Georg and Wilma Iggers […] Buffalo, NY 14212 USA […]
ANNUAL LETTER 2016
Since 1960, when we spent much of the year in France with our three boys, we have made it a practice to write an Annual Letter to our friends about our experiences of the Year. In general the letters have been very positive as they have related to our personal lives.
Now, fifty-six years later, the process of typing a letter is more of a challenge for us than it has been in the past. Both Wilma and I have had health crises during the year.
In February, I was able to travel to Cuba, accompanied by my son Daniel, where I lectured on trends in historical theory and the status of Marxist ideology today, and met with colleagues at the University of Havana and at the University of Cienfuegos. While in Havana, I proposed to Cuban colleagues an international conference on historiography, which in fact will be held in February with participants that will include eminent scholars from North and South America, Europe, Japan, China and of course Cuba. I regret that my health will not permit me to attend the conference. It is my hope that my efforts have contributed to building bridges and helping Cuban scholars to overcome the isolation that began during the Cold War embargo. I was able to do something similar prior to the reunification of Germany, to initiate dialogue between East and West German historians, for which I was honored by the President of the reunited Germany with the federal Award of Merit, First Class, one of the highest civilian honors that Germany bestows.
In March of this year, we had a wonderful celebration of Wilma’s 95th Birthday, with many visitors and greetings, including tributes from the circle of women historians in Gottingen who wrote a biographical account of her life and work. She also received a large box of cookies and sweets from her friends and admirers in Horsovsky Tyn in the Czech Republic who regard her as one of their most eminent citizens. (Several years ago, Wilma received the Gratia Agit Award from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, for her many contributions to Czech culture.)
Wilma had a serious health crisis in June and recovered in hospital. She then *spent several weeks in Oxford, the nursing side of Canterbury Woods, where she underwent physical therapy and recovered sufficiently to return to our apartment. My recovery following emergency surgery for a subdural hematoma has been more gradual, my mobility is still limited and I am still in Oxford. I am taken to the apartment and to the dining room, and we are able to be together, but I need assistance with everyday tasks.
Wilma, at age 95, remains sharp and intellectually engaged. She is an avid, voracious and critical reader.
Until my health crisis, I was busy as ever with work on historiographical projects, mentoring and maintaining contacts with colleagues. I am very pleased that the Conference that I helped to organise will be going ahead this coming February in Havana, Cuba, although I will be unable to attend. Following up on concerns raised by a fellow member of the NAACP, I undertook to review the history text books that are used in inner city high schools. That project was interrupted due to my brain surgery, but I was able to pick it up again. I was pleased to find that a new generation of history textbooks now presents a much fairer and more diverse, if still imperfect, picture of American history than in the past.
As lifelong observers of politics and culture in the United States and in Europe, Wilma and I are profoundly disturbed by the political developments of the past year. I hope that in the long run, disturbing political trends will be mitigated. As Mao’s Foreign Minister Zho En Lai is reported to have said when asked about the impact of the French Revolution, “It is too early to tell.” (It is possible Zho En Lai misheard and thought the question was about the Cultural Revolution.)
We are blessed with wonderful children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Jonathan, our youngest, who lives not far from us in Amherst, has retired after thirty-three years with the County. In spite of his own health challenges, he has been an immense help to us during the past year.
Dan is now happily semi-retired, as is his wife Janet. He works part-time driving for a car and truck rental company in Toronto, and also serves as a judge for the investment industry regulator. His eldest, our granddaughter Sarah and her family - husband Phil, and daughters Kyra and Ivy are frequent visitors and dinner guests with us as they live in Niagara Falls on the Canadian side of the border. Granddaughter Kelly has taken a break from teaching elementary school in Toronto, and in June she and husband Eric celebrated the birth of their daughter Mabel Wilma, whom we were delighted to meet a few weeks ago at my 90th birthday party. We note that in Ontario, Canada Kelly is able to take a year of parental leave, which is not possible in this country. Last but not least, our grandson Adam and his wife Stephanie, whose wedding we were able to help celebrate a year ago August, are looking forward to moving into their own house, to prepare for the arrival of our great-grandson in May.
Our eldest, Jeremy, in Minneapolis, also is semi-retired, as is his wife Carol. He has been very active in establishing a hub for multicultural community activities. During the past year, they travelled to the countryside in Senegal, and they are planning another trip to Senegal, Guinea and Guinea Bissau. Last summer, Jeremy also visited his son Micha in Vienna, and then spent a week traveling in Iran.
As we write this letter we find ourselves more pessimistic than when we wrote our previous annual letter in 2015. Already last year we were concerned about domestic and international developments. We did not expect that someone like Donald Trump, committed to undoing liberal reforms going back to the New Deal, could be elected President. We are very worried about his attitudes on the international scene and the implications for the propect of a peaceful and prosperous world.
Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated my 90th birthday with our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and many friends here at Canterbury Woods. We hope the coming year will be good for all in spite of the dark clouds, and I hope that we will be able to stay in touch and share our news again next year.
Georg and Wilma