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