Cape Town, 20 February, 1900

To my dearly beloved wife, Taube Kretzmar, Be well and live in happiness and joy. And to my dear children, may they live happily.


Dear wife, I have received your letter of 7th January safely, and I do not need to tell you how much joy and courage your letter has given me. It only takes me a few minutes to read your letter, and I reply straight away. But in those few minutes I appreciate the time that I have been separated from you, and I am including them in my lifetime, and without them I find no comfort, although I am in the big city of Cape Town, which is full of life and freedom, but alas for me it is like a jail. How can one call yourself a man, or alive, when the most important items are missing? The thoughts and hearts.


There is not a second in the day or night that I can call my thoughts my own, as I am alone and my heart is torn for you my dearest and my innocent children, may they live, and my thoughts fly far and wide across the noisy and terrible world, with pictures of your faces and memories of past pleasures.

But alas, what do I see? The sad faces of my children (zollen leben), and I hear their voices as they call for daddy, and the little naughty David gets excited and I will tell him ‘you little rascal (gazlen), why are you taking this house?’


I see you my dearest wife with a sad pale face, as you accompany me from Gereltzig on the way to Riga after Pesach. I hear your voice as we part,

‘Tevye, you are already starting little by little to separate yourself from me. You are departing from the Shabbat – my heart is very sore.’


I can now still today not forget it, but alas what can I do?

I am courageous and say to myself, it does not matter:  if you have to travel, you travel. I would have cast my mind to a previous period. I would have known that I would find darker colours. So I begin to comfort myself with the thought that the Lord will in future bring us joy, to be together and live a peaceful and placid life. Because whenever there was an unsatisfactory situation it was due to bad business. Therefore, my dearest, I hope that the sun will still shine and we will enjoy happiness. So don’t worry, with God’s help everything will come right.

I am enclosing in this letter £3, and if the Lord will provide more I will send more. Buy yourself something for yourself for Yomtov, and for our son David you should tailor a suit, and then write me whether you have already paid off the loan at Webers and if not try and ask my brother-in-law Moishe to give my father the money and he will recover the goods and keep it for the winter and so that you should have it for Yomtov. I shall send the money earlier if possible. So my dearest wife, do your best to get the stuff out, and to sew if possible for Pesach, and not to be despondent and lonely. The old four kashes (questions). of course will be asked by our David, but from you I ask please not to ask any kashes. Why and wherefore? As the Lord has caused it so, I suppose it will be better so, and if I know that you are not lonely then I will enjoy the Yomtov better in this new world.


There are now seven weeks to Pesach, so I can still receive a reply about the money and news. I am afraid to ask you what news? You can write me again. Liepe Rubin has started a new shop and the (munder?) helps him. Such a joy I do not begrudge him.


I think that you should write me about our good friends – write how it is with David Michael and if he is still there, and how is it with Yudel Rubin from Arminishai, and the children, and if an engagement is in the offing. His daughter Moeshel Rubin… and  chossen? You can write me why your letters are so late to hand. I must curb my pen to you my dear, as it goes through my head. I close my writing as there is no more paper and no time. I am well, TG hoping to hear the same from you – if I could get more profit, I could be happier. Be well and stay well and write me if there was a wedding of Miss Greentuch, whether you were there also and if you enjoyed yourself. From me, your devoted husband, Tevya Kretzmar

© Kaplan Centre
Letters courtesy of Phil Kretzmar