time. The gross value of the trade in feathers had rocketed from £87074 in 1870 to more than £1 million in 1882! There was already quite a sizeable Jewish community in Oudtshoorn, “landsman” from both Courland and Lithuania were living there. By 1883 the Jewish population of Oudtshoorn was large enough to warrant the formation of a “Chevra Kaddisha”

On the 2nd September, 1883 the first “South African” baby was born to Lena and Wulf, a son named Emanuel. Two years later at the beginning of 1885, Wulf finally decided to take Cleghorn’s advise and together with his eldest son, Harry, he set up shop in Oudtshoorn. Cleghorn & Harris helped finance the business by acting as his shippers. A home was found in St Johns Street, Oudtshoorn. Once again Lena had to pack up and move to a new home!

Lena and her eight children sailed from Cape Town on board the “Mexican” bound for Mossel Bay. The Mexican at 4000 tons was the largest Union Mailship at the time. The ship arrived at Mossel Bay on the 25th February, 1885. The local newspaper, “The Mossel Bay Advertiser” printed the list of passenger arrivals: “From Cape Town per Mexican: Mrs Saunders and 8 children” (The spelling error being the newspaper’s)

Lena and her children traveled from Mossel Bay by horse and cart over the Robertson Pass to Oudtshoorn. Lena must have been five months pregnant at the that time as she gave birth to her last child in Oudtshoorn four months later on the 9th June, 1885; a baby boy they named Simon.

Interestingly, fifteen years later the Mexican sank, 80 miles off Cape Town, after a collision with the steamship, “Wakefield”.

Source: Derrick Lewis


The first newspaper report in Oudtshoorn, referring to Wulf Sanders appeared in the June, 1885 edition of the Oudtshoorn Courant, under the following heading:

Notice of Closing:
On and after the 1st July next we, the Undersigned, have agreed to Close our Business Places in Town at 1 o’clock p.m. on every Wednesday till Thursday morning.
Signed, W. Sanders

Surprisingly, although there was quite a sizeable Jewish community in Oudtshoorn at that time, it appears that Wulf Sanders was the only Jewish trader mentioned in this notice. Was Wulf the only “Jewish businessman” to agree to the Wednesday afternoon closure?

Wulf Sanders’ first store in Oudtshoorn in 1885, was situated at 33 St John’s Street on the corner of St Georges Street. In 1887 he prospered sufficiently and was able to purchase the building from a Mr M. Matroos. The municipal valuation at that time was recorded as £600. The building still exists to this day, but has now been converted into a corner house. The National Archives of South Africa show that a mortgage bond was registered in the name of Wulf Sanders, in that year.

The Sanders family played an important part in the further establishment of the Jewish community of Oudtshoorn. When the decision was made in 1886 to build a synagogue, Wulf Sanders was appointed president of the building committee. A notice appeared in the Oudtshoorn Courant of January, 1888, as follows:

The Foundation Stone of the New Synagogue Will be laid by the Rev. A.F. Ornstein of Cape Town on Thursday, 26th January, 1888 at 4 p.m. All friends are invited to attend. LOUIS FIELD, W.SANDERS, A STUSSER Trustees.

The Rev Myers Woolfson, who had just arrived in the Cape Colony and who was actually intended for the community at Barberton, was appointed as the first Rabbi in Oudtshoorn, a community of about 250 people. He was to serve the “Queens Street Shul” and community for 50 years.

The Oudtshoorn Jewish community was made up of two factions. The one represented by the conservative and deeply religious Jews, who came from Cheim, Lithuania. The other, in the main, like Wulf Sanders, who came from towns in Courland, preferred the more modern interpretations and ceremonials. This created a sharp difference of opinion and it is regrettable to note that a bitter dispute arose between these two factions. This resulted in a split between them and a decision that the conservatives, or “Greeners” as they were called, would secede from the Queens Street community and establish a shul of their own in St Johns Street.

The Sanders family, having already traveled the world and who by now were relatively well established financially, were probably considered as “modern thinkers” or “Englisher Jews”.

On the 12th December, 1888, the Queens Street Shul was consecrated by the Rev A.F. Ornstein of Cape Town (who coincidentally was previously the Reverent of the Melbourne congregation, at the time the Sanders family where living there), assisted by the Rev M.L. Harris of Kimberley and the Rev M. Woolfson of Oudtshoorn. The Sanders family donated a beautiful pair of silver candelabra, which were mounted on the “Bimah”.

The classic styled Queens Street shul, built of Karoo limestone, is still in use today. The St Johns Street shul has been closed down and the Arc and shul furniture can be found in the C.P. Nel Museum. From a peak of 1000 souls at the turn of the 20th Century, the community has shrunk like most other Jewish country communities.

It is interesting to note that the late Chief Rabbi Abrahams, writing in his book, The Birth of a Community, mentions the unique relationship the Oudtshoorn Jews had with the Afrikaans community in the area:

“One of the most gratifying features of the early history of the Russian Jews in the Oudtshoorn district, was the friendly and hospitable reception accorded to Jews by farming folk.

The bible was the great bond between them. The Afrikaaner treated the Hebrew trader with respect due to a scion of the People of the Book. Steeped in Scriptural lore himself, the Boer was able to view the Jew’s religious susceptibilities with understanding and sympathy. The Jewish “smous” (trader) was almost invariably made welcome at the farmstead. His horses were outspanned, stabled and given fodder; he himself was invited to have a meal, and was accommodated for the night. If his observance of the Jewish dietary laws prevented him from sharing the farmer’s meat, he was offered eggs, bread and coffee. Even if the visitor brought his own utensils, the “boerevrou” (farmer’s wife) took no objection.”

Source: Derrick Lewis


Wulf Sanders, being an astute businessman, prospered and expanded his small general dealer store. The Standard Bank archives record a bank report on W. Sanders, dated 9th August, 1888:

“Sanders W. Respectable, & steady, & attention to his business. Owns village property, worth £1000 free. Has stock in trade & outstandings due to him, worth together £1000. His only outside debts, are to Field & King to whom he is under a general Bond of £1000, & his indebitness to them is under the amount of the Bond. Does a good business, & is making money. The bill for 75 pounds is for the accommodation of S. Lax & P & F £125 pounds is for the assistance of the Hebrew Congregation.

Life in Oudtshoorn for the Sanders family, was quite sociable , bearing in mind that they now numbered seven sons and three daughters. Each child could play a musical instrument and thereby they could boast that they had their own orchestra! What we know is that Lazie Sanders played the violin, Emanuel the flute, Sam the clarinet and Bella and Minnie the piano. One could certainly regard this family as “emancipated and cultural” Jews!

An interesting example of the social lifestyle of that time, can be found in a beautifully handwritten note sent to Wulf Sanders by a Mr M. Lipschitz:

Mr M. Lipschitz through pressing business matters, regret not being able to accept Mr W. Sander’s kind invitation to his dinner on the 28th inst.
Oustshoorn, 24 Feb. 1893.

Wulf Sanders, like many of his peers at the time, joined the local Order of Freemasons, eventually becoming the Master of the Oudtshoorn Lodge No. 48.

At the age of 41 years, Lena Sanders gave birth to her last daughter, named Sarah. Born on the 8th September, 1889, little Sarie was a downes syndrome baby, but with loving care and total devotion by her older sisters, lived to a ripe old age of 58 years. Sarie often accompanied her parents on their overseas trips. A postcard, dated April, 1905, written by Sarie to her sister Bella, read as follows:

Dear Bella,
I am quite happy and see Ma and Pa sometimes. I send love to Moss and Julie.
Your loving Sarah.

Sarah lived in the Sanders family home until the death of her mother, Lena in 1918. Lena, in her will, bequeathed and amount of £2000 pounds and all her furniture and house effects to her daughter, Sarie. Sarah passed over on the 17th October, 1947.

Annie Sanders, Wulf’s eldest daughter, was the first Sanders child to marry. It is understood that Annie had a young suitor, but the engagement was broken. To Wulf and Lena’s relief a young ostrich feather buyer by the name of Isaac Nurick approached Wulf and asked him for his permission to marry Annie. Isaac apparently mentioned that when he attended Sabbath services in shul, he “admired” Annie sitting in the front row of the balcony above.

Although it is been told that Wulf Sanders felt that Isaac was not of the same “class” as the Sanders family, he gave his blessing to the marriage. The wedding ceremony took place at the Queens Street synagogue on the 28th February, 1893. This was possibly one of the first wedding ceremonies to take place in the newly built shul. The local newspaper The Oudtshoorn Courant reported the wedding at length:

“On Tuesday afternoon the 28th February, there was quite a stir at the Synagogue, to witness the wedding of Mr Isaac Nurick, one of our ostrich feather buyers, to Miss Sanders, daughter of our respected townsman, Mr W. Sanders. The sacred edifice was crowded with spectators. The bride, who was handsomely dressed in a cream silk dress, was given away by her father and accompanied by two bridesmaids and two pages. The Rev Woolfson delivered an address appropriate to the occasion.

Immediately after the ceremony a dinner was given at the residence of the bride and at eight o’clock in the evening a ball was given in the Court Room, attended by numerous guests, among them were Mr George Hudson (Mossel Bay), and Mr Ball (Cape Town). Dancing was kept up with great vigour until the small hours of the morning. The happy pair left the next morning for Cape Town, where they intend spending their honeymoon.”

The bridesmaids were Annie’s sister, Bella and a family friend, a Miss Janover. Annie’s brothers, Max and Emanuel were the page boys. Isaac Nurick was attended by his uncle and aunt, Jacob and Sarah Nochamson.

A year later, on the 15th March, 1894, the Oudtshoorn Courant reported that “general dealer licences” were granted to “Wulf Sanders, 33 St Johns Street and Harry & Moses Sanders, Dysseldorp.” It appears that Harry and Moses had decided to branch out on their own and open up a store in the farming village of Dysseldorp, which is situated in the Oudtshoorn district.

Harry Sanders, whilst living in Dysseldorp, had a mistress, a local lady by the name of Sarah Sophia Nomdoe. Harry fathered six children with Sarah . We are not sure if he supported them, but according to family legend, Harry had to leave the Cape Colony in 1908, to avoid embarrassing the Sanders family any further with his “liason with a lady of colour”.

Harry Sanders left Oudtshoorn in 1908 and eventually landed up in the town of Timmons in Northern Ontario, Canada. Here he opened up a general store. In June of the same year, Harry wrote the following postcard to his nephew, “Master Mossie Israelsohn”, Church St on the Hill, Oudtshoorn, Cape Colony, South Africa:

Can you sing like a lark I am afraid to come home in the dark. Ta Ta Dear Boy Tata be good and don’t beat your big brother.
Remember me
Uncle Harry

Later that year, on the 8th November, he married Sarah Fried. The couple has two daughters, Bertha, born in 1909 and Florence born on the 21st June, 1911. In 1923, Harry divorced Sarah and remarried. He was happy in his second marriage (one wonders if he gave his “Dyssedorp” children a second thought?) until his death on the 6th February, 1947.

Bertha, Harry’s eldest daughter became a nurse and eventually emigrated to Palestine in the 1930’s She was one of the founding settlers of the kibbutz “D’Gania Beth”. Bertha married a fellow kibbutznik by the name of Issy Stav. Bertha was well loved and known by all as Sister Bertha.

In 1918, Harry Sanders and his family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where his younger daughter Florence married a certain Mr Milan. Florence and her husband adopted two children, not having any of their own. Florence lived to the ripe old age of 84. She passed away at her home, 48075 Southfield, Oakland on the 3rd December, 1995.

Source: Derrick Lewis


In 1894 an advert appeared in the Oudtshoorn Courant of the 15th March, announcing the expansion of Wulf Sanders’ business. The advert was written in Dutch, being the second language of the Cape Colony at that time.

“W. Sanders, St Johns Straat, wescht zyn talryke klanten en het publiek bekend te maken, dat, daar hy nu bezig is zyn Besigheids Gebouwen to vergrooten ten einde plaats te maken voor nieuwe ontschepingen die dagelyks verwacht worden”

Loosely translated, the announcement referred to the expansion of the existing building, which Sanders wanted to bring to the notice of their many customers and that new goods were arriving daily. At the same time Wulf’s business relationship with Cleghorn & Harris of Cape Town continued.

As mentioned previously, the Sanders children were all very musically inclined. Bella, Minnie, Lazie, Sam and Emanuel joined the “Oudtshoorn Orchestral Society, which was under the direction of Mr George Hind. At a “Grand Instrumental Concert”, held at the Y.M.C.A. Hall on the Tuesday evening of the 5th Novenmber, 1895, Minnie performed a piano solo, “Alice” by “Woycke” and Bella played two piano solos by “Oesten” called “Souveninde Marha” and “Fantasia Brillante”.

The concert was reported in the Oudtshoorn Courant of the 11th November, 1895. Here is part of that report:

The piano duets also were good considering that most of the players made their first appearance in public. The achievement of the pupils proves that there is a large amount of musical talent in Oudtshoorn which, if properly directed, bids fair to vie with any other part of South Africa.

Letter writing, unlike today was the only effective means of communication over long distances. Amazingly, Bella Sanders kept a number of letters she received from her brother, Lazarus and her friends Polly and Rose Lewin, during the years 1894 to 1896. Thankfully these letters have survived and reading them today, they give one a wonderful insight into the lifestyle and times of the Sanders family during those years.

A most interesting letter written to Bella in 1895 by Rose Lewin, on
a visit to the then very young city of Johannesburg, reads like history
in the making:

Dear Bella,

After a long and pleasant journey I arrived here T.G. safe on Friday morning. All my relations were at the Station to meet me, and I can tell you I am really having a jolly time here. As tired as I was I had to take a walk round the Town on Friday evening, and it includes really everything you can only expect from a large Town, in fact it is quite wonderful to see how much a Town has risen in the course of seven years only.

This week we have been out every day. Last night I was in the Wanderers. It is a lovely garden, where I have seen of course on what they call a summer Stage the piece “The Pinafore”, next week I am going to see “Maritirna”, and Friday evening I am going to see “The Soliciter” in the Standard Theatre.

Since I have been here we have had the loveliest weather. Next month I am going to a Masonic Ball and I daresay I will quite enjoy myself. I am going have my pink silk dress made up. Before I came I was already invited out for a day to Boysens to a family named Rosettensteins where I will spend a day with my friend Regina. They
are very nice people.

Yesterday afternoon I went to see a Wedding. It is really not to be compared to any in Oudtshoorn. Here were two weddings yesterday afternoon, but as they were at the same time, one in the old and one in the new Synagogue so we could only attend one.

Now enough of myself. How are you enjoying yourself in M.B. Have you had your dance already? How does the Baths become you? How is my Mother getting on? I hope to receive a letter soon from her? Give her my very best love. How is Mrs Nurick and Baby? Are your Parents in M.B.

Hoping you will further enjoy yourself, and you will answer me soon. I remain with best love.
To you all I remain
Your loving friend Rose.

My address is R. Lewin c/o A. Alexander
P.O. Box 511

Give my best love to all friends. Write soon and you will receive an answer soon.

What a marvelous letter! Reference to “The Wanderers” being a “garden”; the Rosettensteins whose farm was later known a Rosettenville; referernce to “M.B.” referring to Mossel Bay, where the Oudtshoorn community enjoyed their annual summer vacation; and what about the “dance” Bella was hopefully going to enjoy and with whom? and “S.A.R.” refers to the old South African Republic.

Source: Derrick Lewis


In order to learn and gain more business experience, Wulf Sanders decided to send his son Lazarus (Lazie) to Cape Town, to work at the department store of Cleghorn & Harris, which was situated in Adderley Street. On his arrival in Cape Town, Lazie wrote the following letter to his parents, dated 30th October, 1894:

“I am glad to say that I arrived this morning all well. I was very silly that I did not take a rug with me, because it was rather cold. Riding the turn out from Oudtshoorn I must say was very good; the horses were splendid. I have had my first breakfast this morning at Mrs Hermann. I came out all right with my money. I have still £4 pounds over. I hope you are getting on properly with the books. I am going this morning to see Mr Black. I have no more news at present, with best love.
I remain,
Your loving son

P.S. Best love to Harry, Moses, Bella, Sam etc. Also Annie & Nurick”

It is interesting to note that brother- in- law Isaac was simply referred to as “Nurick”. Was this a fond nickname or was this, the Sanders family, having a low regard for Isaac Nurick? Mr Black mentioned in Lazie’s letter must have been the manager of the store. Also, it appears that Lazie thought of himself as a great bookkeeper and did not seem overly confident about his father’s bookkeeping abilities!

Two years later, a far more mature but lonely Lazarus Sanders, now working at Port Elizabeth branch of Cleghorn & Harris, writes to his favorite sister, Bella, a letter, dated 24th December, 1896:

Dear Bella,

You must excuse me for not writing you before, as you can imagine how busy I was shifting. Well I arrived here Thank God well. As for my new place, things are a bit hard for me at present, as things are in such a state, and everything is in a mix up, I feel a bit uneasy about my work, but I’ll have to jirk along until Mr Black comes down, and then he’ll give me a fair start. I am fairly disgusted with the town as it is so dull, there are no places of amusements of any kind at present, and the only thing to do after business is read and off to bed. I am staying in a Christian boarding house, as Jewish places are out of the town, there are several other respectable fellows at the same place, but it’s not the same as mixing up with your own kin, in fact I am really sorry that I left town, its all well and good I’ll get more pay, but what is the use of being miserable.

I’ll make the best of it for a time, and if I don’t get over it I’ll politely ask to be replaced. I did not have much liking to go but I wanted to see what Port Elizabeth is like it is very soon to complain but I cannot help it. After all I’d prefer being in Oudtshoorn with all of you.

I am not in love with boarding house life, as almost every meal there is ham on the table, and that takes away my appetite altogether.

I feel today so that I got a good mind to write to Mr Black to go back, of course they paid my fare down but that does not matter, I can refund them the money. I wonder what Pa will think of it, show him this letter and write me at once what he says, now I’ll change the subject. Today Rhodes arrived here and a great reception was given, most of the stores have closed for the day on account of it, our has and I am off until Monday, I am awfully sorry as I have nothing to pass my time away with. If I am in business its all the better.

I caught sight of Louis Lyons to day he seems to be down in the world. I was told he has taken to the stage and is going to Uitenhage to perform.

I must now conclude with love to yourself, Pa, Ma and all the children. From your loving Brother, Lazarus.
I wish you were here to console me.

What a wonderful historical record of life in Port Elizabeth of the late 1800’s as seen through the eyes of a young Jewish boy! One can just imagine how poor Lazarus must have felt, coming from an orthodox Jewish home and having to endure seeing ham being served up at the table every day! His mention of Cecil John Rhodes, the then prime minister of the Cape Colony, visiting Port Elizabeth, makes this letter a piece of “Afrikana”.

We are not sure how long Lazarus Sanders remained in the employ of Messrs. Cleghorn & Harris and whether he returned to assist his father “with the books”. What we do know from bank records, is that the business of Wulf Sanders was called “W. Sanders & Sons” from the year 1899. It can be assumed that at one time or another, Harry, Moses, Lazarus and Sam, where employed at “W. Sanders & Sons.

The records of the Standard Bank of South Africa show that Wulf Sanders admitted his sons, Harry and Samuel as partners in his business in the year of 1897. The transcription from the bank’s books show the following balance sheet and bank report:

Sanders W. Is a respectable trustworthy man, has been in business here for several years & the results are progress.
His Balance sheet as at 20 Nov., 97 shows:

Liabilities   Assets  
Sundry creditors £1537 Stock in trade 2544
Bills payable 2186 Sundry debtors 1110
Surplus 4095 Assets: Dysselsdorp  
    Branch 751
    High Street  
    Branch 438
    Fixtures & Fittings 150
    Household furniture 350
    Fiscal property free 1980
    Cash in Standard Bank 468
    ” in Hand 17
  £7808   £7808
Bills opposite is for value.      

Sanders, W & Sons: Partners W. Sanders and his sons, Harry and Samuel, the sons have no means, but are steady individuals & the Father who is reported upon last above, has admitted these as partners & since that date of the Balance sheet there given, & the a/c is new kept in the name of the firm & we hold the authority of the firm to pay with their funds the remaining outstanding bills of the old business of Wulf Sanders. Bills for value Endorsers good.

A most interesting bank report! The clerk who wrote out the balance sheet was obviously not too good with arithmetic having erred with the “surplus” being overstated by £10. However, having surplus funds of over four thousand pounds was quite something in those days.

Source: Derrick Lewis


In 1901, twenty- four year old Lazarus became engaged to a teenage girl, Ida, the daughter of Joseph Hammerschlag of the town of Calvinia. (Joseph was in business with his brother in law, Julius Rosenblatt, trading as Rosenblatt & Co, as early as 1882.) On the 29th August, 1902, young Ida wrote a letter to her future in-laws, Wulf and Lena Sanders:

My Dear Mother & Father,

I suppose you will think it a great cheek on my part addressing you so.

We have been having a very miserable time here again as the “boers” are still round about here yesterday. They were about half and hour from here but do not venture nearer. I am sorry I could not be present at Bella’s wedding but only have to thank the “boers” for it.

The wire has been broken now for nearly a month, it is terrible being cut off from everything so long.

As New Year is approaching I must wish you all a very happy and prosperous one, and only hope you will be spared for many more to come. They are expecting a convoy tomorrow. I only hope to get a letter from my dear Lazie. I do feel so sorry for dear Lazie always having to put off the wedding but as it is so unsafe to travel, I am too afraid to let him come. I only wish you will cheer him up. I will now end with love to yourselves and all the others.

From your Future daughter in law,

So it appears that the Anglo-Boer War interfered with Lazie and Ida’s wedding arrangements! The couple finally married in Oudtshoorn, the following year, on the 19th March, 1902. The Oudtshoorn Courant once again reported a Sanders wedding:


On Wednesday last, the Rev Woolfson, assisted by Mr Balkin, joined together in holy matrimony at the Queens Street Synagogue, Mr Lazarus Sanders of Messrs. W. Sanders & Sons, and Miss Ida Hammerschlag, daughter of Mr Joseph Hammerschlag of Calvinia.

The bride who was handsomely attired and who was attended by two little sisters of the bridegroom acting as flower girls, was given away by her father. After the interesting ceremony, a reception was held at the bridegroom’s residence in High Street, where crowds of friends attended to felicitate the happy pair before they started on their honeymoon trip to George. Many beautiful and costly were the wedding gifts received from Calvinia, Cape Town, Oudtshoorn, etc.

The flower girls were three year old Sarie and two year old Ethel, Lazarus’ baby sisters. Although Lazarus was working for his father at the time of the marriage, as was stated in this newspaper report, it is not known at what stage Lazarus joined his father in law in the business, L. Rosenblatt & Co, “Direct importers, general dealers and buyers of Wool, Skins, and Ostrich feathers at the highest prices”, Calvinia.

Lazie and Ida Sanders had three children, two daughters and a son: Julie, Sybil and Wulfie ( named after his grandfather, Wulf Sanders). Their son, Wulfie, died at the young age of 19, on the 12th January, 1931. Julie married her 2nd cousin, Dr Willie Rosenblatt in September, 1929. Rosenblatt at that time was living at the “Hotel Riviera”, Beach Road, Sea Point. The couple never had any children. Julie died at her home in Camps Bay in 1984. Her sister Sybil died a spinster. Ida Sanders died in Calvinia at the age of 56 on the 22nd July, 1937. Her husband outlived her by twenty two years and died at Calvinia on the 9th May, 1959 aged eighty three.

Source: Derrick Lewis


Lena Sanders, at the age of 43 gave birth to her last baby in 1891. The baby girl was named Ethel. Ethel was born into a family who were now enjoying a high standard of living at that time. She accompanied her parents on some of their trips to London, where it has been told that she visited the wealthy Sassoon family, on weekends, at their country home, outside of London. There have been stories of eating off gold plated plates and using gold plated cutlery.

In 1905. Ethel and her sister Sarah, accompanied her parents on their trip to London. On the 29th April, Ethel sent the following postcard from London, to her sister Bella, in Oudtshoorn:

Dear Bella,

This card leaves us in good health. P.G. & hope it will reach you in the same. Ma & Pa & Sarah sends their Best love to you, Isidor & little Mossy. Don’t forget to write.
with love,


Ethel had a wonderful singing voice and performed at many concerts. In 1916, her father, Wulf, was most disappointed, when Ethel told him that she had decided not to take up a scholarship she has just been granted by the London School of Music. She had instead accepted a marriage proposal from a school teacher, David Mann, who was a vice principal of a school in the town of Vrede, in the Orange Free State.

The wedding took place in Oudtshoorn on the 6th July, 1916. The local newspaper, the Oudtshoorn Courant reported the occasion as follows:


Yesterday there was a certain amount of summer warmth in the atmosphere, but this did not detract from the beauty of a wedding which was solemnized at the Jewish Synagogue, Queens Street, when Miss Ethel Sanders, daughter of the late Mr W. Sanders and Mrs Sanders, was joined in the bond of matrimony to M David Mann, M.A., Vice Principal of the Public School at Vrede, O.F.S. Punctually at two, the bride, leaning on the arm of Mr Sam Sanders, who also gave her away, entered the edifice, which was prettily decorated with creepers, overgreens and date palms. The Unterfuhrers were Mr and Mrs Sam Sanders and Mr and Mrs Isidore Israelsohn, the bride being attended by Miss Nurick as bridesmaid while little Miss Rhoda Sanders was the little flower girl. The bride and bridegroom’s parents, Mrs W. Sanders and Mrs Mann, smartly dressed in black, were present. There was a host of friends at the Synagogue, and after the Ceremony in which Rev. Woolfson officiated, the bridal pair drove off in a carriage to the residence of Mrs Sanders, where the reception was held. The grounds were beautifully decorated with buntings and artificial flowers, making the scene reminiscent of early summer.

Here many forgathered to congratulate the happy pair and selections by the Municipal Band, which was in attendance, further added to the happiness of the festive occasion. The bride looked particularly attractive in a dress of ivory crepe-de-chine with an over-bodice of beautiful lace and wore the orthodox veil, trimmed with orange blossoms. The long court train was lined with shell pink ninion which made it both delicate and very effective.

The bridesmaid looked very smart In a dress of pink satin crepe, effectively trimmed with silk ninion. The flower girl looked very sweet in a dress which was of accordion pleated crepe-de-chine and shadow lace with large butterfly bow of ribbon at the back, a pretty picture.

Shivah Brochas were held in the Central Hotel in the evening, where a number of relatives and friends…. (not legible) terms by the Chairman; the bridegroom responding in a brilliant speech. The toast of the parents and the unterfuhrers of the happy couple were in the able hands of Dr Jacobson, who spoke at length, a feature of his speech being the introduction of Tulmudical expressions. Mr Sam Sanders very ably replied, Mr I. Israelsohn gave the toast for absent relatives and friends, while Mr M. Hotz responded very briefly. Mr Harry Nurick proposed the toast of the bridesmaid and ladies, while Mr L. Nurick responded. The toast of the chairman was entrusted to Mr Sam Sanders, the chairman suitably responding. The toast to the caterer (Mr S. Lax) was also heartily drunk.

Mr and Mrs Mann left by this morning’s train for Cape Town, where the honeymoon will be spent.

The bride’s going-away dress was a creation worthy of a French Paquin, being a fine navy gaberdine costume, handsomely silk-braided. The bride, who is extremely popular, will be very much missed here both socially and in musical circles. The dresses of the bride were supplied by Messrs. W. Sanders & Sons in their best style, under the able supervison of their Miss Masson.

Everbody got a mention in this report, including the caterer and the business of W. Sanders & Sons! The bridesmaid was probably Cissie Nurick and the “sweet” flower girl could have been one of Cissie’s younger sisters.

Ethel and David Mann settled in Vrede and some years later, in the 1920’s they moved to Doornfontein, Johannesburg, where Ethel established a Jewish boarding house in Saratoga Avenue. One of Ethel’s boarders, Jack Kletz, remembers Ethel as a kind hearted, caring and gracious lady of standing, who entertained her young boarders playing the piano and singing for them.

Mr Roger O’Hagen, who was with the SABC remembers Ethel as “quite a figure” during the 1939-45 War. Ethel gave live performances on radio, singing opera and operettas. One wonders what her singing career would have been like had she taken up that musical scholarship, instead of marriage to a teacher!

After the fall of the Smuts Government in the election of 1948, fearing a Nazi type persecution of Jews in South Africa, David and Ethel Mann left the country and settled in Bulowayo, Rhodesia, where her niece, Cissie, was living. Cissie was now married to a lawyer Abe Kaplan. After the death of David Mann, Cissie took Ethel into her home, where she lived until her death in 1974.

Source: Derrick Lewis


Back in 1895, great excitement for Wulf and Lena Sanders! The birth of their first grandchild! Annie Nurick gave birth to her first child, (the first of eight) a beautiful baby daughter named after Annie’s late grandmother, Sara Sanders. Little Sarah was lovingly known a “Cissie”. Interestingly there was only a difference in age, of four years between Cissie and her Aunt Ethel Sanders! The two girls were to become life long friends.

The story of Isaac Nurick, his origins, and his family is one of rag to riches and from what we understand, back to rags!

Isaac Nurick came from the Lithianian town of Shavel or Shavli as it was also known. The name Nurick is also an interesting story . The story goes that the surname was acquired by one of Isaac’s forbears in Lithuania. One winter the local church bell broke loose and fell into the river below. The only person able or willing to jump into the icy water and tie a rope around the bell, was a young Jewish boy. The church bell was pulled out of the river and because they were so grateful for this brave deed, the young Jewish boy was given the name of “Nurick”, which means “bell saver”!

There is however another story regarding the origins of the Nurick or Nurock surname. There are records in the museum of Shavli which make mention of a story that took place in 1643. The bell from the local old church was being transferred to a new church by means of a sledge. As the sledge was being pulled over a frozen lake, the ice cracked and the bell fell off the sledge into the lake below. Nobody was able to retrieve the bell. However, a visiting Jew to Shavli (at the time Jews were not permitted to live in the town), came to an agreement with the Duke of Shavli, that should he be able to retrieve the bell, the duke would give Jews the right of residence to the town. This Jewish man was successful and was given the nickname of “Nureka”. Apparently the ancient Russian word for otter is nureka. Either story is quite fascinating!

Although Isaac was, according to family legend, a Hebrew scholar, the Sanders family looked down on him because of his origins. He was a “greener” who spoke English with a Yiddishe accent.

In the early days, before Isaac arrived in Oudtshoorn, he worked as a “smous” (trader), working out of Ladysmith in partnership with Max Rose (Rose became famous for his virtual single-handed attempt to save the ostrich feather industry from total collapse at the end of W.W.1). Interestingly, based on records in the S.A. National Archives, both Isaac Nurick and Max Rose applied for naturalization during the year of 1897. A Mr H.W. Bekker applied on their behalf. Later, Isaac, as a feather buyer, entered into a partnership with Marcus Hotz. Hotz had married Bella Sanders’ sisiter-in-law, Pauline Israelsohn.

A document from the archives of the Standard Bank might give one an idea of the relationship of father in law to son in law. It might be a perfectly innocent case of a lost cheque or was it more sinister?

21st February, 1898

Dear Sir,

If a bill in favour of I. Nurick is presented for payment, please do not pay.

By so doing you will oblige.
Yours Respectfully,
W. Sanders & Sons
(signed by Wulf Sanders)

In spite of his in-law’s attitude, Isaac Nurick did very well for himself and his family in the ostrich feather trade. In the early days he was in partnership with Marcus Hotz. Records from the National Archives of South Africa of 1901, show Isaac in partnership with Jacob Nochamson, Louis Noach and Abraham Nurick.

The price of ostrich feathers was rising. Isaac managed to build up his business and the family prospered. Cissie Kaplan (Nurick) recalls that during the ostrich feather boom, the family were not short of anything. In their home they had two kitchens, one was only for use during Passover!

When the motor car first made its appearance, Isaac and Dr Stusser, were one of the first Oudtshoorn citizens to order a car, along with a mechanic and chaffeur by the name of Denis.

Isaac and Annie Nurick had eight children; Cissie, Harry, Michael, Lyle, Fanny, Ruby, Bert and Dots.

As a result of World War 1 and the change in women’s fashions, the ostrich feather industry collapsed. All the feather merchants declared bankruptcy, with the exception of Isaac Nurick, who “refused to pay a penny for every pound” he owed. Isaac’s banker didn’t have to call in the debts, but did so, hoping to gain Isaac’s wealth. Much of the family fortune was legally in his wife’s name, so he had no reason to go under. But rather than feel he was being dishonest, despite his wife’s being on her death bed (Annie was dying of breast cancer) and having eight young children, he chose to declare all his wife’s possessions and to sell what was left.

The Oudtshoorn Courant reported the passing of Annie Nurick (they referred to her as “Fanny Nurick”) in their edition of 30 January 1918:

Death of Mrs I. Nurick

We regret to announce the death of Mrs Fanny Nurick, wife of Mr Isaac Nurick, which took place last evening after a long period of great suffering. The funeral takes place this afternoon, the cortege leaving the late residence of the deceased at 5 o’clock.


MR ISAAC NURICK and family thank all relatives and friends for their kind expressions of sympathy and help during their late sad bereavement.

After the death of his wife, Annie in 1918, Isaac left his eldest daughter, Cissie, who was now a teacher, in charge of the family and went to London to try and collect monies owing to him. Apparently being unsuccessful, he was too ashamed to return home. The younger children were led to believe that he died!

One can just imagine what poor Isaac must have experienced. Penniless in London. Isaac was rigidly honest, even to the point of destroying his family, rather than their good name! He must have suffered severe humiliation when he lost everything and was unable to support his children, not to mention his unresolved grief from the loss of his beloved Annie!

Source: Derrick Lewis


An interesting story, remembered by Isaac’s granddaughter, Anne Biderman of Israel, about her mother, Cissie telling her that one of the first lessons she (Cissie) learned from her father when she was a young child, was never to speak to strangers about her father’s business. Apparently a neighbour (a competitor in the feather business) questioned the Nurick children about their father’s activities. Innocently they answered him and when Isaac arrived at the appointed business meeting, found that his neighbour had arrived earlier and beaten him to a deal! He returned home in a terrible rage.

After Dots Nurick, at the age of seven, lost her mother Anne, she was raised by her older sisters, primarily, Cissie. She grew up in a Catholic boarding school in Port Elizabeth and rarely was able to go home to her family for the holidays because the older siblings were struggling to take care of the family. The eighth child, a boy just older than Bert, apparently fell out of an apple tree at the age of twelve, developed encephalitis/meningitis and died.

Lyle Nurick, Annie’s son was assisted by his uncle Simon Sanders, who was studying in London at the dental school at Guys Hospital. Lyle went to London and also entered dental school. Lyle apparently used his winnings from tennis to help pay for his living expenses at university. After he qualified, Lyle was asked by his uncle Simon Sanders to be reimbursed. Apparently this led to a fall out between them. Lyle had a dental practice in Harley Street London. It was rumoured that he had “royalty” as patients.

Cissie and Harry Nurick went out to work to support their siblings. Cissie, who was a teacher, became a bookkeeper, Fanny and Ruby became teachers. Cissie, inherited some beautiful pieces of jewelry, which were sold one at a time to help meet the family’s expenses. The Sanders family do appear to have assisted these children.

Isaac Nurick never returned to South Africa. By all accounts, Annie Nurick was an angel, but Isaac ran his family, like most families of that period, in the Victorian manner. His youngest daughter, Dorothy, known as Dots, thought that her father was a wonderful man and she loved him very much and felt that the rest of the family did him an injustice. All that is known of Isaac’s final days are that he went back to his original trade when he was a young boy, when he hawked vegetables. He was apparently seen at the door of Lyle Nurick’s home in London, in the clothes of a beggar! He was never to be seen again. His grandson, Richard Nurick, has just recently discovered at the National Archives at Kew, that Isaac Nurick lived in Stepney and died on the 18th January, 1933, and was buried at the Enfield Cemetary.

Harry Nurick wrote the following letter to his Aunt Bella, after the death of his mother, Annie:

48 Cullinan Buildings
Main Street

13th March, 1918

Dear Aunt Bella,

Thank you very much for your kind letter and I hope you and all your family are in the best of health.

You cannot imagine how I wished that I could fly home, but what is the use of remorse, I feel that I should have stayed for there was never a sweeter or better mother than ours. Of course I go to shool everyday to say kaddish.

I daresay Mossie will have grown into quite a big boy and will soon be writing his matriculation exam. Does Joe still want to be a rich man?

How is business? I hope brighter. Should there be anything I can do for you up here let me know and perhaps some good business may result.

I have no more to write so close with love to all from Lyle & myself.

Your affectionate Nephew,
Harry Nurick

Wulf and Lena’a son, Max, who was born in Riga, in 1882 at the time of the Sanders’ family’s return to Latvia, after their ten- year stay in Australia, was apparently the hardworking “handyman” of the family. My Grandmother, Bella, recalled the tragic event when she was told the sad news that her young sixteen year old brother Max had died. According to the story, Max was demonstrating how strong he was by lifting up a huge bag of coffee. The following obituary that appeared in the Oudtshoorn Courant on the 22nd October, 1898, further illustrates what actually happened:


Regretfully we record the sudden death of young Max Sanders, son of Mr W. Sanders of St John’s and High Streets, which occurred on Saturday afternoon, the funeral taking place yesterday afternoon. A ridiculous story, which had its origin in some wildered brain, got about that he died from the effects of eating poisoned oranges, whereas the post mortem held by Drs. O’Hare and Truter showed the cause of death to have been rupture induced by overstrain in lifting too heavy a weight. Max, who was only 16, was beloved by all who knew him, Jew and Christian alike, for his bright happy disposition and his courteous behavior, if fact he was a general favourite , and much sympathy goes forth to his bereaved home circle that so promising a young life should have been suddenly cut short. What adds to the grief of the family is the fact that the father is at present absent in Cape Town.

One wonders could this have been a hernia and why did it cause his death? The strange rumour of eating poisoned oranges is most interesting. Here is a country newspaper saying it as it is. The mentioning of Jew and Christian” was typical of that period. This newspaper report confirms more or less what my grandmother remembered about the passing of her young brother. Max’s tombstone can be found in the Jewish cemetery, Oudtshoorn, under the name of “Marcus Sanders”.

Source: Derrick Lewis


The economy of Oudtshoorn improved as the result of the ostrich feather trade, as did the business of Wulf Sanders. Assisted by his sons, in 1889, Wulf purchased the building housing the business of “R. Lea & Co” in High Street. Sanders now took advantage of the “main street” trade by attracting more clientele. He renovated the old R. Lea & Co. building, installing proper show windows, which were illuminated at night. On the 9th March, 1889, a Sanders advert appeared in the Oudtshoorn Courant as follows:

At last our new premises in High Street are completed and we will be open on Saturday, 18th March. We have not spared any expense in erecting a beautiful building for the convenience of the Public.

Wulf’s business continues to grow and in 1900 he managed to purchase the Oudtshoorn branch of Cleghorn & Harris, the firm who originally financed his first store in Oudtshoorn back in 1885. The following notice appeared in the papers:


We have this day disposed of our Business in Oudtshoorn to Messrs. W. Sanders & Sons, and our premises will be closed one week from tomorrow, Friday, 16th inst., for stocktaking purposes.

Cleghorn & Harris Oudtshoorn, 15 Feb., 1900

Cleghorn’s business was situated right next door to Wulf’s High Street store. Once he acquired the premises, he opened up and joined the two shops together. In another advert, after the latest rebuild, Wulf Sanders took pride in advising the public: “SEE OUR WINDOWS ILLUMINATED ON WEDNESDAY EVENING”. His was the first store in Oudtshoorn to boast electrified window displays.

The original store in St John’s Street store was retained and not wanting the store to suffer a loss in clientele, Wulf cleverly advertised the following:


And consequently our old Establishment in St John’s Street must not be overlooked, because we have enlarged our High Street Business. We are always receiving New and Seasonable Goods there, quite different to our other Branches, and are offering them at Prices never before heard of in St John’s Street.

To the Jewish Inhabitants:-

We have just unpacked a New Assortment of Crockery and Enamelled Ironware specially ordered for Pesach requirements.

Our cart will call daily for orders to anyone not being able to come or send for their requirements.


Wulf Sanders certainly knew what he was doing: Low prices, exceptional service and targeting the market! Nothing has changed, what worked for Wulf in those days , still applies to today!

As Wulf’s business had now grown remarkably, he was able to travel on business to London on an annual basis. He probably took his wife with him on most of these trips and from letters received, we know he took his youngest daughters, Sarie and Ethel with on some of these visits to London.

One of his overseas trips in 1900, was reported in the Oudtshoorn Courant:

Mr Woolf Sanders, head of the firm W. Sanders & Sons leaves for Europe by Wednesday’s steamer. He is traveling principally in the interests of his business and expects to be away for three or four months. Previous to his departure his own intimate friends entertained him to a dinner, some twenty taking part in the pleasing function. A complimentary address was presented to him in behalf of the Jewish community who hold him in high esteem, first as an exemplary citizen and secondly as a zealous worker in religious, educational and social circles. Mrs Sanders accompanies her husband, we wish them a pleasant voyage and safe return.

The Sanders children did not accompany their parents on this journey, but Wulf kept in touch with them, writing a most wonderful and informative letter to his favourite daughter, Bella. The letter was typed on the letter head of “Cleghorn, Harris & Co., London:

85 Golden Lane,
London, E.C.,
21st June, 1900.

Dear Bella:-

I have received your letter of 24th May from which I am very pleased to see you are keeping well, and I am glad to say that we are both pretty well. Mother on her arrival here did not feel well, and had a swollen face for about three days, but thank God, she is all right again. We are trying our best to enjoy ourselves as well as we can, but I can assure you that I find very little enjoyment at present as I am away all day at business, and mother being strange to London does not care about going about herself, so this confines her to the house during the day. We have visited several places of amusement, and enjoyed ourselves. We also found out a family called Rousengard. I am sorry to say the old people are dead and there are only four daughters left, two of whom are married, and two are single. We went to see them. We are also going out on Sunday to Mr Field’s, who lives a little out of London, and where we intend to spend Sunday.

I hope that you and the children are quite well, and that our temporary absence from you does not make much difference.

If there is anything particular that you may require or anything for the children, please do not forget to let me know, as it takes three to four weeks to arrive here.

We intend to sail from London on the 1st September in the same steamer as we came with that is the “Kinfauns Castle”. I must tell you that Mrs Valentine makes us very welcome and she is really a good woman. Tell Mr Valentine, if he is in Oudtshoorn, he ought to be proud to have a wife like her.

Mother and I intend to leave here on the 1st July for Germany, in which country we intend to stay close upon three weeks. I do not know whether I will be able to visit the Paris Exhibition, as Mother does not feel inclined to go to it.

Please let me know if Mr Hiedisheimer has left Oudtshoorn.

I have made no acquaintances as yet, as I have been very busy in the office from morning till night. Tell the Children that they ought not to be angry that I do not write letters to each separately as you know very well that I cannot spare any time to do so, therefore just let them see this letter which will satisfy then just as well.

Tell Simie I received his letter and I am glad to hear that he is attentive to school, and also makes progress in Music. If he wishes anything particular for me to bring him let him write to me and I will do so. No more news at present.

Best love to Minnie, Ethel, Sarah, Simie Emmanuel, Harry, Annie & Neureka and their children.

Tell Annie I will not write to her until she writes a letter to me. I have not received a letter from her as yet and I think it is very wrong. I am anxious to hear how the children are getting on. Best regards to Valentine and his wife and child and all enquirers.

Your affectionate Father,

W. Sanders.

Some interesting points and questions about Wulf’s letter: This was obviously the first time that Lena accompanied Wulf on one of his numerous business trips to London. Poor Lena, imagine her arriving in London with her face swollen. Was this the result of an allergy or simply too much sunshine on board ship? Amusingly, Wulf attempted to pass off their trip to London as one of hard work all day long, with “very little enjoyment!” Was this intended to keep the children happy and not being too envious? And who were the Rousengards? The Mr Field mentioned was probably Wulf’s shipper and agent in London.

Bearing in mind that this was 1900, when most East European Jews were still struggling, Wulf and his wife were traveling onto Germany and possibly the Paris Exhibition, proved that the family had certainly progressed from their little general dealer store on the corner of “St John’s and St Georges Streets.” Also of note, is the Sanders family interest in music; Wulf is pleased that not only doing well in school, Simie (Simon) is “making progress in music”. Simie was the youngest son, born in Oudtshoorn, on the 9th June, 1885, four months after the family arrived there from Cape Town.

Source: Derrick Lewis


The years 1900 to 1907 were good years for the Sanders family. Records from the National Archives of South Africa of 1900, show Wulf Sanders in partnership with his sons, Lazarus and Samuel.

Wulf and Lena were now traveling overseas regularly, sometimes taking their daughters, Ethel and Sarah with them. Sam Sanders was now the up and coming star in the family business. He also made a number of business trips to London and Europe. W. Sanders & Sons was now fast becoming a major business in the Southern Cape. By 1900, their main store in High Street, now totally enlarged and modernized, had become Oudtshoorn’s leading department store offering mens, ladies & children’s wear, furnishings, furniture, drapery, stationery, millinery, schoolwear, dressmaking dept. and groceries. A typical advert of the time, advertising their dressmaking department, appeared in the Oudtshoorn Courant:


Who is due to arrive this week from England, is a High-Class Modiste and is thoroughly conversant with Fashions Latest Dictates

Miss Hanna

Has a reputation fro ELEGANCE OF STYLE, CORRECTNESS of CUT And PERFECTION of fit which we invite you to test.

This announcement from our Dressmaking Department is to remind you that our New Materials and trimmings are now to hand and ask you to favour us with a call.

We unhesitatingly affirm that amongst the many brilliant conceptions to hand from the Continent’s great fashion creating centers, the requirements of every lady of cultivated taste can be filled to the highest degree of satisfaction. In expressing our great appreciation of your valued orders in the past, we would respectfully ask a continuance of your patronage, to deserve which will always be our strenuous aim.


Wulf and his son Sam had certainly done their best, on their buying trips overseas, to keep the ladies of Oudtshoorn up to date with the latest fashions! What a long winded advert, but typical of that period. One can just imagine “Miss Hanna” measuring up the leading ladies of Oudtshoorn. Two of Miss Hanna’s measurement note have survived! Her notes on “Mrs W. Sanders” record that Lena’s bust was 43 inches and waist, 30 inches. A buxom lady she was! However, her daughter, Bella was near perfect with a bust of 35 inches and a waist measurement of 22 inches! Good old granny!

Not only did Bella Sanders have a good figure, she was also very attractive. It was only a matter of time that her good looks would draw suitors to the Sanders home! A good looking young man by the name of Isidore Israelsohn was the one to propose. Isidore was born in Bouske, Courland in 1873. He and his brothers Meyer and Barney Israelsohn had come out to the Cape Colony in the 1890’s, Isidore having landed at Cape Town on the 24th January, 1893. The brothers were in business together, running a general dealer store in Oudtshoorn. However, money was to be made in the feather industry and Isidore also became a feather buyer.

Bella received a letter of congratulations on her engagement from her brother Lazarus’ fiancé , Ida Hammerschlag of Calvinia:

Calvinia April 9th 1901.

My dear Bella, I was surprised when I got Lazie’s wire telling me about your engagement. Accept my heartiest congratulations. I have hardly time to write this morning as I must teach the children before going to my painting lessons.

I wonder who will be the next; Lazie started it & you are following his example, & I hope that you will be just as happy as I am. I am glad dear Lazie has at last made up his mind to come down next month. I can hardly wait till the time comes, as it is so long since last I saw him.

We are not sending the children back yet as the plague seems to be getting worse.

As it is getting late for the post I must close with love & kindly remember me to your young man.

I am,
Yours loving Ida.

Bella and Isidore were married in Oudtshoorn on the 23rd October, 1901. The Oudtshoorn Courant reported the wedding:


On Wednesday, 23rd October, a very pretty wedding took place in Oudtshoorn, when Miss Bella Sanders, daughter of our esteemed townsmen Mr Woolf Sanders, was united in matrimony with Mr I. Israelsohn. The bride, who looked lovely and was charmingly attired in a creation of white silk and satin, with the customary veil and orange blossoms, was attended by her two pretty little sisters as flower-girls, whilst the bridegroom was supported by his friend, Dr Jacobson. The ceremony having been performed at the Queens Street Synagogue according to the Jewish ritual by the Rev Mr Wolfsen, the bridal party repaired to the residence of the bride’s parents, where throughout the afternoon until late in the evening a reception was held of numerous friends, both Jew and Gentile, who came to offer their congratulations. The wedding presents were very numerous, handsome and costly. The happy pair left the next day for Cape Town, where the honeymoon will be spent, and whither they carried away with them the hearty good-wishes of a large circle of friends.

The young married couple had to obtain special permission to travel to Cape Town, from the Oudtshoorn magistrate, as the Boer War was still waging. Bella and her husband, Isidore Israelsohn first traveled by horse and cart to the Prince Alfred railway siding, as there was no direct railway connection to Oudtshoorn. The story, as told by Bella years later, was that on their way to Prince Alfred, they were stopped by some Boer soldiers on horseback. They recognized Isidore, the honest and kindly feather agent and general dealer with whom they had dealings with over the past few years and decided to allow the honeymoon couple to pass unharmed!

On one of their overseas trips to London, in 1907, Wulf and Lena Sanders sent the following postcard to Bella and her husband, Isidor Israelsohn:

London February 28/07

My Dear Bella & Isidor,

Your letter in hand. Pleased to hear you are all T.G. well. The same as it leaves us all here. Please excuse this few lines as we are busy moving. I expect Sam on the 9th March and I will go to meet him in Southampton. Trusting this will reach you all in the best of health. Ma, Sarah, Ethel and myself sends our love and kisses to you, Isidor and the dear children. Your loving parents, L and W Sanders

Ethel and Sarah obviously accompanied their parents on this trip. Wulf’s son, Sam, who by now played a major role in the business, was joining his father in London, probably to assist with the buying of goods for W. Sanders & Sons. The “dear childen” mentioned, refer to Bella’s first two sons, Mossy and Joe Israelsohn

Source: Derrick Lewis


Moses Sanders, who had left his father’s business and was in partnership with his eldest brother, Harry, in Dysselsdorp, decided to branch out on his own in 1896. He set up a business in High Street, trading under the name of “Central Stores”. It can be safely assumed that his father, Wulf had something to do with this move. A newspaper report appeared during that year, referring to Moses Sanders’ store:


On Wednesday afternoon, shortly after closing time, about quarter past one, alarm of fire was given, and people were observed rushing towards Central Stores, in High Street, under the charge of Mr M.W. Sanders. Mr George Wallis, jun. (agent for the Norwich Union, in which company the stock is insured) was fortunately in the neighbourhood, and was able to direct the excited crowd. A window was burst open and water applied to the flames, which luckily had not yet obtained a firm hold of the shop goods. Mr Sanders with the keys of the Stores was quickly on the spot and it did not take long, with the assistance of willing hands to extinguish the fire. It is computed that the damage done by the fire and water is about £200 pounds.

In those days, fire was a huge problem, especially with many wooden buildings about and gas being used to light the shops. Thirty one years later, on Thursday, 8th September, 1927, a fire broke out in W. Sanders & Sons. The headline in the Oudtshoorn Courant read as follows:


Many years later, Bella’s son Woolf Israelsohn, in discussing this disastrous fire, recalled been told that one of the local volunteer fire fighters at the time, a certain Mr Bud Schneider (who had no less than 20 years experience of fire-fighting in Russia! ), would actually assist his fellow Jewish shopkeepers by causing more water damage than was necessary and thereby helping them to inflate their insurance claims!

During the year of 1903, Moses Sanders married his sister Bella’s sister in law, Ella Israelsohn. Ella and her sisters, Rebecca, Pauline and Bertha had left Bauske, Courland, a number of years earlier, to join their brothers living in Oudtshoorn. Pauline Israelsohn, in fact, had come out to South Africa in August of 1892, to specially marry an Oudthoorn feather buyer, by the name of Marcus Hotz. The couple were married in the Gardens Synagogue, Cape Town, on the 16th of that month and settled in Oudtshoorn. According to newpaper reports, Pauline was educated in Konigsberg, Germany, where she stayed with an aunt.

Moses and Ella Sanders only had one child, a daughter, named Rebecca, who was born on the 1st September, 1907. Rebecca was known as Ruby. During this year, Moses was diagnosed that he was a diabetic. Unfortunately in those days there was no proper treatment and his doctor suggested that he travel to Germany to try and find a cure at one of the hot water springs.

In August of 1908, Moses left his wife and daughter in Oudtshoorn and traveled to Germany, as was suggested, booking into “Kurhaus Kaiser Wilhelm”, in Bad Neuenahr. (Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler as its known today, is a town in the German Bundesland of Rhineland-Palatinate, renowned for its spa and casino) He sent a postcard from Berlin addressed to his brother in law, “Mr M.L. Israelsohn c/o M. Hotz & Co, Oudtshoorn:

Sept 2 1908

My Dear M.L.I.

Just a few lines to wish you a Happy New Year & hoping you are in good health. I am getting on nicely.

My Love to all,

Your loving Mo.

Sadly Moses, or Mo as he was affectionately called, died just two months later at Bad Neuenahr. He was only 34 years old! Moses Sanders was buried in Germany, far removed from Oudtshoorn, his wife, Ella and his baby daughter, Ruby. An obituary appeared in the Oudtshoorn Courant:


We regret to have record the death of Mr Moses W. Sanders, second son of Mr and Mrs Wolf Sanders of this town. The deceased was a well-known figure in Oudtshoorn and was highly thought of and respected, especially amongst the members of the Jewish community. In August last, acting upon the advise of his medical adviser, he left for Europe and has been receiving treatment for that painful complaint diabetes at the Neuhardt Hospital, Germany.

Only so lately as Wednesday last, his sister, Mrs Israelsohn, received a very hopeful letter from him telling how much his health had improved, but the very next day his parents had a cable conveying to them the melancholy intelligence that he was no more. We offer our sincere sympathy and condolence to his sorrowing parents and other relatives.

Rather surprisingly, the newspaper overlooked the fact that Moses Sanders was survived by his wife, Ella and daughter, Ruby.

After the untimely death of her husband, Ella Sanders and her one -year old daughter, left Oudtshoorn and went to Bouske, Latvia, where she decided to stay with her family, still living there. She thought it would be financially better to use the home, left to her by Moses, as a source of income, rather than a place of abode.

Ella and her daughter were caught up in the Russian Revolution, having to cross and re-cross the border between Latvia and Russia a number of times! With the help of the family back in Oudtshoorn, Ella managed to return to South Africa in the 1920’s, and resettle in Oudtshoorn. Her daughter, Ruby was educated in Oudtshoorn and at the age of twenty four, married Joseph Wolff on the 29th December, 1931. Her mother, Ella Sanders died the following year. In 1933, Ruby gave birth to her only child, a son named Henry.

In 1961, Henry Wolff married Judith Cohen. The following year, 1962, his mother, Ruby died at the age of 54 years. Henry qualified as lawyer, but made a career in journalism. At the end of 1971, Henry, who was now a married man with two daughters, Naomi and Avigail, settled in Israel, where he became active in public relations at the Bar Ilan University. Because his first name was not considered “Jewish enough”, he was known to his Israeli friends a Moshe. Henry died at the relatively young age of 48 in the year of 1982.

Source: Derrick Lewis


Emanuel Sanders was Wulf and Lena’s first “South African” child, born in Mowbray on the 22nd September, 1883, a year after their arrival at the Cape. Emanuel attended school in Oudtshoorn and later joined his father in the family business. Probably because of the Sanders family connection to Australia, Emanuel decided in 1905, to seek his fortune there. At the age of 22, he left for Melbourne from Cape Town on the 24th April, 1905 on the White Star Liner, the S.S. Afric. The Afric, built in 1899, tonnage of 11 816, accommodated 350 passengers in “cabin class”. She also carried troops during the Boer War.

The following report appeared in the Oudtshoorn Courant of the 17th April, 1905:

A cable has been received from Mr Wolf Sanders announcing his safe arrival in the little village of London. Mr Emanuel Sanders (son of Mr Wolf Sanders) leaves Oudtshoorn for Australia next week. Although Manuel was born in Australi(not correct) he has grown up in our midst and we all look upon him as an Oudtshoorn boy and wish him a hearty God speed!

Emanuel sent his sister Bella a post card before he left Cape Town, addressed: Mrs Bella Israelsohn, St Johns Street, Oudtshoorn, Cape Colony:-

3 May, 1905.

Dear Bella,
Just a few lines to let you know that I arrived safe and feel none the worse for the accident over the mountains. Give my love to baby. I am off on Wednesday. Good bye,

Your loving brother,

One wonders what was this accident; was it a horse and cart or a rail accident? A few weeks later Bella Israelsohn received the following postcard from her brother Emanuel:

Afric, 22nd May, 1905

Dear Bella,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am, and I have been having a good time ashore with the kangaroos. It was a beautiful sight to see the entrance into the harbour being located on each side with mountains, just allowing one ship at a time to enter the harbour. I am once more on the voyage to Adelaide and then will write you.

How are you keeping? Give my love to baby & hope soon to hear from you. My postal address is c/o G. P. Office, Melbourne

Your loving brother,

This postcard was probably posted from Albany, Western Australia, before his arrival in Melbourne. A sketch of a “White Star Liner at Albany Jetty” is pictured on the postcard.

Four months later, Emanuel wrote a “newsy” letter to his sister, Bella:

39 St Vincent Place S
Albert Park.
Sept. 14th 1905.

Dear Bella,

Your loving letter to hand, was pleased to hear that you are all well. Melbourne at the present time is looking up, and as I am in business with the Albion Tailoring Coy., can see things greatly improved.

Last Saturday I went to Royal Agricultural show held out at Flemington, as I can assure you it was a sight worth seeing. I have sent the “Austraelasion” to Mo, it will give you and idea what was there.

The theatres are every night on, being tired of them I do not go so often as I used to. Although the prices are very cheap, imagine you can go & see any play in the best Theatre from 1/- 2/- 3/- 4/- etc at present they are playing the “Cingalee” & the J.P. Give my love to Mossie & congratulate him on my behalf on his birthday, mine has also just gone, 2nd Sept. I have received letters weekly from dear parents & Ethel.

Will now conclude,
With Love
Your loving Brother,

Xcuse brief letter as I have to do a considerable lot of writing tonight.

The Albert Park address where Emanuel was staying is today a major tourist attraction, with golf courses, race tracks, lovely hotels and beaches.

In 1909, Emanuel found himself a wife by the name of Evelyn Maud Lucas. The marriage took place in Melbourne, the following year 1910. Their marriage started off tragically with the death of their first child, who lived for only a few days after the birth.

Emanuel was distraught, not only loosing his baby, but also the sudden death of his father. He decided to return to South Africa with his wife Evelyn and start life afresh. He joined his brother Lazarus, who was now living in Calvinia with his young wife Ida. Lazarus was in business with his father in law and was a director of the trading store “L.Rosenblatt & Co.”

Emanuel and Evelyn had another child named Wilton, named in memory of Emanuel’s father, Wulf Sanders. Emanuel joined up the army during the 1914 – 1918 “Great War”. In 1927 he left Calvinia and settled in the fruit growing area of Elgin, where he owned a hotel and bottle store. In 1931, he sold the business and took over the insolvent Central Hotel in the Karoo town of Colesberg, an important rail junction in the interior.

Emanuel managed to turn the business around and built up the Central Hotel into a thriving business. In 1935, he sold the hotel, making a good profit for himself. In 1937 Emanuel’s wife Evelyn died.

With the outbreak of World War 11, in 1939, Emanuel once again joined the forces. After war was over in 1945, Emanuel moved to Durban. He re-married a lady by the name of Erica Beatrice Pitts, born Anderson. His new wife was known a Pat. He set up an agency business, trading under the name of “Sandersons African Agencies”. Emanuel lived a happy and simple life, enjoying his favourite sport of angling off the jetty of Durban harbour. In 1963, he took ill, just after returning home from Durban docks, having caught “three big ones”. His wife rushed him to hospital that same evening at about midnight, where he died at four the next morning. Pat lived for another 17 years, passing away in May, 1981.

Emanuel’s surving son, Wilton, worked for the South African Railways becoming a station master. Wilton married a nursing sister by the name of Elsa. The couple not having children of their own, adopted a baby boy by the name of Kenneth. Sadly, Kenneth treated his adopted parents terribly, becoming a huge financial drain on his father. On top of all this poor Wilton suffered three strokes within three years. As if this wasn’t enough, he was also suffering from heart disease, diabetes and cancer! His wife Elsa nursed him all the time until it became impossible for her to continue. Wilton was admitted to hospital where he died on the 4th November, 1983. Apparently their adopted son Kenneth, never came to visit Wilton during his illness, nor did he attend the funeral and also refused to assist Elsa with the funeral expenses.

A shocking report appeared the previous year in the Rand Daily Mail of the 9th September, 1982:

“Starving” dad seeks payment from son.

Two seriously ill and almost starving pensioners are awaiting the outcome of a letter to their son instructing him to repay them the R38 000 his father said he gave him as a deposit for a luxury R115 000 home. A prominent Progressive Federal Party MP, Mr Alf Widman, will act as the couple’s attorney in court case which will be held if the money is not forthcoming. Mr Sanders said he gave his son, Ken, the money – his life savings – on the understanding that he keep his father in comfort in the house for the rest of his life. Mr Ken Sanders bought the mansion last year with the money his father received when he sold his home in Florida. The mansion was also furnished with his father’s expensive furniture.

But Mr Sanders senior, 63, was evicted from the house shortly afterwards. The elderly Mr Sanders, who now lives in a dingy flat at Lorna Court in Joubert Park with his wife Elsa, survives on a R267 a month pension and food from Meals on Wheels. City councilor, Mrs Molly Kopel said that Mr Wilton Sanders cried continually when speaking of the incident. Both he and his wife were in very poor health.

This tragedy unfolding, shockingly went unnoticed by the other, more affluent members of the Sanders family! I, myself had no idea about poor Wilton’s situation, when writing to him regarding my family research project in 1981. Wilton very kindly sent me a photograph he had of his grandfather, Wulf Sanders, taken in the 1890’s of Wulf and his fellow freemasons in Oudtshoorn.

Source: Derrick Lewis


Simon Sanders was the first Oudtshoorn-born child and the last child born to Lena & Wulf on the 9th June, 1885, shortly after Lena’s arrival in Oudtshoorn. He attended the Old Oudtshoorn Boys High School (now the C.P. Nel Museum), where he matriculated with distinction in 1903. In 1904, attracted by the lucrative gold mining industry, Simon went to Johannesburg to study mining engineering. Apparently he developed a lung problem and on the advise of his doctor, he was urged to change careers.

In 1912, Simon left Oudtshoorn for London where he enrolled in the dental school at Guys Hospital. He was never to return to Oudtshoorn again. In 1915, he qualified and took over a dental practice in the village of Leighton Buzzard, fifty miles north of London.

Simon built up a very successful practice, which included several branch surgeries in remote villages. Visits, mostly in the evenings, coincided with those of a visiting doctor. His transport in those days was a pony and trap. On the 20th May, 1915, against his parents wishes, he married a non-Jewish lady by the name of Ruby Louise Burton. Ruby, who was affectionately known as “Doll” had four children with Simon: Wilfred (in memory of his father, Wulf Sanders) Helen, Audrey and John.

Things went well for Simon and in 1921, he bought his first motor car. He owned a great variety of cars, which he drove at speed, much to the delight of his children. Doll, his wife, loathed every minute and would scream with fear at the slightest thing!

During 1921, Isaac Nurick, with the financial help of Simon, sent their son Lionel (Lyle) to London, where he followed his uncle’s career and entered Guys Hospital to study dentistry. Contrary to family rumour, Lyle and his uncle Simon became good friends in those early years. They played tennis for Buck’s County, quite something in those days. As was mentioned earlier in our story, Lyle used his winnings at tennis to supplement his pocket money allowance whilst he was still a student.

After Lyle qualified at Guys Hospital, he went to work for his Uncle Simon Sanders, in his practice in Leighton Buzzard, until he had paid off his debts to his Uncle. He then set up his own practices in Aylesbury and Buckingham. From his Buckingham practice he was the dentist at Stowe School and had many aristocratic families as patients.

In 1929, Simon decided to turn to consultative dentistry. With this in mind he bought an old established practice in Bedford (started in the 1890’s). The practice did not come up to expectations, so Simon more or less had to start from scratch. He succeeded and by the end of 1932, the practice was flourishing. Simon, had by this time given up tennis for golf. The golf course being only 800 yards from his home!

1933, and Simon and his wife Doll, decided to move to a village eight miles south of Bedford, called Ampthill. The couple provided a wonderful home in every way. Their children had a good education and were allowed to choose their future careers. His sons, John and Wilfred went to boarding school at St. Edwards in Oxford. In 1938, Wilfred followed in his father’s footsteps by studying dentistry at Guys Hospital, where he qualified in 1942. Thereafter, Wilfred joined the RAF dental branch until his release in 1947. After his discharge, Wilfred joined his father in practice at Bedford.

By this time Simon was a sick man and had to go to hospital for an operation. The prognosis was bad, but with guts and will power he survived and returned to his practice. Nine months later, Simon had an eye operation to remove a cataract. He was not able to practice again and had another spell in hospital. He returned home but did not survive long. Simon Sanders died peacefully in his sleep on the 3rd October, 1952 at the age of sixty-seven, well loved by all and respected by his community, but sadly cut off from his South African family.

Lyle Nurick, who married a Catholic lady by the name of Mary Chisholm, remained in contact with Simon’s family. Lyle and Mary had four children: Richard, Catherine, Simon (in memory of Simon Sanders) and James.

Contact with Simon Sanders surviving family and their South African connection was totally lost. It’s quite possible that the reason for this was Simon “marrying out of the faith”. However, in the 1950-60’s, Woolf Israelsohn, son of Simon’s sister, Bella, managed to find and make contact with the Sanders family living in Bedford.

Woolf Israelsohn, following in his grandfather Sanders’ footsteps, was a successful retailer, trading in the Southern Cape city of George, South Africa, under the name of “Ralsons, drapers & outfitters”. At that time, situated right across the road from his shop was a “tea lounge” called “Pooles”, owned and run by Norman & Pat Poole. In conversation with Pat Poole, Woolf mentioned that his mother had a brother by the name of Dr Simon Sanders, a dentist living somewhere outside of London. Pat, who originally lived in Bedford, remarked that she was a patient a dentist living there by the name of Dr Dickie Sanders. Woolf was most intrigued and on one of his many business trips to the U.K., decided to call Dr Sanders. To his amazement, Woolf discovered that Dickie Sanders (born Wilfred Sanders), was none other than the son of Late Simon Sanders! Wilfred was married to Cecile Searle. They had three children; Richard, Simon and Audrey. In 1985, Wilfred Sanders and his wife visited South Africa and met some of his Jewish relatives living there. The mayor of Oudtshoorn on hearing that Wilfred Sanders was visiting the town, but was already departing from the local airport, rushed off to the airport to meet Wilfred. He persuaded him to cancel his flight and invited Wilfred and his wife, as his guests, to tour the famous Cango Caves!

Wilfred’s brother, John Sanders, much to the disappointment of his father Simon, fulfilled his boyhood ambition of wanting to be an engine driver. (didn’t we all?) When the war came, John went to school in Oxford, where he began to visit the engine sheds on Sunday afternoons and also got to know the signalman who operated Wolvercote box by a level crossing! In spite of his father’s disapproval, his parents sent him copies of the bi-monthly “Railway Magazine”.

At 16, John wrote to his father, Simon, asking if he could leave St Edwards, and start a career as an engine cleaner on the railway. He received a serious reprimand and was told to stay where he was! Making up his mind to become a “footplate” man was no easy task. His father expected him to follow in his brother, Wilfred’s footsteps and join the family business, by learning the dental mechanic’s side.

However this was not to be and John’s career ended up working for a company called Hunting Engineering, where he became a model maker in their research and development model shop. This followed with John becoming an engineering assistant involved with defense contracts.

John and his wife Kathleen are both retired, living in Ampthill, Bedfordshire. They have two daughters, Gretchen and Heidi.

Source: Derrick Lewis


In May of 1894, Wulf and Lena Sanders celebrated their “amended” twenty- fifth wedding anniversary. Amusingly, because Lena, as we have now discovered, was pregnant at the time of her marriage to Wulf, the couple declared an earlier date as their marriage, on all their children’s birth certificates. So their actual silver wedding should have been in May, 1895, but due to the ‘cover up”, was celebrated one year earlier! The children never ever found out and quite understandably took the year of 1894 to be correct. They had a beautiful silver tiara and matching corsage made up, consisting of little leaves, each with one of the children’s names engraved thereon, which they presented to Lena on her anniversary. This most wonderful and marvelous heirloom is still in the family’s possession.

Another beautiful heirloom has survived. Wulf Sanders, on one of his trips to London, took with him twenty one of the best ostrich feather plumes he could find in the whole Oudtshoorn district. He had these plumes made up into a magnificent feather fan with a handle of mother-of-pearl, embossed in silver, with the intials, “B.S.” On his return from London, Wulf presented this fan, in its satin case, to his daughter, Bella on the occasion of her eighteenth birthday. This lovely fan is on loan to the S.A. Jewish Museum in Cape Town and is proudly on display for all to see.

Looking at photographs that have survived, one can see what a beautiful young lady Bella Sanders was with her perfect figure, as noted by the dressmaker of W. Sanders & Sons! After her marriage to Isidore Israelsohn in 1901, the couple set up home in Oudtshoorn. Isidore benefited from the ostrich feather boom and built up a successful brokerage.

In 1904, Bella gave birth to her first child, a son they named Moses, affectionately called Mossie. Another son was born to Bella in 1906. Bella named this baby, Joseph, in memory of her mother’s father, Joseph Lasky, who died that year in Jerusalem and was buried on the Mount of Olives, East Jerusalem. In 1908 saw the birth of a baby daughter, named Deborah, in memory of Deborah Israelsohn, Isidore’s late mother.

The year 1905 must have been a painful year for the Israelsohn family. This was the year that a fraud scandal hit the family with the Israelsohn brother’s names making the local headlines. The fraud case was extensively reported both in the Oudtshoorn and Cape Town news papers. This is how the Oudtshoorn Courant of March, 1905, reported the early stages of the court proceedings:

The Israelsohn Case


The preliminary examination in this case was continued on Saturday morning.

J.G. Strydom of Kruis River, recalled: On the 14th of March he had given evidence. He then said that he gave a bill for £28 to Meyer (Israelsohn) and he procured a receipt for the bill. When he received notice from the Standard Bank that he was indebted to the Bank for a bill of £228 he came to Oudtshoorn and handed up the receipt for £28 and notice for £228, described in his evidence, to Mr Foster for safe keeping. He now produced the identical receipt and notice marked A1 and B1. These documents he received that morning from Mr Sheard at Foster’s office.

The Magistrate then cautioned accused in the usual manner.

Meyer, aged 27, born Koerland, Russian by birth, said he had nothing to say.

Barney, aged 25, born Koerland, Russia, said he was not guilty, and reserved his defence.

Isidore, aged 33, Koerland, Russia, said he was not guilty, and reserved his defence.

Accused were committed for trial and His Worship said the papers would be sent to the Attorney-General as soon as possible.

After many months of trial proceedings, Meyer Israelsohn was found guilty and his brothers Barney and Isidore were aquitted. It appears that from that time on, Bella and Isidore distanced themselves from Meyer Israelsohn. It is interesting to note that Isidore and Barney had Attorney Jacobson representing them at the triall, whereas Attorney Wiggett appeared for Meyer Israelsohn. The Israelsohn brothers were never again partners in business in spite of the fact that the fraud committed by Meyer, was a desperate attempt (albeit dishonest) by him, to pull their business out of the insolvency situation, at that time.

Marcus Hotz, brother in law of the Israelsohns, tried to assist them by signing suretyship for their overdraft facilities at the bank. When the bank called in overdraft, Marcus Hotz tried to cancel his suretyship and refused to pay the Israelsohn’s debt to the bank, thereby bringing on the insolvency action against the Israelsohns by the bank and the subsequent fraud case.

Marcus actually took on the bank and went to court, saying that when he signed for his brothers in law, it was to assist them in their normal day to day business transactions. The fact that fraud had been committed was not his problem. The result of all this was that there was no further contact between the Hotz family and Bella and Isidore. Bella’s children, in their youth, had no idea that the Hotz family were their cousins!

As Isidore’s feather broking business continued to improve, he was able to build a beautiful home for his family, situated in Adderley Street, Oudtshoorn. This home built of Oudtshoorn sandstone, featuring two large front gables with three half round turrets adjoining, the centre turret having the Jewish “Magen David”, (star of David) as a centre piece, is still standing to this day. Originally the large front porch was covered with a roof, supported by beautiful wooden trellace work of supporting columns and banisters. The home was built by the then well known firm of Simpson & Bridgeman.

Source: Derrick Lewis


Wulf Sanders, who by now had traveled the four continents, brought up and educated a large family of twelve children, established and built up a successful retail business, with the help of his sons, Harry, Lazarus, Moses, Max and Sam. However, by the year of 1910, Harry was no longer living in South Africa, having left for Canada in 1908. Lazarus, now a married man was living in Calvinia. Max, sadly died back in 1898 and Moses had died of diabetes in 1908. This left Sam, who very ably assisted his father in their now very large and successful department store of “W. Sanders & Sons, The One Price Store”.

Although fortunes were made at the time in the ostrich feather trade, Wulf Sanders refused to get involved, preferring to focus on the retail trade. Interestingly, although Wulf by 1902 had been living in the Cape Colony for 22 years, only applied in that year on the 2nd May, for “Letters of Naturalization. On the 1st May, 1908, Wulf and Lena signed a joint will drawn up and witnessed by that famous Afrikaans writer, poet, journalist and attorney, C.J. Langenhoven! The following year of 1909, Wulf was elected the Noble Master of the Oudtshoorn Lodge of the Grand Order of Israel. (The photo of this event was sent to me by Wilton Sanders).

Despite the untimely deaths of Max and Moses, life seemed to be treating the Sanders family kindly. By 1910, Sam Sanders was running the business, his father now taking a “back seat”. Bella and Annie were happily married. Emanuel Sanders was living in Melbourne, Australia. Young Simon was about to leave to study dentistry in London. Wulf Sanders was at his financial peak and it appeared that he was in good health. However, at the age of sixty eight, this amazing family man was struck down. Here’s how the Oudtshoorn Courant reported and wrote on Wulf’s passing on the 24th February, 1910:


As briefly stated in our last issue, the news that Mr Wulf Sanders, senior partner in the firm W. Sanders & Sons, drapers and outfitters, of High Street. Oudtshoorn, had died suddenly of apoplexy on Thursday morning, 24th February, came as a painful surprise to the inhabitants of this town. We understand that only the evening before, he was at the Olympia Rink, apparently in his usual health and spirits, and chatted in his customary amiable manner with a number of friends.

When the seizure came Drs. Jacobson and Stusser were soon in attendance, but he was practically beyond human help before any assistance could be offered. The late Mr Sanders was born in Mitau, a town in the province of Courland, Russia, not far from Riga, in 1842, and was thus 68 years old at his death. He traveled practically all over the world, until in 1882, he finally settled at Oudtshoorn with his family. For many years he carried on a general dealer’s business in St John’s Street, but just a decade ago he and some of his sons took over the large business of R. Lea and Co., and Cleghorn and Harris, at the corner of High and St John’s Streets, and they soon, by their enterprise and energy, took front rank among the drapery and outfitting firms in the South-Western Districts – in fact “Sanders” has become a household word throughout the country-side. The deceased gentleman leaves a wife and large family of sons and daughters to mourn their loss. Of his many children several were born and educated in Oudtshoorn, and most of them are with us today. The late Wulf Sanders was a man of particularly agreeable manners and address. He was a keen observer on his many travels, and was a pleasant conversationalist. A man not given to pushing himself arrogantly forward, but always in his quiet way, able to hold his own when argument was forced upon him; he was a loving husband and father, a sincere friend and an upright and honourable man in business. The very high respect in which he was held in Oudtshoorn was illustrated by the fact that his funeral on Friday afternoon was one of the largest witnessed in Oudtshoorn for many a long year, and that the business places in the town were closed.

A most amazing obituary! It certainly gives one a clear picture of the character of Wulf Sanders. What a loss his passing must have been to Lena and all the family. A world- traveled man who was obviously kind and loving by nature and who cared for both his family and friends.

The local newspaper reported further on the actual funeral:


At the time of his demise, Mr Sanders was Noble Master of the Oudtshoorn Lodge of the Grand Order of Israel, and the members of that body took charge of the arrangements for the obsequies. At 4.30 p.m., over sixty members marched from the Municipal Hall, where the Lodge had been opened, to the residence of the deceased, the procession was headed by two brethren with wands joined by the “Shield of David”, which was draped in black, and following were the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree members, the Guardian, with drawn sword, and the officers coming last. Arrived at the residence of the deceased the files opened out and the Past Master, the Rev E. Lipkin, Rabbi of the St John Street Synagogue, accompanied by eight brethren, entered and brought out the coffin, which was followed by the mourners and carried by alternate relays of 16 brethren to the Municipal Hall. There, in the body of the Open Lodge, Bro. the Rev. E. Lipkin spoke a few deeply impressive words, and with his four sons chanted the mournful and pathetic Hebrew Prayer for the Dead. The coffin was then placed on the hearse, the horses outspanned and the same sixteen members of the Order who carried it from the house, drew it up to the cemetery. The long procession passed along High Street and turning up Rest Street halted at the Masonic Lodge Cango, No. 2088, E.C., of which the deceased had for many years been a member. The Masons here took the lead of the procession, in their usual formation, wearing white ties and gloves and carrying sprigs of acacia. Arrived at the grave, the Rev M. Woolfson, Rabbi of the Queens Street Synagogue, where the deceased used to worship, read portion of the Jewish ritual and delivered a feeling eulogy on the dead. This was followed by an address, prayer and Masonic oration by Worshipful Brother F. Muller Rex, Past Master of Cango Lodge. The brethren then sang three verses of the beautiful hymn “Days and moments quickly flying”, and as Wor. Bro. Rex spoke the impressive “last words” they dropped their sprigs of acacia into the grave and the ceremony was concluded.

What an impressive funeral ceremony! Wulf Sanders was given a “Masonic Funeral”. A fitting tribute to a wonderful man. The “outspanning of the horses” refers to a most strange incident as recalled by Bella Israelsohn, many years later. She said that after they placed her father’s coffin on the hearse, the horses refused to move, no matter how hard the brethren tried. The Brethren of the Lodge then decided to pull the hearse themselves all the way up the hill to the cemetery, being quite a long distance from the Municipal Hall!

The Rev E. Lipkin referred to in this report, left the Oudtshoorn Jewish community in the 1920’s, being appointed minister of the new Park Avenue Synagogue, in East London, South Africa. “Brother F. Muller Rex” was a descendant of the family of George Rex, the founder of Knysna, who was rumoured (now since disproved) to be the illegitimate son of the late King George 111 of England and his mistress, Hannah Lightfoot.

Source: Derrick Lewis


Bella Israelsohn was totally devastated at the sudden death of her beloved father, a father who confided in her and was closer to her than his other children. However, she now had children of her own and on the 22nd October, 1911 she gave birth to a son, whom she named, Wulf, in memory of her late father. As mentioned earlier in our story, Isidore Israelsohn had built a beautiful home for his young family in Adderley Street, Oudtshoorn. On warm summer nights, the children used to sleep outside on the large porch. The turrets on the roof were a favourite place for the boys, where they used to climb up onto the roof and pretend that these turrets were part of the “family castle” which they defended against all kinds of “invaders”. Rugby was played on the front lawn and when the Karoo wind was blowing the boys and their sisters used to walk up the hill above Adderley Street and fly kites.

By 1914, the Israelsohn family became the proud owners of their first motor car, a 15 h.p. Napier. Isidore couldn’t drive, so he employed a “coloured” man by the name of Andries Rhoode to act a chauffeur and boy Friday. Andries looked like a typical member of the San tribe and became the first person of colour to obtain a drivers licence in Oudtshoorn. Andries married to family cook, Johanna and many years later, after leaving the employ of the Israelsohns, he settled in Pacaltzdorp, in the district of George, where he operated a taxi service. I actually met Andries many years later, when he was an elderly man. He recalled that Wulf (Woolf) Israelsohn, Bella’s youngest son, used to play “motor cars” with him. Young Wulf would sit behind the wheel of the parked car and Andries would sit in the rear seat. Wulf would ask Andries: “Where do you want to go to Andries?’ and Andries would reply: “Please Master Wulfie, drive me to P.V.’s”. (short for Prince, Vincent, a department store in Oudtshoorn).

Wulf was Bella’s favourite son, who as a young boy was always called in to meet her visiting guests, Bella being very proud of the fact that Wulfie had blonde hair and blue eyes! In spite of the collapse of the Ostrich feather industry, Isidore and Bella managed to send their eldest son Mossie (Moses) to study medicine at the University of Cape Town.

Isidore gave up his ostrich feather brokerage and returned to retailing, opening up a general dealer store, with the help of some of his old farming clients. Bella and her son Joe worked in the store to assist Isidore . This was quite something for Bella, who up to this time lead the life of a lady. Young Wulf was attending school at the Oudtshoorn Boys High. Bella’s daughter, Debbie, inherited the Sanders love for music and was enrolled in the Oudtshoorn Music College, where she excelled as a pianist, enjoying experimenting with the new age of syncopated jazz.

Despite financial hardships, many happy family evenings were held at the Israelsohn home in Adderley Street, gathering around the old upright German piano “Consohn Bru & Co, Berlin” (given to Bella as a wedding gift from her parents), with Debbie at the keys, accompanied by Wulf on the ukulele, with Joe and his aunt Ethel, joining in singing popular songs of the day.

Bella’s mother, Lena, who was now widowed, had her youngest daughter, Sarie living with her. As the matriarch of the family, a mother of twelve and a supportive wife of one of Oudtshoorn’s leading businessmen, Lena had led a full and busy life. Coming from the shtetl of Suwalki, Poland; traveling all the way on her own, as a young teenager, to Memphis, Tennessee; marrying and then moving on to London; setting up homes in Melbourne, Riga, Mowbray and finally Oudtshoorn, must have taken its toll on her. By 1917 her mind was going and was probably either suffering from alzheimer’s disease or a brain tumour. In 1918, the family decided to send poor Lena to Valkenberg Mental Hospital, in Cape Town, for treatment. She never returned. Far removed from her loving family, she only survived for a few more weeks and passed away on the 12th December, 1918, from “senile dementia”.n the Oudtshoorn Courant six days later:


The death of Mrs W. Sanders, relict of the late Wulf Sanders, which we greatly regretted to record in last issue, died at the age of 70 years. The deceased lady went to Cape Town for treatment some few weeks ago, but unfortunately too late for any beneficial results to accrue. Her death has created a gap in Oudtshoorn, where she resided for 34 years participating actively in the benevolent work of the community.

The purity and beauty of her home was an inspiration to all who knew her and by her devotion to the highest spirit of Judaism earned the love and respect of all with whom she came into contact.

Affliction sore, some months she bore
All human skill was vain,
But God, her chief, gave her relief,
And freed her from her pain.

She leaves several sons and daughters and grandchildren to mourn her loss and to them we extend our deepest sympathy.

Lena Sanders is buried in the Maitland cemetery, Cape Town. Amusingly, Anne Biderman recalls her mother, Cissie Kaplan telling her that Great Grandmother Lena was quite a tartar! Not surprisingly considering that the poor woman was pregnant for 108 months of her life!

Source: Derrick Lewis


Minnie Sanders, who was born at sea, en route from Melbourne to Riga, was the romantic daughter in the Sanders family. A good pianist like her sister Bella, but unlike Bella, who seemed to know what she wanted, Minnie had a string of suitors. By 1903, Minnie’s older sisters, Annie and Bella were already both married. Max Levenson, who was a friend of Minnie’s brothers, had his eyes set on her. Minnie was an attractive and sensual looking young lady from a wealthy home. A courtship followed and Minnie succumbed to Max’s charms and agreed to marry him. The marriage took place on the 6th November, 1903. Once again another Sanders wedding was reported by the local paper:


A very pretty wedding was celebrated last Wednesday in the Synagogue, Queens Street, Oudtshoorn, when, in the presence of a large attendance of relatives and friends, Miss Minnie Sanders third daughter of W. Sanders Esq., of Oudtshoorn, was joined in wedlock to Mr Max Levenson. The bride was given away by her father and mother, and looked very charming in a rich dress of white China silk, with court train, trimmed with real lace and silk medallions, and wearing the usual veil and wreath of orange blossoms.

Her pretty shower bouquet consisted of white roses and ferns and was tastefully made up. She was attended by three flower girls, the Misses Sarah and Ethel Sanders, sisters of the bride, and her niece, Miss Sarah Nurick. They looked very sweet in white Japanese Empire dresses and carried shepherd crooks trimmed with white silk ribbon, fastened by bouquets of white roses and violets. The bridegroom was very able assisted by Mr and Mrs Israelsohn. The canopy supporters were-: Messrs. L. Levenson, M.L. Israelsohn, E. Sanders and M. Israelsohn, a duty which was well performed by these gentlemen. The bride’s mother wore a beautiful navy shot silk gown with a bonnet to match and carried a lovely bouquet of white roses and ferns. The officiating minister was the Rev. Mr Woolfson, who was assisted by Mr Balkin.

Before uniting the happy couple the Rev Woolfson delivered a short and impressive address in which he said: “That they have assembled today there to enter into a very solemn conclave and one which is the most holiest of contracts. Under the canopy they will have to answer and promise to God as well as man to do their duties to each other. He trusted that they have a very long and prosperous life. He reminded them individually of their respective duties and ended by saying that he will give them the same blessing as Jacob of old gave to his children, that is “May God Bless you both.” The ceremony was then proceeded with the bridegroom performing the final rites.

Congratulations then poured in from all side on the happy couple and when they left the Church they were greeted with showers of rice and rose leaves. A reception was afterwards held by the bride’s parents at their residence in St John’s Street, where numerous wedding presents were on view and much admired.

One of the flower girls, Sarah Nurick, was the daughter of Annie and Isaac Nurick. The bridegroom obviously had no parents in Oudtshoorn and it was Isidore and Bella Israelsohn who “supported” him. The pole holders (canopy supporters) were: L. Levenson, brother of Max; M.L. (known as MLI) Israelsohn, brother of Isidore; Emanmuel Sanders, brother of Minnie and Meyer Israelsohn, brother of Isidore.

Amusingly the news reporter got slightly confused with a Synagogue and a church! The descriptions of the fashions worn that day are wonderful, in fact these various wedding reports give one an excellent idea of what life was like in those early days of the Oudtshoorn Jewish community. One can get a feel of the respect, that most Jews enjoyed from the non-Jewish citizens of the town. The Oudtshoorn Courant was at pains to make sure that no single religious denomination was offended in its news coverage.

It is interesting to note that back in 1893, the Rev M. Woolfson of Oudtshoorn wrote the following letter to the editor of the Cape Times, in response to an article on the Russian Jews of Oudtshoorn. The letter being published also in the Oudtshoorn Courant:

Sir,- I have been the minister in charge of the Hebrew congregation here for the last five years, and in that capacity desire to protest in the strongest manner possible against the false charges contained in an article published in the “Volksbode” of the 23rd February last, made against the Jews of the place. That most of the Jews here are of Russian descent, and that they come to this colony in poor circumstances. I am quite willing to admit, but that they have been enriching themselves at the expense of the farmer, or that the poorer farmers have been shamefully treated by them, I most emphatically deny, and I challenge the writer of that barefaced and scurrilous article to bring forward one single instance in which such cases have occurred and to support it with proper proof. I would ask him to state how many ostrich feather buyers, who are not members of the Jewish persuasion, with ample means at their command, have tried to establish a feather business here and have not succeeded, and is it likely that the ostrich farmer, if he has been cheated or in any way defrauded by the Jewish feather buyer, would continue to do business with him instead of the rich Christian feather buyer? Let the writer of that mendacious article also inform the public how many cases have occurred where the farmer has been obliged to summon the Jew for a breach of contract of purchase of ostrich feathers; and on the other hand, how many farmers who have received large cash advances have been sued by the Jew for a breach of contract of sale, and then the public will learn, to use a homely expression, that the boot is entirely on the other leg. Many respectable persons have told me that if the Jews were to give up feather buying, both trade and commerce in this town would collapse. When the poor Russian Jew in needy circumstances comes to Oudtshoorn, his co-religionists club together and assist him with goods to go about hawking, and his subsequent success is mainly due to his energy, hard work and perseverance. From my own knowledge, I am in a position to state that the much-maligned Russian Jew is ever ready to help in a substantial manner towards any charity, no matter what the creed or denomination may be.
I am etc,.
M. Woolfson
Oudtshoorn, March 3.

What a most interesting well written letter. One wonders if this is the writing of the Rev Woolfson or if he was helped by one of his congregants? In any event, it was a typical case of anti-semitism based on false rumour.

The Levensen/ Sanders marriage unfortunately, did not follow the Rabbi’s advise of “the most holiest of contracts”. Although Minnie received wonderful gifts from her family; her parents presenting her with a baby grand piano as a wedding present; Max and Minnie for some unknown reason could not make the marriage work. After their honeymoon, Max left Minnie, who was already pregnant, and disappeared. The family were shocked. It seemed that all Max was interested in was Minnie’s dowry! Her brothers searched all over for him, even in the United States. Apparently, Sam Sanders found Max purely by accident, in London. It is told that Sam grabbed Max by the scruff of his neck and threatened him that unless he immediately arrange a “get” (a Jewish divorce), the Sanders family would sue Max for damages. Unfortunately for Minnie, Max did not oblige and was never ever seen again! This caused great problems for poor Minnie, because according to Jewish law, she couldn’t remarry unless she had a proper Jewish divorce, i.e. a “Get”. A document dated 1913, found in the National Archives of South Africa states the following:

“Illiquid case, Minnie Levenson, born Sanders, versus Max Levenson: action for the restitution of conjugal rights

In 1904, Minnie, as a single parent, gave birth to a son she named Nathan. When Nathan or Nattie as he was called, grew up, he joined the local police force. Who knows whether stories of the disappearance of his father had a bearing on his decision to become a detective. Nat was the first Jewish detective in Oudtshoorn and was apparently involved in the solving of a diamond smuggling case.

Source: Derrick Lewis


In 1913, Minnie received a postcard from her youngest brother Simon Sanders, who was attending dental school in London. The postcard was addressed to: Mrs M. Levenson, c/o W. Sanders & Sons, Oudtshoorn.:

Guys Hospital
10 January 1913

Dear Minnie,
Hope you have enjoyed holiday at Humewood. I could do with a bit of the beach myself. Rather cold here. Hope to write soon to Ethel & yourself. So do not consume all the figs & pears in garden.

Yours to a fig!

Minnie had obviously been visiting Port Elizabeth, holidaying at Humewood, which was well known for its beach. His humour regarding her “eating of the fruit” is quite amusing.

Minnie’s only child, Nattie married a lady by the name of Reeva. The young couple had two children; a son, Leslie and a daughter, Pat. Sadly poor Minnie lost her son at a very young age, Nat having died at the age of 44 in 1949. Minnie however enjoyed having her grandchildren living nearby as she was now living in Cape Town at Highlands House. Her grandson, Leslie, became a medical doctor, practicing in Bellville, just outside of Cape Town. Minnie was very proud of her “Doctor” grandson! Leslie married Rose Spector. They adopted a baby girl by the name of Avril, as they had no children of their own. Tragically, Leslie and his wife Rose were killed in a rail level crossing accident. Miraculously, their baby Avril survived and was discovered wandering around the bush, after the accident!

Minnie’s granddaughter, Pat married a doctor by the name of Morrie Basker. They have three children; Natalie, Linda and Allan. The Baskers live in Israel. Minnie passed away at the aged home, Highlands House in 1969 at the age of eighty- eight.

In 1907 Sam Sanders, met a twenty nine year old lady by the name of Gertrude Sachs, who came from wealthy German Jewish family, living in Berlin. Gertrude, or Trude, as she was known, was on a visit to Oudtshoorn, to see her sister, Jenny, who was married to Morris Lewin. The Sachs family originally came from Poznan. A romance followed and Sam and Trude were married in Holburn, London on the 17th June, 1907.

Sam brought his wife, Trude back with him to South Africa, where the couple settled in Oudtshoorn. It is understood that Trude wasn’t all that happy with the idea of living in a small county town , so far removed from the cultural life of Berlin. However both Sam and Trude played an important part in the affairs of the Oudtshoorn Jewish community.

Sam and Trude had two children. Aubrey (later known as Allan), was born on the 2nd May. 1908 in Oudtshoorn, his sister, Rhoda, was born two years later in 1910. After the death of Wulf Sanders in February, 1910, Sam became to sole proprietor of W. Sanders & Sons. In 1916 Sam Sanders was elected to the Oudtshoorn town council. Four years later, Sam was elected Mayor of Oudtshoorn. In that year of 1920, Sam and his wife, now the mayoress of the town, entertained the Prime Minister, General J. C. Smuts during his visit to Oudtshoorn. A photograph of Sam, Trude and Smuts can be seen in the C.P. Nel Museum, Oudtshoorn. Gaby Wicker recalls her father, Aubrey Sanders telling her that he refused to come out and be presented to this great statesman! Aubrey was twelve years old at the time.

During Sam’s term as mayor, the Governor Gerneral of South Africa, The Viscount Buxton also paid a visit to the town. At a reception held at the Recreational Grounds, “little Miss Rhoda Sanders presented Lady Buxton with a handsome basket of flowers and a bouquet to the Hon. Alethea Buxton”.

As a result of the collapse of ostrich feather industry, Sam’s brother- in- law, Isidore Israelsohn opened up his own general dealer store in 1921. An advert for this store, written in Dutch, which was at that time the official 2nd language of South Africa, appeared in the Oudtshoorn Courant:

HOOG STRAAT (naasten Gebrs. Bowles)

Nieuwe Zomer Goederen
Dres Materialen in Gewoon en Francie Kleuren.
Voiles, Dres Linen, Galeteas, Nurse Cloth, Geruit
Japanese Zyden in alle kleuren, Tussore Zyde,
Crepe de Chine, Goede Zwart Dres Materialen
Schoenen, Kousen waren, HOEDEN, ENS.



Bella and Isidore struggled and worked long hours to make a decent living and get their new business established. Sam Sanders assisted them financially by taking out a notarial bond on their home in Adderley Street.

With the death of his mother, Lena, in 1918, Sam began making plans in 1919 to sell the family business. His intention was to leave Oudtshoorn and settle in Berlin, Germany with his wife and children. ( One can only presume that Trude must have had something to do with this.) To this end, during May of 1919, Sam transferred the business of W. Sanders & Sons into the name of a company. He appointed his store managers, Mr Lumb and Mr Middleman as directors of the company. Sam then announced that he would be retiring from active participation in the business and he and his wife, Trude, went on an extended holiday to Europe. A year later, July, 1920, Sam sold the company of W. Sanders & Sons to his erstwhile shippers and business associates, Cleghorn & Harris, for the sum of £20 000. Messrs. Lumb and Middelmas remained on as joint managing directors.

Cleghorn and Harris continued to trade under the name of W. Sanders & Sons until the disastrous fire that destroyed the building in 1927. It was thought that a hot electric iron that was left on in the tailoring department caused the fire. According to Michael Cleghorn, all documents, customer accounts and records were lost and as a result they battled to recover the debt owing to them by their customers. Cleghorns never reopened and so the name Sanders as a business institution for over forty two years, came to an end in Oudtshoorn

Source: Derrick Lewis


Although not much is known about Sam and Trude’s wedding, the discovery of an article that appeared in the Oudtshoorn Courant dated 30th June, 1920, refers to the best man at Sam’s wedding:


Captain D.J. Irving Scott, who left London for South Africa six weeks ago, is on a flying visit to Oudtshoorn. Captain Scott was bestman at the wedding of our present Mayor and Mayoress, Mr and Mrs Sam Sanders, in Europe and it was rather a curious coincident that after visiting the Caves, he should discover that the signatures immediately preceding it were those of Mr and Mrs Sam Sanders, who had evidently been there just before him

Sam Sanders, the successful businessman, was also a loving husband and father, supportive of his large family and interested in public affairs. To give one an idea of his character, here are two examples of post cards he sent, one to his brother, Harry and one to his niece, Debbie Israelsohn:

Hackney, April (?)

Dear Harry,

Pleased to hear you are kept busy, so am I, but on a different scale.

With best regards to Moe, Wheeler & Millard.

Trusting you are all well.

From Sam.

Moe was Sam’s brother, Moses Sanders. Wheeler and Millard were most probably employees of Sanders. This postcard was addressed to “H. Sanders Esq., Box 30, Oudtshoorn, Cape Colony, South Africa.

The other postcard was addressed to Miss Deb Israelsohn, c/o Mrs I. Israelsohn, Adderley Street, Oudtshoorn.

Cape Town.

Dear Deb,

I have just a few minutes to spare, so send you this P.C. Your Uncle & Auntie are in great demand & invitations are pouring in from all sides. I can hear your Mother laugh and say: the Schnorohs! She knows this French expression. Trusting you are all keeping well, with love to your parents and all the others.

From your Aunt Trude, & Uncle Sam.

Well, well, so Sam could speak French! The Yiddish expression “schnorohs” means misers/ stingy people.

In 1921, Sam and Trude Sanders finally decided to leave Oudtshoorn and settle in Berlin, where Sam had already bought an interest in a tailoring business. Shortly before their departure, their only son, Aubrey had his barmitzvah at the Queens Street Synagogue on Saturday, 7th May, 1921. The following notice appeared in the Oudtshoorn Courant:


Mr and Mrs SAM SANDERS will be “at home” on Saturday evening, the 7th May, from 7.30 o’clock at the Good Templar’s Hall. All are cordially invited. No cards.

On the previous day, 6th May, a complimentary farewell banquet was given in honour of Sam and Trude, by a number of citizens, at the Imperial Hotel for about 50 friends. A ten course dinner was served in St Andrews Hall, chaired by the Mayor Mr De Jager.(It was said, that because of his close contact with the Jewish population of Oudtshoorn, De Jager spoke a fluent Yiddish!) In toasting Sam Sanders, Councilor De Jager said:

“That in his association with Mr Sanders, he had always found him a strong colleague, a true friend and a courteous opponent. It was a pity they were losing him, not only as a councilor, but as a citizen. As the Secretary and treasurer of the Governor-General’s Fund, he had done very arduous work and at a great sacrifice to himself.

He was generous to a degree and nobody appealed to him in vain. He coupled the name of that of Mrs Sanders in congratulating him in having won the esteem and respect of the town and took this opportunity of bidding them farewell. He felt sure Mr Sanders would be leaving with regret, and they would regret his departure and many would miss his geniality.”

One wonders was Sam “leaving with regret”? He was then presented with an illuminated address, surmounted by the Oudtshoorn Municipal Coat of Arms, being the handiwork of a Mr H. Jurisch. It was further stated that evening that:

“Sam Sanders departure would be very sadly felt by the Jewish community. He had been on almost every committee. He had as President of the Jewish Burial Society done good and noble work. As member of the Jewish Synagogue and on the Jewish School Committee he had proceeded to Cape Town at his own expense to interview the Administrator and was able to save the school from being closed. In conclusion he felt that all those good attributes had been put into effect by his wife”.

What a wonderful address! Sam had certainly made a good impression on the citizens of Oudtshoorn. One can liken him to his late father, Wulf Sanders, both good businessmen, charitable and kind hearted. At the banquet, it was reported that Sam replied to the address as follows:

“He thanked them very gratefully for drinking his health. He tried to do his duty without fear or favour, he had suffered the loss of one or two friends. His career in the Council had been both interesting and educative. Touching on the progressiveness of the town, he considered Oudtshoorn was backwards in many ways and they did not show the same progress as other towns in the Cape Province. Touching upon his 25 years in business, he decided in May, 1919 to go out of it. In July the business was floated into a company and to be truthful he was not sorry he had taken that step. (laughter). Speaking as a merchant as regards the present depression, he had been through worst times than these, things had brightened up and they had put matters on the right side.

In view of the economic situation in Oudtshoorn, at the time, and the world wide depression that was to take place in the late 1920’s, Sam’s decision to sell W. Sanders & Sons, in 1921 was not wrong! However his move to Germany, with hindsight was a disaster! His remarks about Oudtshoorn being “backwards”, sounded like Trude’s influence.

Source: Derrick Lewis


On the 13th May, 1921 Sam Sanders, his wife and children, left Cape Town on board the Union Castle Steamer “Walmer Castle”, bound for Southampton, London. After a short stay in London, the family moved on to Germany, where they settled in Berlin. His in-laws, the Sachs family living there, had persuaded Sam to invest in a textile business that was virtually insolvent at the time. Sam, in spite of his years of business experience, was unable to save the business and lost a lot of money in the process.

Sam managed to start up again, opening a small tailoring shop, specialising in “English styled” tailored suits. We are not sure how successful this new venture was, nor do we know whether Sam and his family were as financially comfortable in Berlin as compared to their lifestyle back in Oudtshoorn.

In 1934, Sam and Trude received visitors from South Africa, at their home in Berlin. Mr and Mrs Alex Comay of the town of George, in the Cape Province, were on a European holiday and as they knew Sam’s sister, Bella Israelsohn, who was now living in George, they called on Sam Sanders. Sam, in a postcard to his sister Bella, wrote that he met the Comays and was impressed with Alex. Alex Comay was at one time the mayor of George and it was because of his advise, that Isidore Israelsohn decided to open up a shop in the town.

Two years later, in 1936, at the relatively young age of 57, Sam died. The Oudtshoorn Courant reported at length on his death, in its 18th December edition:

Death of Mr Sam Sanders

Former Mayor of Oudtshoorn

The sad news was received yesterday of the death in Berlin on Sunday last of Mr Sam Sanders, once a highly esteemed and respected citizen of Oudtshoorn.

It was known that Mr Sanders had recently undergone an operation to his eye, but according to a letter received from his daughter, to his sisters in Cape Town. He had made good recovery. It appears that he contracted pneumonia and passed away after a brief illness.

The deceased was one of the younger sons of the late Mr Wulf Sanders and became sole partner of the old established and well-known firm W. Sanders & Sons, whose beautiful buildings at the corner of St John and High Streets was destroyed by a disastrous fire in September 1927.

Mr Sanders, who retired from business during the Great War period, took a great interest in the welfare of the town. He was a member of the Town Council for about five years. He served as Deputy Mayor under Mr S.H. Adley in 1918 and the following year was elected to the Mayorship.

Possessed of great energy, he never spared himself in the interests of the ratepayers, and carried out his duties very ably and conscientiously.

The deceased, accompanied by his wife and family, left Oudtshoorn for England in 1921 and after a short stay in that country, went to reside in Germany.

The Late Mr Sanders, who was 58 years of age, leaves to mourn a widow and one son and one daughter. He has four sisters residing in South Africa. To them the sympathy of the whole community will be extended.

With the rise of Hitler, Trude Sanders and her two children had to leave Germany. They managed to get to London and Trude was devastated to discover that money, supposedly left in a bank account there, for emergencies, was missing! According to her daughter, Rhoda, recalling this event, many years later, it was rumoured that her brother Aubrey had forged his father’s signature and had withdrawn the money! The family in South Africa assisted in bringing Trude and Rhoda back to Cape Town. Aubrey remained in London where he enlisted in the British army.

At the final stages of the war Aubrey became an army officer. He was in Germany at the end of the war, interviewing people to make up work groups to help with the regeneration of Brunswick. The fact that he had a faultless German accent, was seen as very suspicious by his fellow officers!

Trude and her daughter, Rhoda, set up home in Cape Town, living in a one bedroomed flat in Clarens Road, Sea Point. Rhoda, with her language skills, in English, German and probably French, got a job at the post office, checking letters. (There was censorship in South Africa during the war years). It is understood that mother and daughter struggled to make ends meet in those years. Anne Biderman, daughter of Cissie Nurick/Kaplan, remembers Rhoda as a beautiful and charming young lady.

Aubrey, Rhoda’s brother remained in London and married Patricia (Paddy) Wadeson on the 29th June, 1940 in Willesden. Aubrey and Paddy had three children; Josephine, Denis and Gabrielle. Josephine or Josie as she is known, is divorced without children; Denis, died a bachelor on 2002; Gabrielle or Gaby married Jonathan Wicker and has three children: Oliver, Jessica and Katherine. Gaby lives in the English Lakes District.

It is interesting to note that Aubrey, known as Alan, created an entirely separate life, far removed from his South African family and his Jewish roots, although he talked about them and obviously loved them deeply. He told his children many stories about the Sanders family and their world travels. He is remembered by his daughter Gaby, as an immensely talented and clever man: charismatic, charming, witty, musical, funny, intellectual, socially committed and totally individual. This could well have been the description of his grandfather, Wulf Sanders! Amazing how the musical genes in the Sanders family, have been passed down!

Aubrey and his wife had a hard life together and they struggled financially. His sister, Rhoda helped them on numerous occasions, especially when Aubrey was very ill with diabetes and had both legs amputated. Aubrey died on the 25th November, 1972.

After World War Two, Rhoda Sanders married her German born sweetheart, Jack Eisenberg by proxy, thereby enabling her to enter the United States as a “G.I. Bride”, as Jack had served in the US armed forces during the war. The couple settled in New Orleans, where Jack was employed as the manager of a department store. Rhoda, who was missing her beloved mother, Trude, wanted her to come and live with them in New Orleans. It seemed to make sense as Rhoda had no family left living in Cape Town. Two of Trude’s sisters died in concentration camps during the war.

A boat ticket was sent and at the end of 1948, seventy year old Gertrude Sanders left Cape Town for the last time bound for London, where she stayed with her son Aubrey for about six months, waiting for papers to enter the US.

She eventually sailed from Southampton for New York in February, 1949. Trude, who apparently was absolutely miserable and depressed after her daughter Rhoda left Cape Town, was overjoyed at the thought of being reunited with her daughter again. Tragically, this was not to be. Rhoda who was so happy at the thought of seeing her mother again traveled to New York to meet the ship, leaving her husband, Jack behind in New Orleans. She booked into a hotel for two days and on the day of the ship’s arrival, there was a knock on Rhoda’s hotel bedroom door. To her surprise, it was Jack, her husband. Rhoda thought that Jack had specially come to New York to be with her to greet Trude. Sadly, Jack told Rhoda the tragic news that her mother, Trude had passed away on board ship, the day before, on the 1st March 1949, en route to New York!

Rhoda and her husband Jack lived out the rest of their lives in New Orleans. Their home was situated at 6343 Canal Blvd., where over the years they entertained many South African friends and members of the family. Amongst others, Natie Miller of Cape Town visited them and stayed over in their house and in June, 1978, Philip and Fay Jaff of Johannesburg spent a weekend in New Orleans with them. (The Jaff family, trading under the name of “Delswa”, were one of the leading ladies clothing manufacturers in South Africa at that time)

Jack became the general manager of a department store in the city. On his retirement in 1977, he took Rhoda on a holiday trip to South Africa. This was Rhoda’s first return visit since leaving South Africa twenty- nine years earlier. The following year, Jack and Rhoda left New Orleans for Monte Carlo where they rented a little apartment for a month.

On the 22nd August, 1984, Rhoda suffered a fatal heart attack whilst undergoing leg by-pass surgery. Jack died six years later in 1990. The couple had no children and so this particular branch of the Sanders family came to an end.

Source: Derrick Lewis


In the late 1920’s, Bella and her husband Isidore Israelsohn, now both working together in their general store in Oudtshoorn, struggled to make a living. Their eldest son, Moses (Moss) having matriculated, was now attending medical school in Cape Town. His brother Joe, was now a commercial traveler, having taken on agencies. Wulf, Bella’s youngest son, was still at school, but assisted his father after school hours.

In 1925, a friend of the Israelsohns, Alex Comay, who had established a hardware store in the town of George and was also the mayor of the town, contacted them and suggested that Isidore open a new store in George. George, being situated at the foot of the Outeniqua mountains, on the coastal side, was not as badly effected by the ostrich feather slump. Comay felt that Isidore would make a far better living in his town.

Isidore decided to take Alex Comay’s advise and opened up a store in Hibernia Street, George, opposite the Boy’s Primary School. After a shaky start, Isidore’s new store started to make a profit.

The following advert appeared in the George and Knysna Herald, dated 25th August, 1926:

A Chance of a Lifetime


at Practically HALF COST PRICE
Seeing is believing! Roll Up!!


You will be pleasantly surprised to find your pound note going the length of three. Come early and secure your share of the bargains. Our sale will continue until our Stocks have been realized.

Large stocks of Men’s and Boy’s Shirts, Trousers, Jackets, Socks, Boots and shoes at ridiculously Low Prices.

Our large and up to date assortment of Ladies and Children’s Hats, well known to the Public of George, will be sacrificed at greatly reduced process.

Ladies and Childrens’ Shoes, practically half-cost

Note Address: I. ISRAELSOHN
Opposite Boys’ Primary School … Hibernia Street, George


Isidore decided to close down the shop in Oudtshoorn, and in 1927, the whole Israelsohn family moved to George. Isidore’s youngest son, Wulf left school at the age of 16, to join his dad in the business. As Isidores’s business improved, life for Bella and her family became easier.

With the collapse of the German currency, Isidore was able to settle his indebtedness to his brother-in-law Sam Sanders, who was living in Germany, and have the bond on his Oudtshoorn home cancelled. The house was sold and the little surplus money left over was re-invested in the business in George.

Joe Israelsohn, Bella’s second son had wanted to follow in his uncle Simon Sanders’ footsteps, and take up dentistry. At the time his parents were financially unable to put him through university, so Joe became a commercial traveler, saving whatever monies he could, for his university degree! With a great feeling of satisfaction and achievement, Joe finally made it to dental school, in 1929. He enrolled at the University of Johannesburg. Joe stayed with his aunt Ethel Mann, who was running a boarding house in the city.

Unfortunately this is one story that does not have a happy ending! Half-way through his first year at varsity, Joe took ill. Bella received the following letter from her sister Ethel:

36 Saratoga Avenue, Jo’burg. July 8th 1929.

My dear Bella,

Just a line to let you know how Joe is getting on. I am sorry to say he is not progressing as well as he should, as his ears & nose are giving him a great deal of trouble, & in consequence he still running a temperature & not out of bed yet.

Both Dave & I have been very worried so thought the best thing to do was to get an ear specialist in to see him, which the hospital Dr. already thought of doing. We went up to the hospital to find out all particulars & found that everything that can be done is being done, so we can only wait & see. I am sorry to worry you about this, but think it is only right that you should know.

I shall let you know how he is getting on in a day or two.

With much love to you and Isidore,
Your worried sister,

Shortly after receiving this letter, the George & Knysna Herald published the following report:

We are sorry to hear that Mr Joe Israelsohn, son of Mr and Mrs I. Israelsohn of George, has been critically ill at Johannesburg, as the result of a bad attack of scarlet fever. Last week his parents received telegraphic advise that a serious operation would be necessary, and they immediately left for the North. Later: The sad news is since received, that Joseph passed away before his parents reached the end of the journey.

What a sad ending for such a young man! Joe was only twenty two at the time of his death. His parents obviously took the train from George to Johannesburg, but just did not make it in time. His sister, Deb remembered him as one of the kindest persons she knew and a truly loving son and brother.

The following week Joe’s obituary appeared in the George & Knysna Herald:

Last week we only had time to make a brief mention of the loss, which Mr and Mrs Israelsohn of George, had sustained by the sudden death of their second son, Joseph, which took place at Johannesburg, following on complications after scarlet fever.

The young man was in the prime of his life, twenty two years of age, and had been assisting his father in his store for some time, but his mind was set in becoming a dental practitioner, and a few months ago he entered the Johannesburg University to study dentistry. Joseph was a popular young man in George, the picture of health, and we are told he carried that popularity with him when he went to University.

The loss that Bella and Isidore sustained must have been very difficult to overcome. They looked to the rest of their children for strength and continued to progress in business. Their eldest son, brought his parents some joy and happiness, qualifying as a medical doctor. During his final year at varsity, Moss married a fellow student, Bess Rodman of Cape Town.

Moss and Bess Israelsohn settled in the Boland town of Robertson, where Moss had his first medical practice. Some years later they moved to a farming village in the Eastern Cape, by the name of Hankey, which was situated in the Gamtoos Valley, not too far from Port Elizabeth. Moss and Bess had two children, a daughter, Wilma (named after Great Grandpa Wulf Sanders); Wilma followed in her father’s footsteps and became a doctor; and a son, Joel, named after his late uncle Joe.

Isidore Israelsohn, with the assistance of his youngest son, Wulf, built up a good business in their little store in Hibernia Street, George. In fact their position improved sufficiently that by 1934, they were able to buy their own home, situated at 72 York Street, George as the housing market had not recovered fully from the depression. The Israelsohns had previously rented homes in Meade Street. The York Street home was to be the Israelsohn family home for the next fifty years!

Source: Derrick Lewis


An interesting development took place in January, 1926: Cleghorn & Harris, who purchased the old Sanders business in Oudtshoorn in 1921, decided to follow Isidore Israelsohn’s example and branch out in George. They opened a store there under the name of W. Sanders & Sons, under the management of a Mr A.W. Hird. This store was also situated in Hibernia Street, which was becoming the main business street of George at that time. One wonders how Bella Israelsohn must have felt, having her late father’s name emblazoned on a competitor’s shop.

However, after the Sanders store burnt down in 1927, Cleghorns decided to call it a day, both in Oudtshoorn and George. The Oudtshoorn business was never rebuilt and Cleghorns sold their George branch of Sanders to a Mr Meyer Schlugman. Coincidentally, Schlugman’s wife, Yetta, was related by marriage to the Nurick family. As the Israelsohns and the Schlugmans were best of friends at that time, Bella persuaded Meyer Schlugman to alter the name of his store to Sanders & Co. Sanders and Co was eventually sold to Mary Harris, the wife of Dr Joe Harris, originally of Uniondale.

In the 1927, Isidore Israelsohn advertised in the June edition of the George and Knysna Herald:
For Sales may Come and Sales may go, but we go on for ever giving you the best values possible! When out shopping call first at our Store. You will be amply repaid.

Isidore’s youngest son, Wulf proved to be a born salesman and an excellent retailer. He however, had totally different and more modern ideas of retailing in mind! Wulf and his father argued and fought about bringing in a “change” of business style. Although Isidore’s shop was the first store in George to have illuminated display windows, lit by paraffin lamps (George in the 1920’s had not yet been electrified), Wulf wanted to open a totally new store based on the big city department store style.

The year 1935, was the watershed year in Wulf’s life. The George Divisional Council announced that they intended to sell the vacant land that they owned, alongside the George Post Office in Hibernia Street. Wulf saw this as a wonderful opportunity to relocate to this better section of Hibernia Street and open a brand new shop.

A solution to who was going to purchase this land and erect a building, suitable enough for Wulf’s intended department store, came in the person of a Mr Gutstein. Gutstein, a businessman from Port Elizabeth, was in George on a “footwear” buying trip. (a large footwear factory operated in George in those early years). Wulf met up with Gutstein and managed to convince him that, instead of purchasing a consignment of shoes for his business in Port Elizabeth, he should use the money to buy the land from the Divisional Council and later build a store, which Wulf would lease.

Gutstein, agreed to buy the land and with Wulf’s input on shop design, built an imposing building on the site, consisting of three adjoining shops. Wulf leased all three and converted them into one large store. The story goes that Isidore either had no idea what his son was up to, or that he was not all that happy with Wulf’s plans. Where was the finance coming from for the fitting out and stocking up of the new shop?

Obviously, Wulf must have looked to the bank and to his father’s existing suppliers for help in financing this ambitious venture. In this regard, one of the clues can be found in the following notice that appeared in the George and Knysna Herald of October, 1935:


Notice is hereby given that ISIDORE ISRAELSOHN, carrying on the business under the style of I. Israelsohn, as a Draper and Outfitter of Hibernia Street, George, has admitted WULF ISRAELSOHN also of George, as a Partner in the said business, which shall continue to be carried on under the style of I. ISRAELSOHN, aforesaid.

It is hereby further notified that the partnership has taken over all the Assets and Liabilties of the said ISIDORE ISRAELSOHN in respect of the business heretofore carried on by him.

Dated at George, this 29th Day of October, 1935. MILLER & MILLER Attorneys for the Parties. Hibernia Street, George.

Wulf, whilst working for his father, met John Garlick of Cape Town, the chairman of a large department store in the city, trading as “Garlicks”. Very much in the same way that the Cleghorn family assisted Wulf’s grandfather Sanders, before him, the Garlick family helped Wulf Israelsohn get started, by selling him their old serving and display counters and also by acting as his shippers. Furthermore they permitted Wulf to include his orders for ladies dresses together with those of Garliks, thereby enabling Wulf to benefit from Garliks far larger buying power.

On Saturday, the 30th November, 1935, at the age of twenty four, Wulf Israelsohn open up, what was at the time, the largest department store in George. He called his new store, “RALSONS”, an acronym of the surname Israelsohn. The shop was an instant success. His father, realizing that it would be best to join his son in the new store, rather than continuing on his own, closed down his general dealer store, after trading for ten years opposite the boys primary school.

The local George newspaper reported the opening of “Ralsons” as follows:

Ralson’s New Store

A notable addition to the shopping centre of George was opened on Saturday morning when Ralsons, the new and fashionable store of Messrs. I. Israelsohn & Son, in Hibernia Street, next to the Post Offfice, threw open their doors to the public. This fine store is to be run on modern lines with its many departments, and to celebrate the occasion Messrs. Ralsons have stocked it with entirely new goods. Extremely well lighted and ventilated, the building is fitted with huge plate glass windows which, we have little doubt, will form an attractive display in the hands of this firm. Inside, each department is arranged with its own serving counter, and private fitting rooms are neatly arranged in inconspicuous corners. Ralsons bring to George a department store modeled on the lines of city firms.

This report sure says it all! Wulf had achieved his boyhood dream of owning a big department store, like the famous W.Sanders & Sons. Both Isidore, Bella and their daughter, Deb, assisted young Wulf in the new business of “Ralsons, drapers & outfitters”, a name that was to become well known and admired, country wide over the next fifty years!

In 1943, the story goes that the Schlugmans, who were trading under the name of Sanders & Co., a few doors away from Ralsons, became very annoyed and jealous of the Israelsohn’s success in their new business venture. Meyer Schlugman contacted Mr Gutstein, who was Wulf’s landlord, and offered him a higher rental than what Wulf was paying. This made Gutstein realize that his investment had become very valuable and decided that instead of leasing out the building, he would not renew Wulf’s lease and would rather open up his own store! (As a result of this, the Israelsohns never ever spoke to the Schlugmans again.)

However, Wulf apparently had a first refusal option in the lease to buy the building. Wulf, who was on leave from the army (he had joined up during the early years of W.W.11), together with his brother, Dr Moss Israelsohn, went to see the local manager of Barclays Bank for finance. On the basis of Ralsons success and Moss’s professional title, the bank granted Wulf the necessary finance to buy Ralsons building from Gutstein. The price paid was £6000, which was reported in the papers as the biggest property deal in the history of George at that time!

Source: Derrick Lewis


During the war years, the economy of George grew as a result of the opening up of an air school, where 800 English student pilots were being trained for the Royal Air Force. Ralsons enjoyed the spin-off of the improved economic climate and by the time World War Two was over, Wulf Israelsohn and his shop Ralsons were financially fully established. George being part of that beautiful coastal strip, known as the “Garden Route”, with its sea side resort and honeymooner’s favourite, “The Wilderness”, enjoyed a tourist boom, even in the 1940’s.

The fame of Ralsons being the upmarket store of George, did not go unnoticed by the “criminal population” of the town! A break-in to the shop took place and rather amusingly, Wulf placed an advert in the local newspaper, using the incident as theme for the advert:

Burglars Choose Ralsons for a Midnight RAID Why?

always shows discrimination in his choice of articles. That is why some (unwelcome) visitors on Tuesday night passed by other stores and made a bee-line for ours in Hibernia Street. We commend their wisdom and discretion in picking on us. They knew, and it proves our claim, that RALSONS Is the
And the store for “Smart” people.

They came all through the principal towns, too, and found our stocks the most attractive, so they did the job there and then at midnight, being too impatient to wait for the doors to open at 8 a.m. next day!

We do not expect you to act likewise – but take a tip from our nocturnal visitors – be attracted by our really modern displays, and come along any time between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. (Wednesdays 1 p.m., Saturdays 7 p.m.)


Phone   Next to Post Office
48 Ralsons Hibernia St. – George

Just before the outbreak of war in 1939, Bella Israelsohn’s only daughter, Deb, married Isidore Lewis of Cape Town. The wedding took place at the George Synagogue and was reported both in the Cape Argus and the George and Knysna Herald on the 9th August, 1939:

Synagogue Wedding

The wedding took place in the George Synagogue on Sunday of Miss Deborah(Deb) Israelsohn, only daughter of Mr and Mrs I. Israelsohn of George, and Mr Isidore Lewis, son of Mr and Mrs S.M. Lewis of Aylwood, Muizenburg. The service was conducted by Rev. I. Wolk.

The bridesmaids were Miss Ronnie and Miss Pam Lewis, and Mr W. Israelsohn was the best-man.

Following the ceremony there was a wedding luncheon at the George Hotel at which many guests were seated. Telegrams of congratulations came from many parts of the Union. Later Mr and Mrs Lewis left for Knysna en route to the Victoria Falls for the honeymoon.

In 1943, Isidore Israelsohn was elected President of the George Hebrew Congregation. At the end of that year on the 29th December, an inter-denominational service was held at the George Synagogue, which was attended by, amongst others, The Bishop of George, the Rt. Rev Gwyer and the Rev. A.R. de Villiers.

Isidore Israelsohn’s address to the congregation was reported in the papers:

Mr Israelsohn stressed the need for every effort to be made to assist the war and to wipe out the last vestiges of Nazism. Everyone who could, should join the fighting forces, and those who could not do so, should assist willingly and generously with funds to carry on the fight.

Interestingly, on the 24th February, 1943, Wulf Israelsohn managed to get a discharge from the army on the basis of his father’s ill health and inability to manage the business on his own.

The fortunes of the Israelsohns and their store, Ralsons, went from strength to strength. Wulf Israelsohn was now the eligible bachelor of the town, and with his blonde hair, blue eyes and good looks, was every Jewish mother’s answer in hoping to make a “shiddach” for their daughters. Wulf was given the nick-name “Prince of Wales”, due to an uncanny likeness to Edward, who gave up the throne “for the woman he loved”. Wulf was actually far better looking, an excellent golfer, a good yachtsman and a charming partner on the dance floor. Add to this good business acumen and successful retailing, its no wonder that he had these Jewish mothers in a flap!

Tragically, in 1946, Bella’s son –in-law, Isidore Lewis, (my father), was struck down by a fatal coronary heart attack. I was only three years old at the time, but to this day still remember him falling down right in front of me! It was decided that it would be best for my mother and I to leave Muizenberg and come and live in George with my grandparents, Bella and Isidore Israelsohn.

Source: Derrick Lewis


The year of 1947, great excitement, Wulf had just returned home from Port Elizabeth, after a visit to General Motors, with his first post-war motor car, a brand new Pontiac Chieftain Fleetmaster. The Wilderness became Wulf’s playground, the George Golf Club his sporting base.

In 1949, Wulf renovated his shop by adding new stockrooms, a new office and a garage to house his “Pontiac”. Everything seemed to be going well for the family. Unfortunately, by September of that year, Isidore took ill. The family were worried. Could it have been something he had eaten, bearing in mind that they had just celebrated Rosh Hashona? Isidore was admitted to hospital where it was diagnosed that he was suffering from appendicitis. Unfortunately for Isidore the local surgeon was not available and the family doctor, Dr Harry Mann, was called in to do the operation, in spite of the fact that Mann was not a surgeon. As the situation was acute, there was no other solution.

Isidore survived the operation but his health continued to deteriorate. Bella was very worried and telephoned her son, Dr Moss Israelsohn, who was practicing in the farming districts of Hankey and Patensie, at the time. Moss had the contract to look after the health of the railway workers in the district and was also a part time citrus farmer. On receiving the call from his mother, Moss immediately set out for George in his new “Fluid drive” Dodge.

It did not take long for Moss to diagnose that poor Isidore was suffering from peritonitis. Isidore was rushed back to hospital for another operation, but sadly it was just too late. On the 6th October, he died in hospital. The following day the George and Knysna Herald printed this obituary:

A Long and Useful Life

It was with a sense of sincere regret Georgians heard on Friday morning that Mr Isidore Israelsohn had died the night before in the local hospital. His death came as a great shock to the public who knew him as a man of great friendliness and kindly nature. He was 76.

Mr Israelsohn was born in Courland, a former Balkin state, and came to South Africa at the age of 19; he settled at Oudtshoorn. He went into the ostrich feather trade, exporting to London. During the South African War, he married Miss Bella Sanders of Oudtshoorn.

After the First World War, Mr Israelsohn started a drapery store in Oudtshoorn and in 1925 opened a like business in George, which has developed into one of the town’s foremost emporiums.

For 52 years he was a Mason of Cango Lodge (Royal Arch) Oudtshoorn.

At the funeral service in the George Synagogue on Sunday morning, the Rev. I. Wolk said that Mr Israelsohn had been a man of great moral character, deeply conscious of the spirit and ideals of the Jewish faith and throughout his life he tried to live up to those ideals.

He served as president of the congregation for a long period carrying out his duties in a most dignified and honourable manner. He lived a long and useful life and the traditions he left behind, his way of life, and the man himself would long be remembered and cherished.

The community will join with us in extending to Mrs Israelsohn and her daughter and two sons, heartfelt sympathy.

Although Bella Israelsohn had to once again mourn the loss of a loved one, at least she was not on her own. Living with her at 72 York Street, George, were her son, Wulf, daughter Deb and grandson, Derrick. Her eldest son, Moss had now returned to his family in Hankey. Bella and Isidore were happily married for forty- eight years. Her son Moss felt that his father’s death could have been avoided if a specialist surgeon had carried out the appendix operation. From documents that have recently been uncovered, it appears that Isidore was already suffering from appendicitis as early as May, 1949. He had been admitted to hospital for observation, but was discharged on the 11th May without anything been done. The hospital board secretary, Mrs “Oompie” Meyer wrote a short note to Isidore on his hospital receipt slip:

I do miss your smiling face and may you soon get better. It is the smiles of the elderly people that keep us going and inspire us. Mrs Oompie Meyer.

Bella was now the oldest of the six surviving children of the original twelve Sanders children. Lazarus, now a widower, was living in Calvinia; Minnie was living in the old age home in Cape Town; Emanuel was living in Durban; Simon, who was living in the UK, passed away two years later in 1952; Ethel was living with her niece in Bulowayo.

Source: Derrick Lewis


In 1951, Wulf Israelsohn decided to go on a business trip/vacation to England and the Continent. On applying for a passport, Wulf was most surprised to discover that the authorities had his name spelled differently in their records! From that day onwards, Wulf changed the spelling of his name to “Woolf” as per his birth certificate. The trip he made hit the local headlines and was reported extensively in the George and Knysna Herald Overseas trips were at that time, being only six years after World War Two, not all that common in George. This is how the paper reported on Woolf’s return:

10 August 1951

And Sees the Blue Danube

Seeing the marvels of the Festival of Britain and the British Industries Fair, meeting Gracie Fields (on the Isle of Capri) who sang a request item, bathing with the Duke of Edinburgh (at the Lido in Venice) and sitting beside the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at a casino (in Paris), were some of the thrills of a four month trip to England and the Continent experienced by Mr Wulf Israelsohn. Mr Israelsohn made the trip over on the “Dominion Monarch” and returned by air.(KLM)

Woolf was the toast of the town, and enjoyed regaling his family and friends with all the adventures he experienced on his long four-month tour. During his absence from Ralsons, his sister, Deb and his mother, Bella, managed the business. As a token of his appreciation, the following year he sent his sister Deb on a one-month cruise to South America.

The Israelsohn family of “72 York Street” continued to prosper. Members of the Sanders and Israelsohn families from far and wide came to George to visit “Aunt Bella”. Wulf was now one of the leading businessmen of the town, but unlike his grandfather, Wulf Sanders, he never married, preferring to continue his quest for the “perfect” woman!

In April of 1955, Bella Israelsohn celebrated her 80th birthday in good health and good humour. She was by a now a familiar and respected figure in the town, taking her daily morning walks up York Street and in- to Hibernia Street to visit and check out if everything was “under control” at Ralsons! In the afternoons, after a little sleep (schlof), Bella used to take a walk into the country- side. The following year, July 1956, Bella was the “belle of the ball” at her grandson’s barmitzvah, taking to the floor with Derrick, at the opening dance at the dinner function held that evening at the George Hotel, much to the enjoyment and delight of the approximately three hundred invited guests.

In the 1950’s, summer holidays were enjoyed by the Israelsohn family during the Christmas to New Year week, where they booked into the well known “Wilderness Hotel”. Bella, a great conversationalist, was often the centre of attraction at the hotel, keeping her listeners enthralled with her stories of the Sanders family travels. Her favourite story was the one about the Confederate raider, the “Alabama”, attacking her father’s ship. One of her listeners, obviously slightly confused with time lines, remarked that Bella did not look all that old! The Alabama incident took place 100 years previously! Amusingly, when the Wilderness Hotel organized a Christmas carols evening, Deb, Bella’s daughter, assisted, playing on the hotel piano, accompanied by carol singers.

Bella recalled, that in her youth, her parents took the family to Mossel Bay for their annual summer holidays where they camped in a large tent near the beach. This tradition continued when she married and was still living in Oudtshoorn.

In February, 1968 at the age of 94, Bella, holding her new born great-grandson, David Lewis, remarked that “when David learns to walk, I’ll be walking in heaven”. Six months later, Bella passed away as a result of heart and lung failure. She had certainly lived through some most interesting times! She survived a heart attack at eighty five and lived to see many changes in the world around her. Her humour and liberal attitude towards life, and her level-headedness, even in the most difficult of times and tragic situations, will always be remembered. This is how the George and Knysna Herald remembered her:

Well-known woman dies.

George, Thurs.: Mrs Bella Israelsohn, well-known George personality who emmigrated with her parents from Australia in 1882 at the age of seven, died peacefully in her home at 72 York Street on Monday afternoon after a short illness. She was 94 years old.

Her father, Wulf Sanders was one of the pioneer Jewish businessmen to settle in Oudtshoorn where he established a large retail organization and where Mrs Israelsohn in her youth was a pianist with the old Oudtshoorn Orchestral Society under the direction of Mr. Hinds.

She married Mr Isidore Israelsohn in Oudtshoorn in 1902 (sic 1901) during the Anglo-Boer War and raised three sons and a daughter. The family settled at George in 1927 where Mr Israelsohn started a retail business opposite the Boys Primary School in Hibernia Street. He died in 1949.

Mrs Israelsohn is survived by her sons, Dr Israelsohn of Port Elizabeth, Mr Woolf Israelsohn, well-known George businessman and a daughter, Mrs Debbie Lewis, also from George.

With the death of Bella, the seemingly permanent structure of the family started to come apart. Woolf and his sister, Debbie were at odds regarding the home at 72 York Street, which Debbie inherited on the passing of her mother, Bella. As a solution to Deb’s financial problems (she was entirely dependant on an income as saleslady at Ralsons), Woolf offered to purchase the home for R35 000. Deb would then be able to live off the interest earned on the capital. Deb finally agreed and it was decided that she would move to Port Elizabeth and live with her sisiter- in-law, Bess Israelsohn. Bess’ husband, Moss had died of cancer during this period and Bess was now living all on her own at her home in Parsons Hill, Port Elizabeth.

Unfortunately, the move to Port Elizabeth in 1969 was far too traumatic for Deb, having lived with her mother since the death of her husband in 1946. Deb suffered a nervous breakdown from which she never truly recovered. She returned to George and found accommodation at the Gelderland Hotel, where she met a locum pharmacist. A romance followed and the two were married a few months later. Tragically, happiness for Deb was short lived as she died of a massive stroke in February, 1970, in the town of Cathcart. Deb was buried in the Jewish cemetery in the nearby town of Queenstown in the Eastern Cape

Sadly, within a space of two years, Moss Israelsohn, his mother, Bella and his sister Deb, had all passed away, leaving Woolf all on his own at 72 York Street, George, his only close relatives being his nephews, Derrick Lewis, living in Cape Town and Joel Israelsohn and niece, Wilma Highman, both living in the UK.

Woolf however, soon adjusted to living on his own and continued with his business Ralsons, albeit at a much slower pace. He still enjoyed his golf and traveled regularly overseas, visiting family and friends. Woolf had by now become an “institution” in the town of George, still a bachelor, and still managing to retain his good looks; and still showing interest in young ladies!

Source: Derrick Lewis


In December of 1969, the Het Suid-Western a local newspaper in George, reported the following:

Triumph for Wolfie in George Golf

GEORGE – Wolfie Israelsohn, who last week snatched the Hutcheson Floating Trophy, for the six best monthly medal rounds during the year, added to his laurels this week by winning the Annual Cup competed for by the winners of the monthly medals through the year.

Amazingly, ten years later at the age of 68, on the 28th November, 1979, Woolf scored a hole-in-one on the 15th on the George Golf Course. Two years later, Woolf sold his business, Ralsons, to a Johannesburg buyer. Another local newspaper, The Outeniqualander reported this deal on their front page:

Ralsons takeover

Ralsons, the men’s clothing store in George with an international reputation, has been sold for an undisclosed price.

Mr Woolf Israelsohn, known as Woolfie to generations of George people, bows out at the end of this month. But it’s the end of an era in the commercial life of George. Said Mr De Bruin (The buyer) this week: “Woolfie has style. He built a fantastic business known to discerning people throughout the world, thanks mainly to his exclusive overseas buying trips and visits from overseas clothiers touring the Garden Route”.

Woolfie, now aged 70, told me this week; “I preferred the bachelor’s life, so I never married. Now I have no one to take over the business – there’s a niece who is a doctor in London, a nephew who is a chartered accountant in London, and another nephew who has his own outfitting business in Cape Town”.

The following year, 1981, Woolf sold the old family home at 72 York Street and moved to Cape Town, where he bought an apartment on the Sea Point beach front. This was to be his last home for the next fifteen years until his death in 1996. Woolf continued to enjoy good health during his retirement, playing golf once a week at the Mowbray Golf Course and attending Rotary lunches every Tuesday. He still traveled overseas annually, mainly to Italy, and traveling to the island of Ischia, were he thoroughly enjoyed the hot springs and nudist beaches!

On the 25th February, 1996, virtually 86 years to the day, after the death of his grandfather, Wulf Sanders, Woolf Israelsohn passed away peacefully after suffering a short illness . He had developed a carcinoma on the lung which had spread to the brain. Woolf, the family icon, a legend in his own lifetime, was no more. He had inherited Wulf Sanders business acumen; was also a good golfer; a yachtsman; a world traveler; a ladies man,( but also able to charm his ladies’ men); a devoted son and an innovative but frugal man. A letter received by Woolf, during the war years, from an unknown girl friend, says it all:

27th March, 1944

Darling Wulf,

Just a few lines to tell you the things I left unsaid. I am sorry if sometimes I appeared remote and rationed you, as you termed it. I only want to say that I regret that we didn’t have time to know each other more intimately, perhaps it is better, it leaves the sweet fragrant thought of what might have been.

This holiday, without you, would have been a bore but this way it turned out not as a pleasant holiday but as a charming & lovable interlude that I shall never forget. I wish to thank you for your kindness, understanding and love; can I say love? Yes, I think I can; I have been in love with you for the past few days & you in love with me, by this word I do not mean to apply the standard & recognized meaning but our own tender interpretation.

Think of me sometimes and au-revoir to one day in the near future.
All my love & thanks,

Source: Derrick Lewis


The writing of the Sanders family story would not have been possible without the help and assistance of the many members of our family who were happy to share their anecdotes and memories with me. Most importantly of all, I am indebted to my late Grandmother, Bella Israelsohn, who inspired me as a young boy, to ‘take notes’ on the family history. Her amazing and colourful stories she told me, when I was a little boy, living with her in her home in George, sparked an interest in family history that has remained with me all these years.

The assistance of Kathy Drake, formally a librarian at the South African Reference Library, was absolutely invaluable. Her help in tracking down all those Oudtshoorn newspaper reports, obituaries and wedding notices is greatly appreciated. I must also thank the late Cyril Orolowitz for finding documents in the South African National Archives; Paul Cheifitz for pointing me in the right direction; the curator of the C.P. Nel Museum, who very kindly sent me many items of interest.

The family members in England, United States and Israel, were most supportive and helpful in emailing me and correcting many factual errors. Thanks goes to Lynn Franklin of Memphis, who found the marriage “Bond” document of Wulf and Lena Sanders; Bernice Marcus of St Louis, who was invaluable with the Lasky research; Anne Biderman of Jerusalem, Anne Harris of Cape Town and Judith Landau of Denver, all of whom have been most informative and helpful with details and stories about the Nurick branch of the family; Richard Nurick of London, who corrected a number of errors about the Nuricks. To all those members of the Sanders family and their descendants living in the UK, I am deeply indebted for the time they have taken to write to me, filling in the many missing links!

Our story is of course far from over, there are still many missing facts: What about the period during the ten years the Sanders family lived in Melbourne? All we have are birth certificates. We now know that the original surname was Sander. We know the names of Wulf’s siblings. What happened to them and their off spring? And so it goes on!

Hopefully my attempt to collect all the family stories will be continued by the younger generation!

Derrick Lewis, (great grandson of Wulf and Lena Sanders)

Source: Derrick Lewis