Malmesbury, (after Yom Kippur), September 1901

To my dearest and beloved wife, Taube Kretzmar, be well; and to my dear children, my son David, son Noah, daughter Leah, and daughter Freda. Be well, zollen leben and develop in wealth and comfort.


Dearest wife, I have received your letter of the 19 August safely. I thank the Almighty for your health, and may God bring in the new year everything that you may need ‘parnasse, hatzlache and oreg yomim and oser bekoved (in Hebrew, ‘to make a living, good luck and long life and in good honour). I thank you for your news that you have written to me about our family and our friends, Hinda, Leah, Zundel,


Meish Rubin received a letter immediately after Rosh Hashanah at the new year.


I hope that from this Rosh Hashanah there will be a beginning of more good luck in my undertakings and that it will receive God’s blessings and good fortune. I give a mazeltov for the son and Mrs Rubin from the depths of my heart.


You write me that my brother Isaac reckons to come to Africa, and you tell me you wish to hear my opinion on this matter. I would like to give my opinion, but I am afraid he will not listen and perhaps may already have left home, because one is in a hurry to make some money. But I must tell you the trouble in a few words. You must not jump into water just to get a drink. To leave home is easy, but tell me when he would come back?


You see in Birzh people who have been away and come back with money. When it was quiet (in the Boer War), one could earn good money, but still be separated from home. But now it is worse than in Russia. It is wartime. You are not allowed to leave Cape Town. A permit is not given. If one has important business, a permit is granted for a day or two and you need a reference that you are an honest person. But today, what can you do? A ‘griener’ must stay in Cape Town and not go further. To go into town a pass is also necessary, and you don’t always get one, and all business is stopped. There is nothing more to remind you – I don’t want to think about this until there will be peace after the war. Then, we will be able to correspond with each other.


Don’t worry. Africa will not run away. You have to work with all your might and even beyond, and have to suffer hunger and thirst. In everything that is still to happen, there is nothing to be ashamed of, as a wanderer has to suffer. It is not worthwhile to spend 200 roubles to come to Cape Town and not be able to leave it. It may be better to go to Riga and try for the galut of Riga to be the same as the galut in Cape Town… at the start you go with glass… and if you are kosher in Riga ‘hott men Africa af tsen toisend kabbal’. It could be that I would have done better if I had done that, but it’s a thing we can do nothing about – iz vervallen. After suffering here for two years, one has to hope with God’s help that things will be better, because nothing lasts forever, and especially a war, as and when peace comes it will be a blessing and a relief.


I am writing this to you my brother Isaac. You must read this letter and remember every word I say. In my opinion, you should not leave to come to Africa until everything and the war is over. Stop thinking of it, because once you have Africa on the brain, you don’t think of anything else. Everything becomes a burden – because you think that when you come to Africa you will be a king and gold will flow into your pockets.

© Kaplan Centre
Letters courtesy of Phil Kretzmar