Kimberley, South Africa


Zweiback and Lewis Families

Zweiback and Lewis families

Complied by Geraldine Auerbach MBE from information supplied by Solomon Zweiback’s great nephew (and Coleman Lewis’ grandson) Raymond Lewis, London, March 2020 and further research.

This is the story of Dr Solomon Zweiback and his wife Sophie née Ettin and of
Coleman Lewis and his wife Fanny (née Zweiback)
(Solomon’s younger sister) and their two sons Harold and Shirley Mitchell Lewis, born and schooled at CBC in Kimberley, who became doctors at UCT and settled in London  in the 1950s

Dr Solomon Zweiback

Dr Solomon Zweiback, distinguished Doctor in Kimberley was born in 1882 probably in Latvia. He studied medicine in Königsburg (now Kaliningrad). By the early 1900s he had moved to London where he practiced as a surgeon.

By 1910, Solomon Zweiback aged 28 was living in Kimberley at 79 Dutoitspan Road and working as a General Practitioner.

He was highly esteemed in Kimberley and as well as being a dedicated doctor he held several high offices in the city. He represented Beaconsfield in the Cape Provincial Council in the 1920s and was a town councillor for many years. He was President of the Griqualand West Hebrew Congregation from 1936 to 1938.

His father Markus Zweiback (known as Max) emigrated to South Africa, while Solomon was still in London. Marcus Zweiback had six children Solomon his three brothers Max, Isaac and Joseph, and two sisters Bertha, and the youngest Fanny who was born in 1892, 10 years Solomon’s junior.  Fanny was Raymond Lewis’s grandmother

Raymond says: I’ve just been digging around, online and discovered some more South African records, including the record of Solomon Zweiback’s marriage. He married Sophie Ettin in September 1921 in Pretoria, which is where she was living at that time. Sophie was 25. There is something a little strange there, as on the marriage certificate he is declared to be 37 years old, however if we understand that he was born in 1882 he would have been 39 at the time. This is confirmed by his gravestone, which declares he died in 1943 aged 61. Ray wonders, if he ‘adjusted’ his age to make the difference less, or if was there a clerical error?  There were no children.

Of the rest of the Zweiback family Raymond Lewis, who lives in South West London, not far from Wimbledon, writes: My great uncle Joe Zweiback, Solomon and Fanny’s brother, had been given a large tract of land to farm – if I understood it correctly, as a kind of war-pension.  I believe it was near Lydenberg in the Transvaal. Joe must have been quite a character and I regret never having met him. He was an inventor, and there is a US patent in his name for an elevator brake. Probably quite useful for mining. He was always convinced there was gold on his land, but there was never any ever found. He died in 1971, leaving the farm to my father and my late uncle.

My great aunt Bertha Zweiback moved to Dullstroom in the Transvaal and married Bernie Schmahmann. Bertha died in 1966.

My great uncle Max Zweiback also moved to Dullstroom, but he died at the age of 45 in 1926 in Kimberley, predeceasing his father, Markus (and also called Max) by 4 years.

Solomon Zweiback’s younger sister Fanny, married Coleman Lewis of Kimberley. they had two sons Harold and Shirley. Both were brilliant scholars at CBC and went on to become distinguished doctors in the UK.

Solomon Zweiback died in January 1943, aged 61 and is buried in the Kimberley cemetery. His gravestone says: mourned by his wife, brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces and citizens whom he faithfully served for many years.

Geraldine writes: We have already noted in our family sagas that Cyril Harris married late in life, tying the knot with a widow, Sophie Zweiback (nee Ettin) in 1946 (she would have been 54.) In the Cyril Harris story it says that ‘Sophie’s first husband, Dr Solomon Zwieback, had represented Beaconsfield in the Cape Provincial Council in the 1920s and been a town councillor for some time. He died in January 1943’.

Coleman Lewis Family:

Grandson Raymond Lewis of London writes: Fanny Zweiback, the youngest sister of Dr Solomon Zweiback, of Kimberley, born in 1892, married my grandfather Cole (Coleman James) Lewis in Kimberley aged 25, in 1917.  

Coleman Lewis (known as Cole) was born in London in 1886 and moved to South Africa around about 1910. (aged 24). He was part of a large family, and a number of his brothers and cousins also went to South Africa (Ray has not worked out exactly who went where and when yet, but thinks that one or two of them ended up living in Kimberley at some point.)  Cole worked as a clerk for the South African Railways and Harbours. Fanny and Cole moved to Muizenberg when they retired. Fanny died in 1959 (only months before Raymond’s parents were married), and Cole died in 1966.

Fanny and Cole had two sons. Harold Lewis was born in Kimberley in 1922, and my father, Shirley Mitchell Lewis in 1924. Harold and Shirley were educated at Christian Brothers College. Raymond’s father (now going by the name of Mitchell Lewis) studied medicine at Cape Town University, although his studies were interrupted by the war. He served in the medical corps in Namibia. In the 1950’s, the two brothers came to London where they settled and married.

Ray has fond memories of his grandfather Cole Lewis, when he visited them in London – when Ray was about three or four.

Ray’s uncle, Dr Harold E Lewis was a physiologist who in 1952 took part in the British North Greenland Expedition. He died suddenly at the age of 49 in 1971, leaving three children Marc, Rebecca and Paul. Ray is still in occasional contact with Paul.

Ray’s father Dr Shirley Mitchell Lewis (pictured below) had a long and distinguished career as a Consultant Haematologist – working at the Royal Postgraduate Medical Centre Hammersmith Hospital. (His uncle, Dr Solomon Zweiback back in Kimberley was clearly an inspiration for him.) 

Mitch (as he was affectionately known) was the President of British Society for Haematology from 1983-84, He is especially known as the co-author of the much lauded and revered standard laboratory reference book “Practical Haematology”.  He was also a founding member of the International Council for the Standardisation in Haematology, and became its second President in 1982, a position he held with great distinction and boundless energy for 24 years, until 2006. He also co-founded UK NEQAS, an organisation which improves patient care through monitoring the quality of tests and their reporting where he was Director of UK NEQAS Haematology until his retirement in the 1990s.

Professor Adrian Newland wrote: Dr Lewis, usually accompanied by his wife Ethel, travelled widely around the world throughout his career and paid special attention to the needs, capabilities and skills of haematologists and their support staff in the developing countries. He became actively involved with the WHO particularly in their aims to improve the diagnosis and management of general anaemia, particularly in rural communities.

Mitch Lewis lived through and participated in massive changes in haematological medicine and how he continuously participated in developing laboratory practise worldwide to support widespread clinical activities. He has personally helped many physicians and scientists to practise better medicine. This has been a truly wonderful life-long achievement.

Today there is the Dr S Mitchell Lewis 'Qualified Educational Grant' of £10,000 for Qualified biomedical scientists, clinical scientists and post-graduate researchers in the field of clinical laboratory haematology, medical registrars or equivalent in training.

You can read a fuller tribute to Mitch Lewis from ICSH here:

Raymond writes: Mitch Lewis died on 8 August 2018. in 2018 – but his memory had sadly been fading with Alzheimer’s for several years before he died. He would have been so pleased to have come across the Kimberley pages. No doubt they would have triggered some wonderful memories of his youth.

Attached is a page from a 1935 edition of the “Zionist Record” which Raymond came across. It is about the farewell gathering for The Minister, Rev Konvisser who was departing for Bulawayo in 1935. It is remarkable as it mentions both Dr S. Zweiback and Master Shirley Lewis – who would have been 11 years old at the time and who both played some part in this event.