Malmesbury, 14 January, 1902

To my beloved wife, Taube Kretzmar, and to my dear children, my sons David and Noah, and my daughters Leah and Freda, may they all grow up and live in comfort and happiness.


My dear wife, your letter of last week I did not receive – it is true, I have almost forgotten your address because I have not written for a long time. I know that I am wrong to cause you pain for nothing, but alas I can’t help it. I know that you owe a lot of money, and the office of my father is very small, and I know about your business and your foot problems. It is a great pity that one can’t send more to my wife and children, and it is a great pity that my parents must support the married children, especially when one has not much for themselves. It is a great pity on everybody if one suffers a lot all for nothing. That is what makes one depressed and despondent. It is a great pain, but TG for granting us our good health and we can endure it. To tell you the truth, at the moment, times are hard and whatever one does, does not help. But today it is as bitter as death. But it is my wife and children who must suffer so much, and one must do something to alleviate their position. If we’d had been all together, it would have been different, but we are so far away, it is murder to write about it.


It is like the poor klezmer – an itinerant musician – who was very poor at home – his debts were above his head and he had nothing to live on from day to day, so he went to a wedding in order to make a few groshen. When he came to the wedding, the rich machatonimarrived to eat and drink and enjoy themselves, and they had no feelings for this poor man. They asked him to play some special pieces, very happy ones, so that they should enjoy themselves. Every note on his fiddle caused him a lot of pain. They do not understand that this music is cutting the heart of this klezmer. But what can one do? Because the machatonim like to enjoy themselves.


The same story can be said about letters from Africa. I must keep on writing even if the times are not good. Thus in the good times it is a pleasure to write home; however, as the times are bad and one must send money that is urgently needed, which I have not got, it is very bitter that one cannot write anything good, and one can’t write an empty letter.


The bakery was not a paying proposition. The SA Milling Company did not want to take over my share. I would have liked to take over the whole lot, but I could not afford to pay him out, and I have sold my share to someone else. I had to borrow in the meantime and lose money, and when you have no cash, you are liable to take chances, and so I am hard-pressed and can’t send any money and besides the business is very poor. I hope to God that business will improve and then I will send as much as possible.  I had to borrow and may God have mercy on us.

© Kaplan Centre
Letters courtesy of Phil Kretzmar