Cape Town, 20 June, 1900

To my dearly beloved wife, Taube Kretzmar, Be well in much pleasure. And to my dear children, my sons David and Noah, and my daughters Leah and Freda, be well in wealth and comfort.


My dear wife, I have safely received your letter of the fifth of May, marked number two, with news of all of you being well, which I read with great pleasure, although I noticed from your writing that you are a little cross with me because I sometimes send a very short letter, although I really am not guilty sometimes. Also a man is not an angel, and even if you wanted you cannot always do it, but as one knows, when the wife is cross you can’t be happy. And nogal, still especially when so far away. I’m afraid that sometimes you can write 9x9 in the marriage certificate, and send a divorce by cable, and then what can happen, and I can be left with a bald head, front and back. (He can be in trouble on both sides). In the meantime, we must try and patch things up and indeed write more. As King Solomon said, ‘Even if you say a lot you can still be a fool.’ When you talk too much, you can talk nonsense.


In the meantime, at the top of my letter I made a mistake, e.g. today is the seventeenth of June and I wrote the 20thbecause I know I must write a long letter otherwise you get cross and for that, for the sake of peace, you have to tell a lie, so I wrote the 20th, so by that date it should be a long letter, in black and white. And, just now, if you could see how I write this letter you would wonder. What, a time is this to write a letter? The hour must be eleven or twelve at night, all are asleep. In the street it is dark and quiet and I sit and write. You may say that this was after getting up from sleep ‘on credit’ (af en borg, e.g. on a sofa or not completely in bed), as happened in the good old times. I can tell you it is not so, it is entirely different. Indeed, I really woke up from a sleep – but it was (on borg), ‘on credit’ – but truly so, because I could not sleep anymore.


If you look around at your affairs in this world – it is already nearly a year that I left home – and what have I achieved? I haven’t paid any debts and I haven’t saved any money and I also did not send much home, although I don’t worry how the creditors are moaning. In any case, I know very well that they would like to be paid, and I would also like to send them something, but sadly, what can you do since you’ve come into such a land? You have to be happy and thank God that you can make a living until the war is over. Then there will be hope to do better. In the meantime, I’ll have to wait a long while. But sadly, what can you do? And one must just wait.


So I got up and am writing this letter. I can tell you that I am TG very well – PG that my writing should find you in the best of health.


You ask me if I have acquired any new clothes – I can tell you that in the meantime – nothing. I am still managing with the things you arranged for me and that I brought from home. You have to be very careful how you spend your rouble because it doesn’t come in as fast as you can spend. It may happen that a letter of mine with a little money would bring my father from shimbuch at night while you are asleep – and maybe you might think that this was something fallen from heaven. No, that’s wrong. From heaven falls no money. When it rains, big drops of water fall, from those you can drink, you can’t do more.


You have to run about a lot and work up a sweat before you can earn a pound. Usually it’s said at home, ‘That’s not bad, Africa can afford it’, but sadly we are not yet in Africa, one is still in Cape Town and here there are a lot of people, uninvited guests, and everyone wants to and must make a living, and so the times are bad for everybody, and one comforts oneself that when the war is over it will become better. It is a big country and a free land, no business is prohibited like with you at home. And the rewards are more than at home. But at the moment one cannot expect much.


Because of the war, all the tradesmen, shoemakers and tailors are doing better than others. There is lots of work for the military, clothing, leatherworks to make, and you earn good money, as England is rich enough to pay for it. Anyone who does good work gets good money, and when business is bad, one has to TG for whatever you get. I did not invest anything so I cannot demand anything, and I also did not bring very much from home. But nevertheless don’t worry and don’t be despondent, because however bad it is here I don’t long for Russia. I hope that with God’s help I will arrive at some time – a goal – and other jobs where I went day by day, it became worse and worse. One must just be patient and ‘lebel mit a ges ben geben’ (have a scheme planned). Expenses must be kept within the income, and God will not owe you anything, and will reward everything well.


I wish you mazeltov, Taube Kretzmar, that the mazel should come to us all because it’s needed everywhere. So be well and live well, as I wish you, Your loving and longing husband, Tuvye Kretzmar


P.S. I greet cordially my dear parents, sister and brothers, be well and happy – I wish well from the bottom of my heart, I wish you mazeltov, God should give mazel to us all and also visit us sometimes with His mazel. I find myself in good health, TG, and hope to hear the same from you. Please excuse my simple greeting, not according to the honour due to you. I don’t mean to save my writing, but as the paper is full, adding another page will make the letter too heavy. From me, your son and brother, Tuvye Kretzmar


P.S. I greet also my dear mother-in-law, who is modest, Mrs Neche, and my dear brother-in-law, a good man full of good qualities, and for my sister Sarah and all your children, be well and much good luck. I also cordially greet my sister, Chana Reza, her husband, who has acquired much wisdom, Mr Schneier Zalman Katz, and his wife and sister-in-law in New York, may he live to see his sons and grandchildren and achieve the highest rewards in wealth and good fortune, Tuvye Kretzmar

© Kaplan Centre
Letters courtesy of Phil Kretzmar