Friday, January, 1900

To my dear father – Yehuda Leib Kretzmar – and my dear mother, the chaste and modest Beila, and my scholarly brother Jaaicov Kretzmar, and my younger brothers and sisters – to all of them I wish unlimited happiness. And to my dearly beloved wife Taube – may she live happily – and to my dear children and my dear wife’s parents.


I’ve received your letter of the 8thNovember safely and also the letter dated 22nd September. I’ve read them both with pleasure. I thank you very cordially for them. I ask you not to fail in future to write regularly every week as up to November I have had to wait up to three weeks before I received any mail from you and I’ve lost patience – I cannot endure it. You can imagine that you are all at home amongst your friends and relatives, even the sky and the clouds and the climate are the same as they have been in previous years.


Nevertheless, when you miss one person, write to him that you would like to know everything about him and I believe that this is the truth. Now you can imagine how I feel when all my nearest and dearest are far from me, how I wish to hear good news from you – and when I receive a letter it is my greatest pleasure and therefore I thank you for your letter. I can say that I am ready to fulfil your wish because up to now I have had no patience to write, because I have not felt settled yet.  I was still on the move, but now I can tell you everything in detail … from Zudgala I left on Rosh Chodesh Ellul – it was a Sunday [i]


On Monday we arrived in Ponevez [ii]. From Ponevez I took a train to Sadorah[iii]. It cost me 51 kopeks. In Sadorah I left the train with the idea to hire a car to go to town – because from the station to the town is about one kilometre (verst), but at this moment I was approached by a man who looked very decent and asked me, ‘Young man, where do you want to go?’ As an inexperienced traveller I had a rule to be very careful. I gave him a good look, scratched my ear, and answered coldly, ‘What difference does it make? I’m going to the town.’ He however understood that the transport was going further so he said to me, ‘You are going to an agent, please tell me to whom you are going, because he is from our company. I am also going there.’ I told him that I was not a man to tell lies. I told him I was going to Hirsch Katz, so he says, ‘That’s good, as I’m his brother, so we can go together, because tonight we are leaving by train. So you can go immediately.’


I was with him and he took me in with Yaacov Kretzmar and afterwards we’d settle matters. He understood what I meant. He said, ‘Yes, you can make enquiries about me and whether you can depend on me and give me money.’ I went to Eliezer Bennanar Hirzl -father-in-law and I was a welcome guest. He asked after everybody and he told me to give his regards to everybody. I gave him the money for myself and for Yaacov Kretzmar, who was short of two roubles – I advanced him the money and that night we left. We passed through fields and forests and I was very afraid, lest we should meet with a ‘poher’ – a goy – who would ask me, ‘Where are you going tonight?’ (in Lithuanian). But as I understand he (the agent) must have taught the goyim, and  replied with the excuse that they should not ask questions. So we travelled until Abel [iv] (town where Mrs Stein [v] comes from) and we came (photograph of her father’s home??) and again (last line dim and unclear) and there were another two persons on the other side without any problems. In ‘Uitkoenen’ we were with Yaacov Kretzmar from Thursday to Saturday night and there was not much Convenience there. We were together in a house that is not very big and there were 200 men – there was no room where to sit or to stand and not to sleep, and the noise was up to high heaven. In a house without a ceiling and a draught from all the windows and doors and so I caught a cold from which I suffered for the next three weeks until I arrived at the big boats in London. May the Good Lord reward us with everythings. In ‘Uitkoenen’ my heart was sore enough. Most of the travellers were “Americans” - the women and children, big and small, where the husband has gone to America for five or six  or seven or eight years ago. And now they have sent travel tickets for the family and the children. I saw there the real picture, who grew up without a father, where the mother has such a face, she is like ‘snow in mud’, and so the children grew up wild, unmannered and know nothing of human kindness or Godliness. I was very upset when I thought about it – that I have also left children at home – and who is going to bring them up? – with character and good manners and belief in God. (last line dim and unclear)

… and when is the time? Just after the wedding? He could not live together so they separated each in a different undertaking – until after a year he managed to get rid of her officially. He just managed to get away with his life – he fell in up to his neck – but he’s still lucky to get free from her in a good way. He was lonely there and a matchmakers his head – He was brought up in America from one years of age – in any case it is superfluous to talk about it. It’s a happening finished and over. It cost him plenty in health but it is good that he is rid of her. He is a clerk in a business and finds himself lonely and not too well. It would be good if you took the trouble to write to him, but don’t remind him of this whole story. He wants to forget it – Mr W Kramer c/o T Greenberg, Beaumont, Texas, America.


Notes:

[i] Sunday, 6 August, 1899.

[ii] Now called Panevėžys, it is halfway between Vilnius and Riga and is the fifth largest city in Lithuania. On the August 24, 1941 all its Jews were shot.

[iii] Possibly Žagarė- Yiddish Zhagar. Northern Lithuania near the border to Latvia. All its Jews were killed at the marketplaceby Einsatzgruppe A on Yom Kippur, 1941.

[iv] Now called Obeliai, it is a small poor city in the Rokiškis district municipality of Panevėžys County, Lithuania. In August 1941, all the Jewish residents of Obeliai and the surrounding villages were taken into the Antanašė Forest by the Nazis, made to dig a long trench and then shot and buried. The official German army report states that on August 25, 1941, a total of 1,160 Jews, consisting of 112 men, 627 women, and 421 children were killed.

[v] Mrs. Stein,  the wife of Mr. Nathan Stein, who translated the letters for Dr Julius Kretzmar.

© Kaplan Centre
Letters courtesy of Phil Kretzmar