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 (052l)—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,