Cape Town, Monday, 2 October, 1899

My dear father, honoured and respected famous gentleman Yehuda Leib, and to my dear mother, may she live long, and to my brother Yaacov, my sister Rachel[i], and my dear respected brother-in-law, Moishe Schochet[ii], and his wife, who is my sister, may you all be blessed and may God grant you all the best.


To my dear wife Taube, be well in pleasant circumstances. And to my dear mother-in-law Neche and my sister-in-law, Chana Reza, and to my dear children, sons David and Noah, and daughters, Leah and Freda, be well, all in happiness and joy, and may we all be worthy of these blessings.


Dearest wife and friends, first I can inform you that I am enjoying good health, TG, and that on the boat I also was in good health. We came to Cape Town on Tuesday, Shmini Atzeret. Usually, everybody travelled to Johannesburg. But when we came into the harbour we already heard that going to Johannesburg was out of the question. People are running from there, so many that there are not enough coaches for them. When we came to the ‘Franken’ (? boarding house or office), everyone had a letter advising them to remain in Cape Town until the tummel settled down. I also got a letter from Moishe Tsabentsieker telling me that for God’s sake I must not go further. I should see if it is possible to get something to do and earn daily bread until times would settle down.


We wait every day for news – because it is near the end – and if the Lord wishes – He can stop the tummel and things will be better. Because today, everyone is running away from Johannesburg, because they are afraid the place is mined and it may become deserted like Sodom. But business is as before and one can make a living – and, therefore, I am remaining in Cape Town. The tradesmen/artisans who came with us have all got jobs, and the business people from Russia – each one is looking for his own chance. I began to buy bottles and bags and I hope that God will provide, because here in the good years one also had to suffer before you could make a good living. Therefore, in these bitter times, there is no question of any easy time. Johannesburg looks like Tisha B’Av, and people are running as from a fire. One is happy if one can creep into a railway coach through the window. And with every boat there are grienearriving from Russia.


You can imagine what it looks like, but nevertheless don’t worry my dear wife, you know how it is said in Russia ‘we expect that God will not forsake us’, and by you at home you say ‘it will all come right’. I can tell you that here we say the same thing. The Lord will carry us through. I have no other news to write in this letter, and maybe, with God’s help, I may be able to write more news about Parnosse (making a living). In the meantime, don’t worry, I cannot capture everything in the first minute, it must be with patience and with God’s help. Be well, live well, from me, your devoted husband and son and brother-in-law and son-in-law, Tuvye Kretzmar


PS. Please answer me right away and don’t be economical in words, and tell me of everything that’s happening to you, in health and business, if you have earned anything or lost. What did you get for the cow from Reinkos? And everything that’s happening to you there, and the same from me.


Notes:

[i] According to the Kretzmar family tree, Tuvye did not have a sister Rachel so it is not clear who he is greeting here.

[ii] Tuvye’s sister, Sarah, was married to Taube’s brother, Moishe Morris, whom he usually calls by his trade, Moishe Shochet .

© Kaplan Centre
Letters courtesy of Phil Kretzmar