South West Africa

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SOUTH WEST AFRICA (Namibia) . Jewish connections with the territory were established even before its conquest by the Germans when it became a German colony. During the middle of the 19th century the *De Pass brothers, Jewish merchants from Cape Town, established trading posts on the Namaqualand coast, and in 1861 started the Pomona Copper Company. German Jews were allowed much more scope in the territory after its establishment as a colony. Carl *Fuerstenberg, a German Jewish banker, was responsible, as head of the Berliner Handellgesellschaft, for the development of the diamond industry, and he also organized the construction of the railway line from Luderitz Bay to Kubub. Emil *Rathenau created the German South West African Mining Syndicate and established a research company in 1907 for the study of irrigation problems. Walther *Rathenau was one of the two experts sent by Kaiser Wilhelm ii to report on administrative reforms. The number of Jews in South West Africa under German rule was no more than about 100, most of them in Swakopmund. During the campaign of 1915, which ended in the conquest of the territory by South African forces, the men were interned and their families sent to Windhoek. After South Africa was granted a mandate over it by the League of Nations after World War i, however, the Jewish population increased, and in 1965 there were 400–500 Jews in a total white population of about 68,000, of whom the overwhelming majority lived in Windhoek, which has a Hebrew congregation (dating from 1917), a synagogue (completed in 1925), a talmud torah, a communal hall, named after Simon (Sam) *Cohen, the most prominent Jew and benefactor of the community, an active Zionist movement supported by generous contributions, and the only Jewish minister in the territory. The only other community, at Keetmanshoop, which had about 12 families, a congregation (founded in 1910), and a synagogue, ceased to exist when the number of Jewish families was reduced to five and their sifrei torah were sent to Windhoek. In addition, there are a few families in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. L. Kerby served as town clerk of Windhoek for many years, and was responsible for the layout and upkeep of the beautiful cemetery which is one of the showpieces of Windhoek.

Jack Louis Levinson, the husband of Olga *Levinson, who has been a member of the municipal council for 25 years was mayor from 1963 to 1965 and was succeeded by Sam Davis. Mr. George May was another Jewish councilor.

In November 1980 Windhoek became a twin city with Kiryat Telshe Stone, a settlement outside Jerusalem.

The political developments including the cancellation of the League of Nations mandate by the United Nations and the proclamation of the establishment of an independent republic, called Namibia, has brought about a considerable dwindling of the Jewish population.

[Lewis Sowden]

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South West Africa

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