As told by David Sacks, Anthony Sacks and Glenda Sacks Jaffe


Emanuel Sacks


Mendel in the military WW2

This is about our father Emanuel Sacks, better known as Mendel. He was born in Kimberley, but grew up in Bellville. He went to SACS in Cape Town and finished medical school in the late 1930s. He then went to England for some post graduate training.

During that time, war broke out and he volunteered for the South African army and served as a Captain, then a Major in the SA Medical Corp in WWII. He served in Italy, Madagascar and Egypt. After returning from the war he was invited to join his brother-in-law, Jack Karpas, in his thriving Parow practice. Jack was married to our father's sister Jessie. In the early 1950s Jack, Jessie and their family moved to Israel, as did his mother, Mary Sacks. Alfie Bass and then "Berry" Berelowitz joined the practice. We lived behind the practice with an entrance on a different street and 'Kollys' chemist was between our house and the Lantern Cinema. The 'surgery' – as it was called - had many Jewish patients from Parow but also many Afrikaners including the likes of the famous Springbok rugby player Hennie Muller whose children he delivered.

Mendel had many Railway workers as patients and he provided medical care for Cape Gate and Fence Company which was owned by Mendel Kaplan's family.

Our father married Fern Watkin from Sea Point in 1947. Initially, she was very reluctant to move to Parow, having grown up in Sea Point , but after moving there settled in well, especially because there were many other Jewish doctors and their young families.

My dad was very involved in the Parow community and served on the Parow City Council for many years. He was asked to be the Mayor of Parow, but declined. (His brother Alec Sacks became Mayor of Bellville and Sacks Circle in Bellville is named after the family).

He was also very involved with Rotary, initially in Bellville, but then he founded the Parow Rotary Club. My Dad played cricket for Northerns and was active in their rugby club too. He was instrumental in founding the King David Country Club, where he played golf regularly. Many of us children would gather there on Sundays and play together. He was also very involved with Rotary, initially in Bellville, but then he founded the Parow Rotary Club and became the inaugural president. He also served on the Medical Council.

None of us recalls any overt antisemitism. Our father always encouraged us to learn and speak Afrikaans to the neighbours and we subscribed to 'Die Burger' when we were in High School to improve our Afrikaans.

My parents are very active in the Jewish community. Our father was on the Parow shul committee and my mother was the chairlady of the Bnoth Zion and the Union of Jewish Women.

Mendel with siblings and parents
Mendel with siblings and parents

Our family moved to Sea Point in 1967 when Mendel gave up night calls. He commuted to Parow for a few years after which he moved and concluded his career at the Heideveld Day Hospital working until the age of 80! He started a diabetes and an epilepsy clinic there and was a mentor to many. Many of the families in the Northern Suburbs remember him fondly as he made house calls and got to know each and every family member.

He had a phenomenal memory and often recalled names and addresses of the patient's entire family until he died at age 83 in 1999.