Witness of the twentieth century honored Wilma Iggers received the prize Gratias Agit from the Czech minister of foreign affairs.
The Czech ministry of foreign affairs watches carefully how the Czech Republic, which generally is not the focus of global interest, is viewed abroad. The result of this research is astonishingly positive: in western countries. The Czechs are as a rule viewed positively. Apart from some screwballs, this is also the case in Germany. This is, on the one hand, due to the emigrés of 1938, 1948 and 1968, who have fitted into the ways of life of their new homelands, and in many cases have proven to be desirable workers in their respective fields. A considerable number of personalities in the sciences and in the arts have shed a favourable light on their country of origin. It is the purpose of the prize "Gratias Agit", which has been awarded this year, on June 21, to a considerable number of personalities from many countries, Bohemists and persons active in culture and politics. One of them is Wilma Iggers, born as Wilma Abeles 1921 in Mirkov near Horsovsky Tyn. Having fled in time from the Nazis, her Jewish family was able to settle in Canada in fall of 1938 and for their daughter Wilma to attend university. Now as the professor emerita, she lives in USA and Germany with her husband Georg Iggers. She ofcourse visits her first homeland as often as possible. In 2002 she even became an honorary citizen of Horsovsky Tyn. Her work about the Jews of her home town is being used as a text in the local school.
All of Iggers’ scholarly work concerns the unique qualities of Bohemia. Mainly the symbiosis of Czech, Jewish and German culture which marked intellectual life in pre war Czechoslovakia and especially Prague is clearly visible in her books and in the many lectures, which she held in many countries. She wrote, for example, „Die Juden in Boehmen und Maehren, ein historisches Lesebuch" (The Jews of Bohemia and Moravia, a historic reader"), Munich, 1986, „Women of Prague"(Oxford, 1995), German edi tion "Frauenleben in Prag", Vienna 2000 and a joint autobiography with her husband: „Zwei Seiten einer Geschichte. Lebennsbericht aus unruhigen Zeiten" (Two sides of a story, a report about lives in turbulent times.)
Her lectures in Germany, USA, at universities in Australia, China, Taiwan and Japan and her contributions to various scholarly journals were always intended to transmit to listeners and readers the coexistence of Czech, German and Jewish culture before the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Nazis. At a conference of German and Czech historians in Leipzig, Wilma
Iggers spoke about her original homeland as a model state which provided asylum to many German opponents of Hitler. The time which Wilma Iggers describes is irretrievably past, the Nazis’ work was thorough, and as far as the Jews were concerned, deadly. Since 1989 and even more since the Czech Republic joined the EU, it is, Iggers suggests, up to the younger generation in the two neighboring states to search for new cultural commonalities.
People like Wilma Iggers, who have experienced the „olden days" will continue to strive for a fuller understanding between Czechs and Germans.
The Czech state’s thank you for these efforts in the form of a prestigious prize reflects an encouraging understanding of these efforts.By Helmut Buttcher
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