Sachs Surname Meaning, History & Origin,

Sachs Surname Meaning

The surname Sachs took its name from the region of Saxony in central Germany, originally Sachsen after a line of princes there in the 15th century. The name, however, became more common in Bavaria.

The Jewish Sachs name is of more recent origin – dating probably from the early 19th century when Jews in Germany were obligated to take surnames.  Sachs was a name adopted in memory of persecuted forebears, an acronym of the Hebrew phrase zera kodesh shemo, or “his name is of the seed of holiness.” Spelling variants are Sacks and Saks.

Sachs Surname Resources on The Internet

Sachs Surname Ancestry

  • from Germany (Saxony and Bavaria) and from Jewish emigrants
  • to America, Canada, England and South Africa

There are an estimated 12,000 Sachs in Germany today. The name has been fairly common in Bavaria (Hans Sachs the famous meistersinger came from Nuremburg in Bavaria) and has also cropped up in Hesse.

As a Jewish name, Sachs was to be found throughout the Yiddish diaspora of central and eastern Europe, in Poland, Lithuania and Russia as well as Germany. The rabbi Michael Sachs, born in Silesia in the early 1800’s, was one of the great preachers of his age.

Of the Sachs who came to America, some 70 percent started out from German-speaking lands.

America. The first Sachs in America may have been Dutch, early settlers in New York state. Johan Peter Sachs was recorded as marrying Angeniser Thornbauer in Kingston, NY in 1727. Two Sachs from the Palatinate in Germany – Johan Adam Sachs and Johann Jacob Sachs – were onboard the Edinburgh which came to Philadelphia in 1749.

The following were some 19th century German Sachs immigrants:

  • Franz Sachs and his son Joseph left Luderode in Thuringia for Louisville, Kentucky in 1849. Both father and son were tailors.
  • Daniel Sachs arrived in 1858 and found work in the coal mines in Eckley, northern Pennsylvania. Other Sachs also settled in this locality.
  • Gottfried Sachs, following his sister, came with his family from Stuttgart to California in 1885. They settled in Zamora, just north of Sacramento.

Jewish. The first main Jewish settlement in America was in Baltimore and a number of Sachs came from that community. Andrew Saks, born there in 1847, started the Saks chain of department stores which later included their flagship store of Saks Fifth Avenue in New York.

Joseph Sachs, an immigrant from Bavaria, ran a successful congregational school for Jewish students in Baltimore. His son Samuel Sachs joined his father-in-law’s investment banking company – which became Goldman Sachs after Samuel took over the running of the firm in 1904. The company story, together with the family dynamics, is covered in June Breton Fisher’s 2009 book Henry Goldman, Goldman Sachs, and the Founding of Wall Street.

The wave of late 19th century Jewish immigration included the following Sachs:

  • Wolf Sachs, a peddler and shop owner who had come from Russia to Pennsylvania in 1888 and then brought his family together in Baltimore in 1900. His daughter Mary Sachs opened a clothing store in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1918 which became one of the town’s leading retail attractions.
  • Florence (Flossie) Sachs who came with her family from Lithuania to Pittsburgh in the early 1880’s. She was the wife of Lewis Selsnick and mother of David Selsnick, both of whom were to prosper in the new American movie industry.
  • and Solomon Sachs who came from Russia to New York in 1906. He was only to live for another eight years before dying of tuberculosis.

There were later arrivals fleeing Nazi persecution such as the scientist and astronomer Rainer Sachs.

Canada. John Sachs emigrated from Thuringia (then part of Prussia) to the Hespeler area of Cambridge, Ontario in 1848 where other German families had settled. Several other Sachs families were to be found in the early history of this region.

Sachs Harbour is a hamlet on Banks island in the Northwest territories. It was named after the schooner Mary Sachs, built in California, that was part of the Canadian Arctic expedition of 1913.

South Africa. A Sachs family (originally Saks) left their home in Lithuania in 1914 and moved to South Africa. Solly Sachs who was a child then became a fearless trade union organizer and opponent of apartheid. He and his son Albie spent many years in exile in England. Albie had lost his arm and his sight in one eye from a bomb placed by South Africa’s security services. He later returned to South Africa and, post-apartheid, was appointed as a judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

England.  Another Sacks from Lithuania, Samuel, came to England in 1917 and worked as a doctor in London’s East End. He had been houseman to Henry Head, one of Britain’s pioneering neurologists; while his wife Elsie, who had studied under Marie Curie, became a surgeon. Their son Oliver Sacks would become world-famous as a neurologist.

Sachs Surname Miscellany

Sachs Coming to America.  Most Sachs coming to America came from German speaking lands.  The table below shows the numbers that were recorded.

Numbers Per cent
From German-speaking lands *   309   70
From Russian lands   101   25
From Poland    22    5
Total   432  100

* Listed as Germany, Prussia, Bavaria and Hesse.

Saks 34th Street and Saks Fifth Avenue.  Andrew Saks, a native of Baltimore, opened his first shop in Washington DC in 1867 and built an operation that spread to other cities.  In the 1890’s he came to New York to investigate opening a store there.  At that time the principal shopping district was below 23rd Street, with the most elite stores on Broadway and the middle-market stores on Sixth Avenue.

It was fairly clear that high-end stores would move north on Fifth Avenue and the natural conclusion was that the middle-market stores would gradually migrate up Sixth Avenue.  Macy’s acted on this premise in 1901 when it announced its store at the northwest corner of 34th Street and Broadway at Herald Square. Andrew Saks followed later in 1901 just to the south on Broadway and Sixth Avenue, between 33rd and 34th Streets.

The construction of Pennsylvania Station in 1910 confirmed Herald Square’s status as mass not class.  After Andrew Saks died in 1912, his son Horace took over and responded to a different vision.  Swank shops had continued to move up Fifth Avenue, but Sixth Avenue – in the perpetual shadow of the Sixth Avenue El – had effectively reached a standstill on 34th Street.

To raise cash to build a new store between 49th and 50th Street on Fifth Avenue, Horace Saks sold the entire company to his competitor, Bernard F. Gimbel.  The result was Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks’ operation but Gimbel’s money.  Instead of closing the old Saks, Gimbels restyled it “Saks – 34th Street” and built a second-floor bridge connecting the two buildings.  Although now jointly owned, the two stores operated as separate businesses.

What began in 1924 as a gap between Saks 34th Street and Saks Fifth Avenue eventually became a gulch. In 1938 Fortune described Saks Fifth Avenue’s merchandise and clientele as completely unlike “the anthill bargain basement tables on Herald Square.”

Reader Feedback – Saks Fifth Avenue.  Seventy years in possession of a precious bag from my mother to me from Saks London New York.  So honored to know the history behind this handbag Mum left me.

Elvina (

Solomon Sachs in New York.  Solomon Sachs arrived in New York from Russia in 1906 at the age of 24.  He operated in Manhattan a business called “Sol’s Belts.”  In 1909 he married Ida Miller who had been born in Manhattan of Russian immigrants and they had a son named Aaron who became a doctor in Brooklyn.   Sadly, in 1914 at the age of just 32, Solomon died of tuberculosis.

Solly and Albie Sachs.  Albie Sachs was born into a fervently political Jewish family. His father Solly was a renowned trade unionist who fought against racism in South Africa. “I had a father who was in the news a lot.  My emotions were mixed. It was mainly pride,” Albie said.

Solly, who had separated from his wife when Albie was young, was fairly remote.  “In many ways he was the guy behind the newspaper – I saw the top of his head sticking out and his knees underneath.”

During the second world war, Sachs received a postcard from his father: “‘Dear Albert, congratulations on your sixth birthday.  May you grow up to be a soldier in the fight for liberation.’ Now that’s fantastic.  But it’s heavy.”

While Solly made his home in Johannesburg, Albie and his mother lived in Cape Town where his mother was secretary to Moses Kotane, the leader of the Communist Party and the ANC. Unlike any white South Africans of his generation, Albie Sachs grew up seeing black and white adults interact as equals.  Later Albie became like his father a fervent campaigner against apartheid.

Marilyn Sachs’ Childhood.  Marilyn Sachs, the author of more than thirty books for children and young adults, helped launch the trend of realistic fiction for young readers with her first book, Amy Moves In, in 1964.

Her own childhood provided the framework for many of her stories. Born in New York City, she grew up in an apartment on Jennings Street in the east Bronx.  Sachs once recalled that although the street had no trees, flowers or birds, it did have plenty of children. Because there was not much traffic on Jennings Street, neighborhood children would gather to play outdoor games.  Although most families that lived on the street – including Sachs’ own – were poor, the author remembered this time of her life fondly and has documented it in her books.

As she once remarked: “Amy Moves In, my first book, probably comes closer to describing my life on Jennings Street than any of my other books.”

Mary Sachs in Harrisburg.  In 2007 the Dauphin County Historical Society hosted an exhibit dedicated to one of Harrisburg’s most famous 20th century community members, Mary Sachs, the Epitome of Style and Substance.

The exhibit featured select Mary Sachs clothing and accessories donated or loaned to the Society by local residents who never forgot the uniqueness of the Mary Sachs retailing experience.  Also on display was a large-scale photograph reproduction of the Mary Sachs Harrisburg storefront as it existed after World War II, as well as photographs documenting her lifelong commitment to family and community.

Mary Sachs was a Russian-born immigrant who was only four years old when she came to America in 1892. She began developing her knack for the retail trade at Kaufman’s department store on Harrisburg’s Market Square.

In 1918 Mary Sachs was introduced to Harry Lowengard.  He loaned her seed money and rented to her the first floor of his building so that she could open her own clothing store.  The store opened in September 1918.  With sales of over $200,000 in its first year, the shop quickly became one of Harrisburg’s premier retail locations.

Mary Sachs died on June 24, 1960 at the age of 72.  On the following day, the Mary Sachs Shop and the 212 Man’s Shop closed in observance of her death.  An advertisement read: “It is with profound sorrow that we make known the passing of our beloved founder Mary Sachs.”

Sachs Names

  • Andrew Saks from Baltimore founded the Saks chain of department stores which eventually included Saks Fifth Avenue in New York.
  • Samuel Sachs was an American investment banker. He joined his father-in-law Marcus Goldman’s firm, prompting the name change to Goldman Sachs in 1904 when he took over the running of the firm.
  • Albie Sachs, born of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, was a judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa, appointed by Nelson Mandela in 1994.
  • Oliver Sacks is a British neurologist whose books such as Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat have brought him a wider audience.
  • Jeffrey Sachs is an American economist and author of bestsellers such as The End of Poverty and Common Wealth.

Sachs Numbers Today

  • 300 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 6,000 in America (most numerous in New York)


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Written by Colin Shelley

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