Annual Letter 1986

Family unshortened
until Dec. 13
247 Cimarand Ct.
Getzville, NY 14068
Tel.: (716)-688-4248
November 9, 1986

Dear Friends:

Our season’s greetings will reach you earlier than usual. We are spending the fall here in Buffalo before returning to Europe for another eight months. We wrote you last year during our brief visit to Buffalo over the holidays. At the time we had just returned from a three month stay in Leipzig in East Germany where Wilma had been on an exchange fellowship and both of us had done research. The beginning of January we returned to Göttingen, in West Germany, where we spent the remainder of my sabbatical until the middle of August. We very enjoyed the seven months there as we had the stay in Leipzig. Göttingen, as you know, is almost a second home to us. We have been there repeatedly since 1961, for research years and summers, have many friends there and feel very much a part of the community. This time we did not live with Irmgard Bokemeyer in Rauschenwasser as on previous sabbaticals. Irmgard, whose eightieth birthday we helped celebrate and who continues to be as active as ever, this time among other things with making refugees from Sri Lanka feel welcome, has given up all of her house to her family except for one room. This time we lived with other very good friends, Dagmar and Hannes Friedrich, who with their three teenage children occupy a charming art nouveau house within a few minutes walk from the center of the city. We had a self contained apartment in the house in which once Hannes’ mother, whom we had know since we first came to Göttingen and who, herself one of the first non—Jewish members of the left resistance to have been arrested by the Nazis, was the moving spirit until her death of the Society for Christian—Jewish Cooperation which has sought to keep alive the awareness of a Jewish heritage in Germany but in recent years has also addressed itself to other civil libertarian issues such as the rights of the foreign workers. Both Wilma and I were able to do quite a bit of research and writing. Wilma continued her work on the early twentieth—century feminist on whom she had started to work in Leipzig last fall, Grete Meisel-Hess, and during the year discussed her work in lectures in West Berlin, Leipzig and Darmstadt. As usual I found my stay at the Max—Planck-Institute for History very stimulating. I had a work table there and had an opportunity almost daily to discuss my work and my manuscripts with the researchers there, several of whom have become good friends. I myself tried to pull together the various topics on the history of historical writing and thought since the eighteenth century in the West, a shorter version of which will come out in a small book which I am writing in German for a German publisher and have promised to submit in 1988, a larger version of which is intended to appear ultimately in English. I had an opportunity to present and discuss various aspects of my work to audiences in West and East Germany, but also in Austria, Hungary and the Netherlands. It was thus a very rewarding year for both of us in terms of intellectual feedback. I had utilized the stay in Leipzig last fall to read intensively on recent work in history in the GDR (East Germany) and had asked colleagues at the Academy of Sciences in East Berlin to permit me to have an opportunity to discuss my conclusions, which I frankly told them would be controversial, at an informal gathering of historians there. My conclusions were quite critical of recent attempts in the GDR to reclaim, in my opinion too positively, aspects of the German political past; they were relatively positive about new imaginative work, Marxist but relatively free of dogmatism, which is being done in social history and which I believe deserves to be better known in the West. I was invited to present my paper when I had completed it in March. The discussions, which lasted most of one morning and one afternoon and were followed by individual conversations the following two days, were very open and productive. I was very pleased to be invited subsequently by a group of social historians to discuss the paper once more in Leipzig. The final version of my paper which is going to appear in Geschichte und Gesellschaft, the leading West German journal of social history, in Germany and in History and Theory in English, profited a good deal from both sets of discussions. The Leipzig invitation gave us an opportunity to spend several very enjoyable days with our very good friends there. Wilma was invited to her paper on Meisel—Hess at the institute dedicated to women´s studies. It was a fascinating discussion since she and the people there came from very different directions. I gave a public lecture on “The Idea of Progress” reconsidered which only a few weeks after the Chernobyl accident led to an interesting exchange of views.

The high point of our stay, however, was the publication on Wilma’s book on “The Jews of Bohemia and Moravia,” the collection of documents with her extensive historical introductions on which she had worked many years. C.H.Beck Verlag in Munich, one of the leading German publishers, had done an excellent work of publicity. The reviews so far in the daily press have all been very positive and have recognized the extent to which the book is an attempt to set a fitting monument to a community which no longer exists and which is so very much a part of Wilma’s own past. The focus is less on the intellectual life of Prague which has received considerable attention than on the conditions of life of common people. For those of our friends outside of West Germany who will not have seen the book but who do read German I am enclosing a copy of recent review from the Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung which well conveys the sense of the book. Shortly before we left Göttingen the Friedrichs organized a garden party with our various friends at which a Bohemian Jewish meal was served to celebrate the book. This has been a busy fall since we returned to Buffalo on August 15. I was invited to participate in a large project at the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Bielefeld in Westphalia. The project began on October 1 and will last until the end of August but I shall join it on December 15 so that I can complete the fall semester here in Buffalo. The topic of the overall project is a comparative studies middle class (bürgerlich) societies in nineteenth century Europe and I shall look specifically at the historians in France and Germany in the period from 1870 to 1918 to examine the different contexts of political consciousness and intellectual life in the two countries. There will be approximately thirty participants from various disciplines and countries, from Western and Eastern Europe, North America and Israel, working and living together at the Center. Our address from December 15 until August 15 will be

Georg und Wilma Iggers
Wellenberg 1
D-48 Bielefeld 1, West Germany.

Our telephone number will be (0521)-1062739. Bielefeld is on the main train line and Autobahn from Cologne and the Ruhr area to Hannover, only about fifty miles Southwest of Hannover. If you should be in the area it would be good to see you. As you will have noticed from our American address, we are not living in our own home which we rented for two years to an Israeli family but have rented the house of a Buffalo professor and his family who are away on sabbatical. After August 15, we shall be again at our home, 100 Ivyhurst Road, Buffalo NY 14226. Wilma will be busy with her own projects. She is planning to combine her work on Meisel-Hess with studies of two other Jewish women intellectuals born in Prague who were active around the turn of the century. One of the most fascinating documents in her book are extensive selections from the autobiography of her grandfather’s brother, a poor Czech—speaking country Jew which she discovered. She is planning to go to Prague in January to interview the man’s aged daughter, to whom he had dictated the autobiography in the 1930’s and develop it at least into an article and a lecture.

Wilma will be on sabbatical during this academic year and will probably be teaching a reduced load when she returns to Canisius next fall. Being away from her heavy teaching responsibilities has been a good relief. She has been in good health and has been able to turn more fully to her writing interests. I have been teaching a very full load of graduate students this fall and shall be in close correspondence with several when I go to Germany as I was also last year. One of my doctoral candidates accompanied me to Göttingen and two will join me in Bielefeld. We now have a very international group of graduate students in the department, an active exchange with West Germany and a number of students from the Far East, including our first student from the People’s Republic. We continue to have an active correspondence with students and colleagues we met in China two and a half years ago. Next fall we shall have the first exchange on the doctoral level with the Academy in East Berlin. During the fall we had a number of visitors from both Germanies and one each from China, Australia and Romania, several of whom were here in connection with two conferences in which I was involved. Almost immediately after our return to Buffalo, I flew to Little Rock to the college where we taught in the 1950’s and to which I have been invited annually as part of an evaluation team since 1966. The visits have given me an opportunity to continue contacts with friends from the days of the civil rights movements but at the same time follow the development of the college over the years. I have been reinvited for next year after our return and Wilma will join me this time.

We have enjoyed the opportunity to see family and friends during this stay in Buffalo. Little has changed in the professional status of our children. We saw Jeremy in Germany in June and visited him in Detroit shortly after our return. He is still writing for newspapers in both Detroit and Minneapolis and commuting between the two cities. He expects to see us later this month and if his plans work out proceed from here to Nicaragua but in connection with his journalistic work and his personal concerns. He and Wilma continue to work on the Bohemian Jewish cookbook but it is proceeding understandably slowly. Jonathan continues to be very busy between his work for the division of social services of the county, his houses, and the advertisement posters he continues to handle. He now has an apartment of his own but we see him several times during the week, generally in the evening. When we wrote you last December, we added a P.S. that Adam, our newest grandson had just been born in Toronto. We have seen the whole family, Daniel, Janet, Sarah, Kelly and Adam several times. Sarah, now nine, has been here both with Daniel and alone and we shall be meeting her next weekend with her mother and family halfway between Dundas, where she normally lives, and Buffalo. Last weekend we were in Hamilton for a big gathering of Wilma’s family on the occasion of the sixty-fifth wedding anniversary of her uncle and aunt. Unfortunately we have missed the picnic the first Sunday in June near Hamilton at which the whole group of Wilma’s relatives and friends who came from Czechoslovakia to Canada in 1938 and 1939 gather and shall miss it again next year. Unfortunately the ranks are now quickly thinning but it is encouraging that the younger generations, including our children still regularly attend.

This has been a longer and a chattier letter than I intended and one about less exotic places than our last two. We, however, always welcome the opportunity to communicate with you at least once a year. We wish you all the best for the holiday season and the New Year and hope that we shall see some of you on either side of the Atlantic. All the best,

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