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    Majuta - History of the Zimbabwean Jewish Communit
    January 2022 - The ZJC website is pleased to make available a scanned copy of "Majuta" by Barry A Kosmin. . Learn More...

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    December 2016 - ZJC is pleased to publish a number of audio visual biographies of former members of the community.. Learn More...

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    Family Biographies

    Truman Family

    My earliest memory at age 3, was standing bewildered and lonely on a large sandy patch in the middle of the Bulawayo location (African slum dwelling) surrounded by a black crowd going about their business who completely ignored me. Fred, our manservant had been given strict orders by my father, when in charge of the "piccanin missus" not to leave her alone anytime anyplace. However, he took me with him to the location --- obviously on some urgent mission, and after returning home entreated me never to disclose this escapade to anyone, and I readily acquiesced, because I loved Fred and all the subsequent African servants in whose care I was entrusted. They indulged and spoilt me outrageously, providing all the love and care that my parents for a variety of reasons were unable to give.                Ida and Martin - click to enlarge

    My first language was Ndebele and my tastiest meals consisted of tsadsa (mealie meal or corn meal) and scraps of boiled beef which I contentedly scooped out of the pot by hand. But I digress - lets start at the beginning.

    I was born on 28-10-1936 in Rietberg and named Gisela to Martin and Ida Treumann (ne' Rosenthal). There were approximately 16 other Jewish families living in this town, and our family owned the largest retail store founded and named Levy Rosenthal after my grandfather. There is a photo taken in 1937 of my mothers neighbour and best friend holding me in her arms ---a year later she, together with the rest of Rietberg's stalwart burghers had initiated a hate fest against the local Jews and later burned their synagogue in nearby Neuenkirchen.  My father their cantor risked his life rescuing the Torahs and in appreciation was presented with one by the grateful congregants (see article below).

    Consequently our family relocated to Cologne, desperate to integrate less visibly in a large city. It was there during Kristallnacht that my father was brutally and severely beaten with iron bars by the Gestapo ----and before losing consciousness witnessed my brother aged 8 thrown bodily against a pillar box, sustaining a deep wound and exposing the frontal bone on his forehead.

     My mother's three sisters, brother and families escaped to what they imagined was a safe haven in Holland and all subsequently perished in the camps as did my father's five brothers and families. My mother's brother living in London managed to secure the services of Norman Bentwich at Woburn place (the Jewish board of Deputies) who engineered their escape by ship to Rhodesia some four months before the outbreak of World War 2. We disembarked in Beira (Mozambique) and journeyed onwards by rail to Bulawayo, arriving practically penniless and with a minimal English vocabulary. The well established Jewish community were utterly unmoved and unsympathetic towards our predicament but we were warmly welcomed and helped by kindly gentiles. We named our first residence "the rubbish house" (a downtrodden boarding house situated in the slummiest neighbourhood next to the African location).

    Ida in Hat shop - click to enlarge

    My father worked as an odd job man and also sharpened knives and scissors which my brother and I collected, knocking on doors all over the area. As we were aged 3 years and 9 years respectively, and the only white shabbily dressed kids engaged in such activity - I imagine the startled white residents responded with more charity and compassion than normal. My mother established a millinery business (Gish Models) which entailed working feverishly 16 hours daily, and Father joined the Rhodesian army , eventually attaining the rank of sergant major in the internment camp in Gatooma, where mostly Italian prisoners of war were interned.

    Martin at barracks in Gatooma - click to enlarge

    By this time our family had joined the Bulawayo Hebrew congregation and donated the Torah from Neuenkirchen, and after his discharge from the army my father became the part time cantor leading overflow services on the high holydays. He also volunteered and became the only Jew in the British South Africa Police and was highly commended.

    German immigrants congregated together - their common heritage and culture forming a tight-knit community and support system to offset the coldness and disdain shown by the indigenous mostly wealthy Jews who would never match the highly educated and cultured level of these "Yekkes".                         Gish Ida Sigi Weber and friend - click to enlarge

    I have compiled a list of names which could be of interest to those readers old enough to remember. They are as follows;

    Families -  Picard, Boettegheimer, Shtransky, Levy,Gunsenhauser {the butcher), Wolferman, Einhorn, Hollander, Sigi Weber,Sonnabend, Heilbron,Erich Katz, Plesner, Hammershlag, Fabian, Abelas, Neumann,Konveiser(Rabbi), Golub (cantor - later disgraced and dismissed) Yesorsky (Reverend -  committed suicide),Goldshmidt, Goldwasser, Sandberg, Shtieffel, Zlattner, Moritz, Shaeffer, Kutner, Jacobsen, Nussbaum, Guttman, Frankel, Rotberg, Hochshtader, Koenigsberg, Rappaport, Danziger, Schatz, Seligman,, Ullman, Weisanbacher, Katz, Baron, Susskind, Feith, Weinstock, Werthheimer,

    I was enrolled at Thomas Baines Junior school and initially subjected to stoning in the playground and anti-semitic bullying, but fought back and eventually was accepted and perhaps even gained a modicum of respect. Eveline High School provided the rest of my education, and upon leaving, I was given a rather bleak assessment for my future by our esteemed Ms. P.I. Gordon (Pig to the students), who forecast that I would never achieve success at anything useful or fulfilling. She was obviously happy to see the back of me  -  - and likewise !

    Gish - Ballet outside house Fort Street Bulawayo - click to enlarge

    Seriously, I believe she was an embittered and probably anti-Semitic old maid - but there were moments during the following 40 years of my life when I ruefully had to agree with her pessimistic forecast. The truth is I fell in love with dance - in particular ballet  (to the detriment of my academic studies) and commenced studying with our renowned ballet mistress Elaine Archibald at age 5 and some years later achieved the South African Teacher's Academy ballet diploma, having joined the Dorothy Ainscough school of dance. Nevertheless I did manage to pass my Cambridge certificate with honours in English literature and history (a prerequisite for university entrance) and left Bulawayo aged 17 to further my ambitions on the London stage. I worked in a variety of jobs whilst studying acting, singing and contemporary dance, always financially stressed, and eventually spent a year traveling with the famous Bertram Mills circus performing with elephants.

    Returning to London, I performed in various venues and pantomimes and aged 20 met my husband Henry, married and gave birth to Danny in 1960 and Corinna in 1961. The years following would fill a book, but suffice to say I continued periodically with stage appearances ,eventually joining a flamenco group at age 40 and 3 years later became a political activist for Israel and specifically later on for Soviet Jewry , when I joined the 35's Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry.

    On my fourth visit to the former Soviet Union I was imprisoned in Kiev ---finally released and thrown out the country.

    My parents decided to leave their beautiful Matopos home, business and enjoyable lifestyle and immigrate to London to join their children --   Gerry and myself and our families. They settled in Bournemouth, opened a millinery shop named Corinna Modes and joined the local orthodox synagogue. They  enjoyed a far more modest  and frugal lifestyle but quickly made friends and  loved this beautiful seaside resort - but sadly Father died in 1968 aged 62 , and mother  in 1972 aged 68.

    Fast forward to 1995 when Henry and I made aliya joining  Corinna , her sabra husband, Nimrod  and growing family, and settled in Pardesiya where they also reside . I opened a studio where I teach the Lotte Berk method of body conditioning and also volunteer teaching English at a high school nearby in my spare time. After a lifetime of  successful shoe retailing in London, my husband  enjoys his retirement  playing  tennis, indoor bowling, snooker, entertaining  at retirement homes , is involved in performing with an amateur music group and has also become a talented  artist  - with many of his paintings reproduced on greetings cards. Our daughter Corinna has 3 children and son Danny, residing in London 4 children. 

    My brother Gerry, who sadly passed away in December 2006, lived in London and had 2 sons and 4 grandchildren.

    For additional family photos - click here


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