Cape Town, 27 February, 1900

To my well-beloved wife, Taube Kretzmar, Be well in best spirit, and to my dear and precious children, be well in much good fortune.


My dearest wife – I can inform with joy that I find myself TG well. May God give me the same news from you. And that my writing shall find you also well. This week I have not yet received your letter because the boat with the mail has not arrived yet in harbour and because the dock is occupied by other boats that must unload their cargo for the military [i]. Hopefully, I should receive your letter tomorrow. Waiting so for a letter one gets excited so that you have no patience to write. Seeing that the letter has to be posted on Wednesday, and if not it will remain over for another week, so I must force my patience to write as much as possible. In general there cannot be a big letter today because I have a feeling your letter is already there. And I am not wasting time to try and go and fetch it. Therefore, please excuse this time.


I have no news to write you now but this I can inform you, that the siege of Kimberley [ii] was lifted from the Boers and when the telegram came to Cape Town, it was Yomtov! On all the houses they hung out the British flag and everyone who drove into town, from the most expensive coaches to the cart that carried stones, each one carried flags on high and music was played in the streets. And again when the news arrived by telegram that General Cronje had surrendered with all his forces, it was Yomtov again [iii].


May the Lord grant that some good will come to us, too, and to be able to enjoy peace. I close my writing. Be well and don’t worry and look after yourself and the children in health and schooling, and wishing you good luck, From your loving husband, Tuvye Kretzmar


I greet cordially and in friendship my dear parents, my father and mother and brothers and sister, Yaacov and Hinda, I wish you all good luck as a blessing in all ways. Please excuse me for my simple writing. From me, your son, Tuvye Kretzmar

I greet also cordially my mother-in-law, honourable lady Mrs Neche, and my dear brother-in-law Moishe and his wife, my sister Sarah, and their children, and also my dear sister-in-law, Chana Reza. From me, your brother-in-law, Tuvye Kretzmar


Notes:

[i] The Cape Town harbour had been filled by an armada of ships, offloading troops, horses and supplies. Also rats, fleas and the plague. Sometimes there were over 120 ships at anchor in the bay, many waiting months before they could be unloaded. McKenzie, R (editor), Cape Journal, No 1, 1998, 8

[ii] The siege of the diamond mining town of Kimberley by the Boer forces from the Orange Free State and the South African Republic lasted for 124 days from 14 October 1899 – 15 February1900. The siege was relieved by a cavalry division under Lt-Gen John French, part of a larger force under Lord Roberts. This editor‘s grandmother was a child in Kimberley during that time and kept as doorstops Boer shells that landed near her house.

[iii] On 27 February 1900 General Piet Cronje, who had begun the sieges of Kimberley and Mafeking was defeated at the Battle of Paardeburg, surrendering with 4,150 of his command after being surrounded by Lord Robert’s troops. After his surrender he and his wife were sent to a POW camp on St Helena. Boer morale sank after his defeat.

© Kaplan Centre
Letters courtesy of Phil Kretzmar