Kimberley, South Africa


Sussman, Philip and Augusta

Sussman, Philip and Augusta

Compiled by Geraldine Auerbach MBE London, March 2020 From information articles and photographs supplied by grandson Philip Mayers of Melbourne, Australia and Bill Stern NZ – and Natalie Sussman of Cape Town.

Philip Sussman was the eldest of five brothers. He was born in 1877. He was the pioneer of the family who left Taverig in Lithuania for Kimberley in 1900. His father Hirsh had a Dairy farm in Taverig, so with this background, it was natural for Philip to turn to what he knew best – farming. He acquired farms in the Kimberley area, farming with cattle and sheep. By 1912, his business had expanded so much that Philip was able to send for his brothers, Isaac (who became a diamond buyer) and Guttel, Kollen, and George who joined him in the business.

Sussman Brothers now acquired several more farms in the Kimberley district and prospered as farmers, livestock dealers and entrepreneurs in the Meat industry. They established Kimberley Ranching Co and the Premier Meat Supply, the most significant butcher shop in Kimberley in De Beers Road, which had a kosher counter in operation for many decades. Kollen, father of Sussman, Cecil and Natalie (nee Kroll) was regarded by his peers as an expert judge on the weight of livestock and was seldom out by even a kilo.

Natalie Sussman, of Kimberley, who now lives in Cape Town, wife of Cecil (who passed away in Cape Town in September 2019) says: ‘Philip wanted all his family to join him in Kimberley but his mother would not leave her home in Taverig. Only one sister came out Tilly. Marriage was arranged between Tilly and Barney Dorman a friend of Kollen’s. (see their wedding picture of 1911 on family weddings that also shows Philip and Gussie (who gave her away in lieu of her parents who were not present) with their first two daughters Doris and Alice, also Kollen Sussman and Solly Diamond and a cousin Sam Sussman.

The young couple settled in Hout Bay on the farm Oakhurst farming dairy cows and tomatoes and later grapes. Kollen married Gerty (Hoffman of Johannesburg) and joined Barney Dorman and his wife (Kollen’s sister Tilly) in Hout Bay. Cecil and his brother Len were born in Hout Bay. Philip decided that Kollen was to return to the farming operations in Kimberley. The Dorman and Sussman families remain close to this day Tilly’s grandson Stanley Dorman has put Hout Bay on the map as a tourist attraction. He built Mariners Wharf and Fisherman’s World and a large Shopping Mall and a Theatre there.

Philip also brought out his cousins and nephews and set them up so that they all branched out to run successful businesses in other towns in South Africa and Rhodesia. Hout Bay was the focal point for family gatherings when Tilly and Barney Dorman lived there. And in later years grandson Stanley Dorman and family were gracious hosts to Kollen and Gerty, Harold and Babsie and all. Stay well Love Natalie. PS Cecil was a talented musician and often spoke of the fun he and Sheila Mayers had playing and composing music together. (Philip Mayers says his mother Sheila saidthat Cecil was her favourite cousin)

In about 1935 Philip and his family left Kimberley to pursue other business interests that he was already developing for his friend Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, amongst which was horse racing. In this he was very successful, one of his horses, Sun Tor, having won the prestigious Durban July in 1934 as you can see below.

Grandson, Philip Mayers of Melbourne, writes: Philip had developed a very good friendship with Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, especially because of their shared interest in horseracing. When Oppenheimer expanded his gold mining ventures into the Transvaal, and copper mining in Northern Rhodesia he invited Philip to set up businesses to support his mining operations. Principally, the main contracts were for meat and bakery supplies for Anglo American.

As a result of these contracts with Oppenheimer’s Anglo-American Company, Philip established cattle farms, butcheries and cold storages, bakeries, hotels, bottle stores and concession stores on the Copperbelt in Northern Rhodesia (Kitwe, Nkana, Ndola, Luanshya, Mufulira, Chingola and Bancroft). Philip’s brothers continued to run the Kimberley farms and businesses. Philip put together a group of investors to finance the new projects. These included the Eli Susman family who later, with Max Sonnenberg, established Woolworths in South Africa (from Livingstone I think), and his Rhodesian friends Isadore Kollenberg, Maurice Gersh, Abe Gelman and Eli’s cousin Willy Susman. Philip included his brothers as shareholders in the enterprise.

In about 1930/1 the partners established companies to own and operate these businesses. They were Copperfields Cold Storage Company Ltd, Northern Bakeries Ltd and Northern Caterers Ltd (hotels). Isadore Kollenberg ran the operations in northern Rhodesia (Zambia) for at least 20-30 years.In the Transvaal (Klerksdorp, Orkney, Stilfontein, Brakpan), where Anglo-American mined gold, Philip established similar businesses but not farms. These Transvaal businesses he owned personally and did not involve the Kimberley brothers or the Northern Rhodesia partners.

Philip therefore travelled extensively to Transvaal and Northern Rhodesia, so he and his wife finally moved to Johannesburg in about 1934-5. He continued to play an active Board role in the Northern Rhodesian companies and also invested in the stock exchange. In the early 1940’s he became ill with atherosclerosis and began to lose his memory. He died from pneumonia in1945 aged only 68. Sadly, I never met my grandfather, but I am named after him. 

Philip married Augusta (Gussie née Cohen ) in 1902. b.1883 in Port Elizabeth she was the daughter of Lewis Cohen (who traded with a Mr Nathan) and his wife a Miss Prince who had come from Canterbury to marry him in the first ceremony in the PE synagogue. Gussie grew up in PE educated at Holy Rosary Convent. They had five children, four daughters and a son. In Kimberley they lived at 227 Dutoitspan Road.

Doris b 1904 first married Milton Stern of Kimberley, son of Willy and Kitsie Stern, Children: Bill b 1927 happily married to Peggy Gilette from Cape Town and now (2020) live in Christchurch NZ. Shirley Stern (1929 – 1919) married Alf Seidel from Cape Town, who passed away in about 1973. She remarried Walter Steiner, from Israel, and he passed away about ten years ago.

Doris then divorced and married Jack Berman of Boksburg. Children Geoffrey Berman (d c2015 in Klerksdorp and Melanie Bailey (in 2020 living in Johannesburg)

Alice (1908-1913) accidently burned in a fire, died of her injuries aged 5.

Harold, (1910-1975) Married Rae Hepker early 40s. Children Clive Sussman and Philippa Huth divorced.

Loraine (1914-1980) (a sculptor) m. Nate Miller of Kimberley son of Ralph Miller) Wendy b.1940 M Geoffrey Gering. Tel Aviv. Children: Roger Miller b 1943 Alethea Sandler Johannesburg, and Paul Miller born 1946 married to Marlene Hack from Pretoria and also living in Johannesburg (2020).

And Sheila (a composer of many published songs – from the age of 15.) (my dear mother) was born 29 November 1917 and married my dad Cyril Mayers from Johannesburg/Volksrust on 17 August 1941. She passed away 15 August 1969 in Johannesburg, and my dad on 8 October 2001. They had two sons – my beloved older brother Richard, born 25 October 1944. He drowned in a freak motor accident in Cape Town harbor on 15 August 1974. Unmarried. I (Philip) was born 5 January 1947 and married my darling wife Rhona (Jackson) on 3 February 1970. We migrated to Melbourne in 1987. All of their children now have grandchildren and great grandchildren living in South Africa, Australia, Israel and the USA.

A highly cultured woman, Mrs Augusta Sussman made a big impact on Kimberley. She was a composer and painter. However, her main concerns were the health and social welfare of Kimberley citizens of all shades. She worked tirelessly for these ends in numerous Kimberley municipal and private organisations. She was the only woman member of the Kimberley Hospital Board. She was president of the Child Welfare Benevolent Society and the Kimberley branch of the National Council of Women. She was also very concerned with the rehabilitation of soldiers and sailors after the first World War, as president of the Royal Marine Association, associated with BESL and a member of the Navy League. In all these fields she made an indelible mark and was valued as a superb organiser and fundraiser. She had a long entry with the photo above in the 1938 edition of the South African women’s Who’s Who?

Illuminated address presented to Mrs Sussman by the Mayor

In 1930 a special Civic event was held in honour of Augusta Sussman for all the good work she had done for Kimberley charities. The City Hall Supper Room was filled to capacity on the occasion, and Gussie was presented with an illuminated address from the Mayor and City Council, itemising appreciation from many major organisations.

The event was presided over by Mr CJ Nugent, a past president of the Kimberley branch of British Empire Service League (BESL). He enunciated her charitable work and concluded his speech by saying how very pleasing it was to see so many prominent citizens at a function of this kind, for the attendance was a fine indication of the esteem in which Mrs Sussman was held. Then Mrs AD Mitchell handed the illuminated address (a beautiful example of the work of local artist, William Timlin) to the Mayor (Councillor J Moir) to present to Mrs Sussman.

You can tell how hugely Gussie was admired and loved by the genuinely effusive speeches that were made to her by the great and good of Kimberley. “I feel honoured” he said, “not only as Mayor of the city, but also in my private capacity to have the opportunity of presenting to Mrs Sussman this illuminated address, which has been subscribed to by her friends to show their appreciation of her magnificent work for many years on these fields, in aid of charity and other causes”

The Mayor went on: “To say that Mrs Sussman has been a strenuous worker is but to describe her efforts very mildly indeed. It has been a wonder to us all how she has been able continuously to carry out the multiplicity of duties which have been showered on her. “Mrs Sussman is not only a genius at organisation, but as a collector of monies and gifts on behalf of war funds and charities, she is endowed with that rare quality of being tactfully forceful – to what extent can be fully appreciated only when one remembers the thousand and thousands of pounds whish she was so largely collected from even half-hearted givers. These collections have included funds on behalf of the Kimberley Hospital, St Dunstan’s Home for Blinded Sailors and Soldiers, the Navy League and all the local charitable organisations, not to mention the many amounts in money and in kind which she so successfully raised during the War for the comfort of the troops on the various fronts.

“Besides all this, Mrs Sussman has done and is doing many acts of kindness and most noble work on behalf of the poor and needy of our city. We know that whenever there is trouble or affliction in any home, Mrs Sussman is generally foremost in assisting”

The Mayor said that he knew personally of many cases in which she had done good in her own quiet way. He told, to much laughter, how she had raised £25 in five minutes in a Scotsman’s office! He concluded to much applause, by expressing hope that Mrs Sussman would long be spared to continue her work.

Among the speakers who enthusiastically associated themselves with the remarks of the Mayor were Mr GMH Barrell, MPC; Mr Pescod (would this be the Rev William Pescod Superintendent of the Bean Street Methodist Church where he served for 43 years. He also served on the Kimberley School Board for 47 years?); Mr John Orr (owner of the large department store); Councillor ME Doherty; Mr P O’Brien, Dr S Zweiback (probably on behalf of the Hospital Board and/ or the Griqualand West Hebrew Congregation which he chaired from 1936 to 38), the Mayoress Mrs Moir, Mr McLeod (on behalf of the coloured community) Mr Govindersamy (on behalf of the Indian community)

Appreciative letters from Mr H Lissant Colins and Councillor Barnerd Cohen (who was to become Mayor the following year were read. Mrs Sussman, who was enthusiastically received when she rose to reply, said that she hardly knew how to thank them for their kindness and for the beautiful illuminated address which she said she would always treasure. She thanked the ladies and gentlemen who had helped her in the past and concluded by saying that she would not make a long speech, because she was a “better beggar than a speaker”.

The illuminated address, which was framed in oak, was signed by the Mayor Mr Moir; the MP for Beaconsfield Sir David Harris; the Very Rev. Dean O Robson; Sir Ernest Oppenheimer MP; Mr W Pickering (Secretary of De Beers?); Mr CJ Nugent; and Mr Justice FA Hutton. There followed a delightful musical programme.

Gussie also had an article specially about her in the women’s life magazine, Simpsons, in January 1947. Gussie lived until 1951; the last few years of her life she suffered from nephritis, which finally took her also at the age of only 68. They are buried in Johannesburg and their gravestones are pictured below. Philip Mayers Melbourne, April 2020, says They were two ‘larger than life’ figures, whom the family has always cherished and respected.

Geraldine adds. ‘They certainly were an extraordinary couple whose foresight, expertise and charm saved and established their family – and helped develop southern Africa. We are so glad to salute them on the pages of this Kimberley Jewish Community website.