Georg and Wilma Iggers 715 Renaissance Blvd., Apt. B-111 Williamsville, NY 14221-8033 December 4, 2012
This has been a very busy year, on the whole good, but also with some worries. The greatest worry has been the health of our son Jonathan here in Buffalo who was in the hospital for almost eight weeks this summer, a good deal of it in intensive care, most immediately with a gall bladder infection, which poisoned a good deal of his system, but also with ongoing heart problems. He has been out of the hospital now for some time, has actually returned to work, but is still not well so that we worry. We are also worried about Wilma’s sister in Urbana, a retired professor of economics at the University of Illinois, who until two years ago was very active, and since then has deteriorated both physically and mentally. Wilma and I have some smaller age related problems with walking and hearing, but basically we are in good health. This has not prevented us from leading very active lives. This past year I have done more traveling and taken on more scholarly tasks than for a long time. I was in Germany in · March in connection with a project in which I am involved in preparation for a conference on how German historians in East and West Germany during the cold war viewed the history of the time. The conference in which I shall participate will be held at the University of Jena this coming January. This May I went to Santiago de Chile for the presentation of the Spanish translation of a book of mine. The publisher flew me there; it was my first time in South America. Wilma was going to accompany me, but because of Jonathan’s sickness had to cancel her trip. She could not get a refund on her ticket which, however, remains valid for a year and which we are going to use to go to Chile this coming February to spend a vacation. I met very interesting people at the presentation of my book with whom I intend to remain in touch and whom we shall see again in February. Both of us gave talks this September about our biographies at Columbus State University in Georgia. I just returned from a very nice four day visit in Little Rock, Arkansas, at Philander Smith College, the historically African American school where Wilma and I taught in the 1950s. We have been in touch with the school over the years and I was welcomed like a long lost son. As you may know when we were there in the 1950s we were both actively involved in the incipient civil rights movement and I organized the law suit which led to the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Wilma, who has some hesitations about traveling, decided not to come along, and she still has not decided whether she will come with me to Germany in January, although I and our friends in Germany are very much urging her. She did, however, go to the Czech Republic this spring to see friends, perhaps the last time she can make this trip. Last year on the occasion of Wilma’s ninetieth birthday the mother of our grandson Micha in Vienna offered to take her by car to the Czech Republic and this spring they went. I had a very nice two day stay in Richmond, Virginia, the city where we first settled when we arrived in the United States, and where I went to college. I still know a few people there whom I wanted to see once more, knowing that this might be last time.
I have continued my scholarly work. My main project at present is the version of a book, A Global History of Modern Historiography, which I coauthored with a good Chinese friend, Qingjia Edward Wang, and a good Indian friend, Supriya Mukherjee, which was published four years ago. Since then a Chinese edition has been published and it was translated but not yet published in Russian. We are now rewriting the English text and bringing it up to date for a German translation. This has been quite a bit of work but the end is now in sight. We intend to to submit the text to the German publisher, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, by the end of this month. We are now negotiating with a Spanish publisher who is very much interested. Wilma at present has no major project but she reads a lot and has a busy correspondence, both personal and scholarly, with friends and colleagues primarily in the Czech Republic but also in Germany.
As you probably know we sold our house last year and after a brief interlude in a senior residence where we were not very happy moved to the present one, Canterbury Woods, where we feel very comfortable. Considering our age the decision to give up our house as well as the decision four years ago to sell our apartment in Goettingen, was the right one. We regret particularly having left Goettingen where we felt very much at home and had and still have many friends, more than we have here. But we wanted to be closer to our children and grandchildren, who except for the grandson in Vienna, are all on this side of the ocean, and except for our oldest son Jeremy and his wife Carol, who live in Minneapolis, are within an easy drive to Buffalo. Jonathan joins us several times a week for meals. Our granddaughter Sarah, her husband Phil, and our five year old delightful great granddaughter, Ivy, live in Niagara Falls, Canada, a forty-tive minute drive from here. They come about twice a month to have dinner with us, and sometimes to go swimming in the nice indoor pool in this building. Our son Dan in Toronto, which is two hours away by car, also comes frequently, sometimes with his wife Janet and with our granddaughter Kelly and her partner Eric and our grandson Adam, and calls every day.
Everything is taken care of here and there are good meals. I take advantage of the pool almost every day, often joined by Wilma. We have given up driving, but there are provisions for rides. We have a very nice, spacious apartment- two bedrooms, a very large living room, and a small kitchen. We can put up guests in the second bedroom. Our rent includes an insurance which provides that when it becomes necessary we can move to assisted living or skilled nursing care in this retirement home without extra cost, which we hope will not come very soon. One thing which frankly bothers me is that only affluent people can afford to live here. But because of the cost there is not a single person of color living here. People here are very friendly and often join us for dinner in the dining room, but we do not have any real friends here or people with whom we can have serious discussions. This is very different from Goettingen or elsewhere in Germany or Vienna where we have lived or in Wilma’s case the Czech Republic. And as an emeritus I am treated as a total outsider by the history department, except for our good longtime friend Roger Des Forges. The people I knew in the department have retired and the new team is not interested. I had good interested audiences in Santiago, Washington, Vienna, Columbus, and Little Rock this year, but when last year I gave a talk about my work in the department except for Roger Des Forges only one member of the department attended, although there was a good student audience. In this sense I am quite isolated, but not quite. After all we have our kids, grandkids, and Ivy here. And we have had a steady stream of visitors this year, three friends from Goettingen, a couple from Heidelberg, one of the friends from Santiago, and at the end of this month an interesting friend from China is going to visit us. So we are really not isolated after all.
Our grandchildren are all doing well. Sarah and Phil are working in restaurants and enjoy life and Ivy. They are very good parents. Kelly has started with much enthusiasm to teach fifth and sixth grade in the Toronto schools. Adam completed his MA in political science last year at York University in Toronto with a challenging empirical thesis on the negative affects of neo-liberal policies on migrants and ethnic minorities in Ontario which is being published. He is currently working with an NGO with young people on Indian reservations in Ontario. Micha has just completed his alternative civilian service in Vienna which he had to perform as an Austrian citizen.
Now to our three sons: Jeremy, as you may know, left the Minneapolis Star Tribune several years ago to found an online paper, the Twin Cities Daily Planet, which you can read on the internet. I spent a very nice weekend with him and Carol last month while Wilma visited her sister. Dan, a lawyer, continues as a legal consultant. Jonathan will have completed his thirty years with the Erie (Buffalo) County Division of Social Services at the end of this month and can then retire with a full pension.
We are quite worried about the political situation, domestically but even more so internationally. We were relieved that Obama was reelected, but aware of the xenophobic and racist sentiments which almost led to his defeat. Wilma and I voted for him, although in many ways we were disappointed in him, less in his economic concessions which we could partly understand, but in his continuation of Bush policies restricting civil liberties, using the war against terrorism as an excuse. But it is the Middle East which worries us most, the civil war in Syria with its many civilian dead, and with the world just watching. I realize that there is no simple solution. But what upsets me most as a Jew, who still has an emotional attachment to Israel, is what is happening there. I read the English edition of the Israeli paper Haaretz every evening and often also the more conservative Jerusalem Post and thus am fairly well informed. We were shocked by the anti-Black riots in South Tel Aviv this past summer which received the support of members of the government, And we are deeply disturbed by the announcement several days ago of the plans for the construction of 3,000 housing units in Palestinian areas between East Jerusalem and the West Bank which will cut the West Bank in two and prevent any peaceful solution. We are frightened at the aggressive nationalism of a broad segment of the population which supports Natanyahu and his extreme xenophobic foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, but are also aware that many Israelis, some of whom we know, do not share these outlooks, but they are unfortunately in the minority. I know that some of you who read this letter will not like to hear this, but if you care about Israel and want to see it survive, this has to be said.
Wilma joins me with best wishes for the New Year which we hope will see some advance towards decency and peace, Georg