Inside Hong Kong’s Ohel Leah
Synagogue is a white marble plaque
that bears the words “Roll of Honour:
In Memory of those members of the
Jewish Community who lost their lives in
the defence of Hong Kong 1941 -1915”.
Those memorialised were all members
of the permanent Jewish community of
Hong Kong and they served along with
many other members of the community.
The years 1941-1945 makes reference to
the time period be-ginning with Battle of
Hong Kong, from 8–25 December 1941,
through the end of Japanese occupation
on 16 September 1945, the date of the
formal acceptance of the Japanese
surrender. The attack on Hong Kong was
coordinated with the broad offensive
across the Pacific and Southeast Asia
on 7 December 1941 (Honolulu time),
referred to as “A Date Which Will Live in
Infamy” by US President Franklin Delano
For those with an interest in the battle
for the defence of Hong Kong, Tony
Banham’s book Not the Slightest Chance
- The Defence of Hong Kong 1941 is
highly recommended. This meticulously
researched book details the causalities
hour by hour and reveals great insight
into many unknown parts of Hong Kong
history. Even with this account, details
of the period have been lost and much
of the history will likely remain obscure,
namely biographical information about
many of the brave man and women who
lost their lives defending the Mainland
and the outlying islands of Hong Kong.
After a number of intense battles, the
Governor of Hong Kong surrendered on
25 December 1941.
The work to fill in the gaps in the historical
record is ongoing. The Jewish community
of Hong Kong, in large part through the
efforts of the Jewish Historical Society of
Hong Kong, has made efforts to record
some of this lesser known history. The
community has maintained its own
Jewish cemetery, in Happy Valley, since
1857 and a number of those who died
during this period were buried there. This
cemetery, incidentally, is still in use by
the Jewish community.
This however is by no means the whole
story. There are a small number of
identifiably Jewish graves elsewhere
in the city, in particular in the Military Cemetery in Stanley as well as the Sai
Wan War Cemetery. There is also a single
known Jewish decedent listed on the
memorial in Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong
commemorating civilian war deaths.
|Stanley Military Cemetery|
Both of the cemeteries, the Military
Cemetery in Stanley and in Sai Wan, are
located on Hong Kong Island. Most of
the Jewish graves in these cemeteries
are of British soldiers (or members of the
Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force)
killed in the defense of Hong Kong;
others died while interned in prisoner of
war or civilian camps.
Also of note, Sallie Gubbay, mistakenly
referred to as Sarah, Isaac L. Goldenberg
and Leo Weill, all commemorated on
the plaque in Ohel Leah Synagogue
were buried in the Hong Kong Jewish
community’s cemetery in Happy Valley.
The Stanley Military Cemetery
The Stanley Military Cemetery is located
near St. Stephen's Beach in Stanley,
Hong Kong in the southern part of Hong
Kong Island. The Village of Stanley
itself played an important part in the
history of this time period as one of
the last battlefields of the defence. The
cemetery, one of two military cemeteries
of the early colonial era, was closed
in the 1860s and then was re-opened
during the Second World War. During
the Japanese occupation of Hong
Kong, Stanley Prison, which sits next
to the cemetery was used as a Prisoner
of War and Civilian Internment Camp.
The cemetery was used during the war
for those executed by the Japanese
or those who died while being held
as prisoners of war. After the war, the
cemetery was extended for the re-burial
of those who fell during the fighting in
1941 or who died during the occupation.
The cemetery contains some 700 graves,
and is maintained by the Commonwealth
War Graves Commission.
Five of the graves have been identified
as being for Jewish persons; they are not
together, as there is no “Jewish Quarter”
in this cemetery. The headstones are
generally very simple, and little is known
about most of those they commemorate.
The Sai Wan War
Cemetery and Memorial
- Leontine Ellis
Leontine Ellis was a member of the
Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force
(“HKVDC”). She was working as a nurse.
Her two sisters were also members of
the Nursing Detachment (ND) of HKVDC.
She died on 17 August 1942 at the age of
48. Her name is included on the Honour
Roll in Ohel Leah Synagogue.
- Samuel Gerzo
Samuel Daniel Gerzo was a gunner
with the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence
Corps (HKVDC). He died on 25
December 1941 at the age of 37, which
incidentally was the day of the surrender
to the Japanese. According to Not the
Slightest Chance - The Defence of Hong
Kong, he was killed along with Harry
Millington and was originally buried at
St Stephen's College.
He was the son of Daniel and Riva
Gerzo. Records indicated that Samuel
Gerzo was Romanian by birth. His wife
was Ida Gerzo and they lived in Kowloon.
According to the Hong Kong Daily Press,
his wife Ida completed the 96 hours of
hospital training for qualification to work
with the Auxillary Nursing Service (ANS)
on 30 October 1940.
He is included on the Honour Roll in Ohel
- Herbert Alexander Samuel
He was a Gunner with the HKVDC.
He died on 25 December 1941 at the
age of 29. He was the son of Abraham
and Ottilie Samuel. His death is also
commemorated on the Roll of Honour in
- Samuel Liborwich
He was a Private with the 1st Battalion of
the Middlesex Regiment. He died on 18
December 1941 at the age of 25.
- Hymie Greenberg
He was a Signalman with the Royal
Canadian Corps of Signals. He was
killed in battle in Wan Chai during the
siege of Hong Kong and died on Friday,
19 December 1941. Hymie was from
Spedden in Alberta, Canada and was
the son of Sonia Jamplesky and was
the adopted son of step-father Moses
- Essie Greenberg
Listed on one grave is the name Essie
Jean Greenburg and a date of death
on 12 March 1942, aged 46. She was
the wife of Walter William Greenburg.
There is no definitive proof that she was
Jewish. The claim remains unfounded.
The marker itself is a simple boundary
marker without a Magen David.
There are two discrepancies with the
information on her grave. The first is the
spelling of her name. The grave reads
Greenberg while the War Commission
lists her name as Greenburg. There is
slightly more information available on
Essie Greenburg as there are records
for Liquor Licence applications for
the Chardhaven Hotel, on Nathan
Road, in which Essie is listed as the
Hotel Keeper. Based on adverts in
newspapers in 1939 and 1940, she also
attempted to sell the premise pre-war
and cited ill-health as her reason for
There is a further discrepancy with
respect to the date of her death and her
age at the time of death. Again, the grave
marker indicates that she was 48 years
old at her death on 12 March 1942. The
CWGC records list her as 51 years old at
her death on 12 March 1943.
Until her death, she was, like other
civilians from allied nations, imprisoned
at Stanley Internment Camp.
In addition to those buried Stanley,
there are also Jewish graves in the
Sai Wan War Cemetery which is in the
northeast of Hong Kong Island. It is on
Cape Collinson Road, between Tai Tam
Road and Lin Shing Road; the nearest MTR station is Chai Wan.
The Sai Wan War cemetery is the
largest in Hong Kong maintained by the
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
(CWGC), and contains 1517 graves.
Originally, all the graves were said to
have been marked by crosses; only after
the CWGC took over responsibility in
1953 were they replaced by tombstones,
which included the Star of David for the
The remains of prisoners of war that
had been deported from Hong Kong
to Taiwan during the war, and who
died in Taiwan, are also buried here.
None of these were Jewish as far as we
know, but the search for information is
At the entrance to the cemetery stands
the Sai Wan Memorial, bearing the
names of 2,074 Hong Kong casualties of
the Second World War whose places of
burial are unknown. The cemetery was
built in 1946, when most of the remains
were reburied there. The names of 228
Canadians who died in the defence of
Hong Kong are also listed on the Sai
Wan Bay Memorial.
The cemetery and memorial were
designed by Colin St. Clair Oakes,
who also designed the Stanley
Military Cemetery, and several military
cemeteries in Southeast Asia, including
those in Singapore and Thailand. Four
of the graves have been identified
as being for Jewish persons; they
are not together, as with the Stanley
Military Cemetery. The headstones are
generally very simple, and again, little
is known about most of those they
commemorate. There are additional
Jewish fallen soldiers identified on
the Memorial whose bodies weren’t
Sai Wan War Cemetery
The Jewish servicemen buried in Sai
Wan Ho in the cemetery are:
- Jack Rich
Jack Rich was a Sergeant with the First
Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. He
died on 25 December 1941 at the age of
24. His parents were Abraham and Leah
- Leonard Ginsburg/Winter
Leonard Ginsburg served in the army
under the name Leonard Winter. He was
a Lance Corporal in the First Battalion
of the Middlesex Regiment. His parents
were Samuel and Bessie Ginsburg of
Newlands, Glasgow. He died at the age
of 21 on 25 December 1941, the day
Hong Kong surrendered to the Japanese.
The time of his death was approximately
7:45am while attacking Japanese forces
based in bungalows in Stanley.
A stained glass window in Garnethill
Synagogue, in Glasgow, commemorates
his life and the lives of the others who
died in World War II. In the early 1940s,
his parents ran a hotel in Glasgow called
Etched in his tombstone are the words:
“In memory of our beloved son Leonard.
Never to be forgotten.”
- Robert Macklin
He was a Sergeant with the Army
Educational Corps. He died on 22
December 1942, at the age of 33.
He was born in 1909 in Winnipeg,
Canada, the son of Morris and Sarah
Macklin, and raised in Montreal. In 1930
he was a bank clerk in New York City,
but soon thereafter left for England and
joined the British Army; he was stationed
in Hong Kong from 1935.
He married Ursula Carroll (known as
“Girlie”) of Knaphill in Surrey, in 1937,
and they had a red-headed daughter
Bonita (“Bonnie”) who was born in Hong
Kong on 6 July 1941. He initially joined
a Scottish regiment, but later became
an instructor with the Army Education
Corps, working in the Office of the Hong
Kong Chief Censor - perhaps because
his parents were both Russian born, and
so he had useful language skills.
After the surrender to the Japanese
forces in 1941, he was interned at Sham
Shui Po Prisoner of War Camp. He died
there of dysentery. His tomb bears the
inscription: “Memories of you will ever
be green. Girlie”
His widow and daughter were repatriated
in September 1943.
- Sidney Freeman
Sidney Freeman was a Sergeant with the
Royal Artillery 80th Anti-tank Regiment.
He died on 26 December 1943 at the age
of 39. He was the son of Max and Katie
Eliza Freeman of Swansea.
Sai Wan Bay Memorial
Those identified as Jewish and listed on
the Sai Wan Memorial are:
- Max Berger
Private Max Berger of the Royal Canadian
Army Service Corps died on 19 December
1941 during the defence of Hong Kong.
He was the son of Morris and Regina
Berger, of Sarnia in Ontario, Canada. He
was active in Canadian Young Judea.
- David Morris Schrage
Rifleman David Morris Schrage is one
of 30 members of the Royal Rifles
of Canada, Royal Canadian Infantry
Corps who are commemorated on a
panel of the Sai Wan Memorial. He
was one of 1,975 Canadian soldiers
who left Vancouver on 27 October
1941 aboard the TSS Awatea, a
passenger liner from New Zealand
that had been converted into a troop
transport. The soldiers were bound
for Hong Kong to defend the British
Colony in the event of an invasion by
the Japanese. Rifleman Schrage died
of a heart attack on 31 October 1941
and was buried at sea. His name is
included on the Memorial.
- Vivian Benjamin
Vivian Benjamin was the daughter
of Silas and Rachel Benjamin. She
was a member of the Hong Kong
Volunteer Defence Corps. She died
at Bowen Road Hospital on Friday, 21
September 1945 at the age of 52.
Her parents lived in Wembley Park,
Her name appears on Column 34 of
the Sai Wan memorial. She is also
listed on the plaque in Hong Kong’s
Ohel Leah Synagogue.
- Bernard Cohen
Bernard Cohen died on Wednesday,
24 December 1941at the age of 27.
He was the son of Morres and Ennie
Cohen. He was a member of the
Middlesex Regiment, 1st Battalion.
His parents lived in Willesden,
London though according to the
1941 Hong Kong jurors' list, a
Maurice Cohen was resident at
the Hong Kong Hotel. This could
possibly have been his father, but
this is speculative at best.
- Frank Elliot
Frank Elliot died on Monday, 22
December 1941 at the age of 28. He was
the son of
Julian S. and Katie Abraham. He was
a member of the Hong Kong Volunteer
Defence Corps, R.A.S.C. His parents
lived in Notting Hill, London. According
to the 1941 jurors' list, he was a clerk at
S. J. David & Co.
- Reginald Goldman
Reginald Goldman died on Thursday,
18 December 1941. He was a member
of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence
Corps. His mother lived in Greenhithe,
- Rudolph Hoselitz
Rudolph Hoselitz died on Sunday, 21
December 1941. He was a doctor and
a member of the Hong Kong Volunteer
- Harry Bernard Joseph
Harry Bernard Joseph was in the Hong
Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, R.A.S.C.
He died on Monday, 22 December 1941.
According to the 1941 Hong Kong jurors'
list, he was a broker with Joseph & Co.,
living at 43A Conduit Road. His mother
lived in San Francisco.
- Borris Lipkovosky
Borris Lipkovosky was a gunner with the
Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, 1st
Ballalion. He was previously a member
of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps. His
parents lived in Shanghai. He died on
Thursday, 25 December 1941.
Pok Fu Lam Memorial
David Kossick was a civilian casualty. He
died on 19 December 1942 at the age of
46 as a result of enemy action. He was
an engineer and ship surveyor in the
Government Marine Surveyor's Office.
He was listed as a member of Hong
Kong’s Ohel Leah Synagogue in 1936.
The quest for new information
is ongoing and the effort is
collaborative. For many of these
servicemen and women we have
but a scintilla of information. This list
is by no means exhaustive. There
is also an ongoing effort to expand
this list in order to ensure that it
is as thorough and as inclusive as
possible. If you have any names
or biographical information to
add please contact us through
firstname.lastname@example.org. All of the
cemetery photos were supplied