Southern Africa Jewish Genealogy SA-SIG
South African Jewish Communities
Zaire - Belgian Congo
Editor: Dr Saul Issroff
Copyright © 2003 Saul Issroff, Mike Getz, SAfrica SIG
and Jewishgen Inc.
New/Revised/Updated: 4 November 2003
In October 2003, Manfred Schwartz wrote about Elizabethville during the first half of the twentieth century:
Amato Freres were very big merchants, dealers and manufacturers with factories making oil and soaps-and bye products from the local crops. When the Congo gained Uhuru (independence) the Amato family relocated to Umtali (Southern Rhodesia) and South Africa. At Benoni they had a jute bag and textile factory. In East London they had an oil expressing factory, (a trade of which they were familiar in the Congo). They used sunflower and cotton seed and peanuts.
Towards the end of 1948 and onwards many South African Jews elected to settle in Southern Rhodesia.
During the war many servicemen were trained in the two Rhodesias due to the ideal weather conditions prevailing for the most part of the year in Southern Africa. Many Royal Air Force schools were established. Many servicemen returned after the war and settled in the Rhodesias.
Of these there were quite a number of young Jewish men. The influx of talent and ideas added to the local communities cultural and artistic activities of plays, concerts, fetes, and on and on.
Added to this was the establishment of the State of Israel, which gave added impetus to the Zionist fervour and support and bonding to the new young democracy. for fund raising from the generous community knowing no bounds.
During the early 1920s Capt Joseph Ellman MC, after demobilization from the Royal Engineers, joined the Rhodesian Railways and worked as Chief Railway Engineer on the routes mainly in Northern Rhodesia to plan, survey and oversee the laying of the railway line in wild undeveloped virgin bush. No heavy construction available as three decades later when the Great North Road was built from Livingstone to Lusaka and on to Abercrombie in the far north of N Rhodesia to connect with the Tanganyika and beyond to further and modernise Cecil Rhodes’ dream Cape to Cairo Route and on to Fort Jamieson in the far east of N Rhodesia to connect with Tete in Nyasaland.
Early in the 1900s transport was pedestrian, using porters to do the lifting and carrying, not to forget the forked stick messenger. Tsetse Fly and Horsesickness prevented draught animal transport. For this reason Zeederberg Bros who had the Mail Stage Coach Contract to service the Pietersberg to Bulawayo route experimented with Zebras, not a very easy animal to domesticate and train but were immune to the diseases. For quite a number of years they used these animals. It was a unique and picturesque scene to see, out of a cloud of dust, the Stage Coach pull up and these beautiful shiny sleek white and black striped restless animals at the end of their work shift or stage for that day.
Issy Haimowitz arrived (from Rumania) in Beira and WALKED (just as everybody else had to do till the railway line was built from the coast to the hinterland) to Ndola in N Rhodesai and onto the Belgium Congo This‘long walk’ took about nine months.
One cannot realize the attendant dangers which the Pioneers faced of wild animals, river crossings with crocodiles, insects, snakes, ticks, sleeping sickness, malaria, rough terrain, unfriendly local residents, lack of fresh food and vegetables, lack convenience store on the corner and on and on.
People must have been very tough and many survived, life was interesting although it was relatively short. With all that physical and manual effort and strain, the modern mental type of stress was not encountered.