Malmesbury, 10 May, 1903

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


My dear wife, I have duly received your letter of 9 April. I thank God for His mercy in granting us good health. I, on my side, can tell you that TG I am in good health and spirits. May this letter reach you in the same condition, and that you should be able to tell me good news.


About business I can tell you sales are normal. The monthly sales amount to about £80 – sometimes a few pounds more, but more or less that’s the normal sales. I hope that when the labour season is at an end, more people will come to town and sales will improve. I will write you about it.


Further, even if you don’t ask, I feel that you want to know whether I have a room on my own or whether I eat and sleep in the shop. I can tell you that I have a room – it costs fifteen shillings a month. I have the room on my own together with a key. The furniture consists of a good bed. The frame is made of wired springs so it gives a little. And I have a mattress, as they have in town. I have acquired it already in the bitter years when I was in Cape Town. I also have a blanket and linen. I did not have it before, but I have it now- I have in the shop piece goods. The bedcover has a woven tiger on it, I have it still from the bakery. I have not yet acquired a table or a lamp. I manage with a box that is covered with a tablecloth, but shortly if I get a bargain I will buy a table, and when I get it I will write to you.

My lodging is with a Jewish shoemaker from Vilna. Afterwards he made a business of shoes and he bought a house and he brought out the family, and I am staying in his house. Further, in the shop I have a machine. I take the trouble to prepare a meal. It happens that sometimes it is not successful: it may be raw, or burnt, or salty, or too late, or not in time. But this is already an old story and so it is.


Further, I can tell you that I have received your parcel. Last week I was in Cape Town. I received a parcel of underwear, and for Tuvye Kretzmar three hankies and socks and some clothes. Further about the food, it went off and I could not eat it. I don’t know which is mine and which is yours, is it my mother’s? But in general I am very thankful. May God grant that I will be able to repay in gold and diamond the presents.


Further, dearest wife, write me if you were in Birzh and if you met Mendel Jacobson, the son of the schochet of Papile. What is he doing and how are things? I have heard in Cape Town that he regrets having made the journey. Write me if you met him and also what is news in your area. You can see that I have taken my hand off my heart and I am writing too much without counting, so you also must write more please. But if you find a slip indicating money you can know that I have sent it out, and if not I will shortly send it out. Please don’t be foolish and write me like a mature person.


I greet cordially my dear parents, my dear father Yehuda Leib Kretzmar, and my dear mother, the chaste and modest Beile, and my scholarly brother, Yaacov Kretzmar, and my brother Shmuel, and my sisters, Hinda and Chana, may you all live well. My dear parents, I can’t write you a long letter because I have nothing to write about. And the best news is that TG I am fit and well. May God grant that my letter should find you in the same condition, and that you should also send me good news.

Further, my brother Shmuel – if he has already left – may God help him to succeed. As you write letters to the agents and they write everything in particular. I have sent a permit and further you will hear from the agents. They know all the details because it is their business; but he must write me so that I can know with which boat he is to arrive, and so that I can meet the boat in Cape Town. And you, my dear mother, I cordially thank you for your present. May God grant you long life and happiness, and you should be able to give more presents to your children and the grandchildren and great grandchildren, amen ve amen.


And you, brother Yaacov, it seems as if you feel insulted by my letter, which I wrote to my brother Shmuel, and you replied in your letter that things are not as I imagine. I must tell you that you are making a mistake. This you must know – and know Hebrew quotation ‘If there is no wisdom, there is no old age.’ I have suffered a lot since I left home, and you should know that the best government, if it lies untouched for a long time, it collects dust. But if it gets brushed and cleaned and polished, it looks better and gets a new shine. It is still the same government but it shines and is beautiful. The same with people: if you are born in Zudgala and you attend cheder in Zudgala and you grow up in Zudgala and meet the fair sex in Zudgala, you may get the impression that this is the whole world and that all the improvements in business are as they are in Zudgala. I can tell you this is a big mistake. You should know that in the British Empire one cannot say that the state is so big and unlimited, without laws. We have a law here that when a child is big enough to earn his own living, he should not be a burden on his parents. He must work and pay his parents for his keep, unless he is still at school or at studies or if the father is very rich with lots of money in the bank and then does not worry that the son does not work. Just picture yourself the contrast between a family in Russia and a family in England. Here, as the children grow up, it becomes easier for the parents, and with you, our poor father has to stand all the nonsense from the children until they choose to do something. 


And besides that, everybody has his own opinion and says he wants to pick his own tsatske (his girl) and so it takes a very long time and in the end, everythng that is due to him, will come to him in in the meantime when you are here and you think about it, it appears comical and therefore I have written this to my brother. I have not intended anything bad, and therefore I ask you to please forgive me for all my sins and my thoughts about you. I wish that all Jewish children should not have less than you. May God help you all, and I, who lives at the other end of the world, may hear the voice of the Messiah, and then the Gates of Heaven will open and we should receive all the good things. Good life and success and may there be peace in our country, and with this I remain your best friend – may you all be blessed and successful, as is the wish of your son and brother, Tuvye Kretzmar

© Kaplan Centre
Letters courtesy of Phil Kretzmar