Louis Fischer (29 February 1896 – 15 January 1970) was an American journalist. Among his works were a contribution to the ex-Communist
treatise ''The God that Failed
'' (1949), a ''Life of Mahatma Gandhi
'' (1950), basis for the Academy Award
-winning film ''Gandhi
'' (1982), as well as a ''Life of Lenin
'', which won the 1965 National Book Award in History and Biography
["National Book Awards – 1965"]
National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
Louis Fischer, the son of a fish peddler, was born in Philadelphia
on 29 February 1896. After studying at the Philadelphia School of Pedagogy
from 1914 to 1916, he became a school teacher
In 1917, Fischer joined the Jewish Legion
, a military unit based in Palestine
. On his return to the United States
, Fischer took up work at a news agency in New York City
and met Bertha "Markoosha" Mark (1890-1977). In 1921, when Bertha went to work in Berlin
, Fischer joined her a few months later and began contributing to the ''New York Evening Post
'' as a Europe
an correspondent. The following year, he moved to Moscow
and married Bertha. In 1923 their first son George was born (followed by Victor a year later) and Fischer began working for ''The Nation
''. He also served as a volunteer in the British Army between 1918 and 1920.
While in the Soviet Union
, Fischer published several books including ''Oil Imperialism: The International Struggle for Petroleum'' (1926) and ''The Soviets in World Affairs'' (1930).
In 1934, American Max Eastman
criticized Fischer for Stalinism
in a chapter called "The 'Revolution' of April 23, 1932" in his book ''Artists in Uniform''. In 1938, Leon Trotsky
described Fischer as a "merchant of lies" and "direct literary agent of Stalin".
Fischer also covered the Spanish Civil War
and for a time was a member of the International Brigade
fighting General Francisco Franco
. In 1938, he returned to the United States and settled in New York. He continued to work for ''The Nation'' and wrote his autobiography
, ''Men and Politics'' (1941). Viktor Fischer, Louis Fischer's son, was a close friend of Lothar Wloch (1923–1976), the son of Wilhelm Wloch
and "Koni" Konrad Wolf
who was the Stasi
spy master Markus Wolf
's brother and uncle of Franz Wolf
who is very close to Vladimir Putin
. In 1989, Markus Wolf wrote about the three friends Koni, Vik, and Lothar in ''The Troika''.
Fischer left ''The Nation'' in 1945 after a dispute with the editor, Freda Kirchwey
, over the journal's sympathetic reporting of Joseph Stalin
. His disillusionment with Communism, although he had never been a member of the Communist Party USA
, was reflected in his contribution to ''The God That Failed'' (1949). Fischer began writing for anti-Communist
liberal magazines such as ''The Progressive
''. Louis Fischer taught about the Soviet Union at Princeton University
until his death on January 15, 1970.
Denial of the Soviet famine of 1932–33
Fischer travelled to Ukraine in October and November 1932, for ''The Nation
'', and was alarmed at what he saw. "In the Poltava
regions, conditions will be hard," he wrote, "I think there is no starvation anywhere in Ukraine now — after all they have just gathered in the harvest, but it was a bad harvest."
Initially critical of the Soviet grain procurement program because it created the food problem, Fischer by February 1933 adopted the official Soviet government view, which blamed the problem on Ukrainian counter-revolutionary nationalist
." It seemed "whole villages" had been "contaminated" by such men, who had to be deported to "lumbering camps
and mining areas in distant agricultural areas which are now just entering upon their pioneering stage." These steps were forced upon the Kremlin
, Fischer wrote, but the Soviets were, nevertheless, learning how to rule wisely.
Fischer was on a lecture tour in the United States when Gareth Jones'
famine story broke. Speaking to a college audience in Oakland, California
, a week later, Fischer stated emphatically: "There is no starvation in Russia
." He spent the spring of 1933 campaigning for American diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union. As rumors of a famine in the USSR reached American shores, Fischer vociferously denied the reports.
Fischer's note about Subhas Chandra Bose
In January 2009, on the occasion of the 112th birth anniversary of Subhas Chandra Bose
to India Alessandro Quaroni
stated that there was no point in continuing research on whether Bose died in a plane crash or not
in August 1945. In a statement issued against this remark, Mission Netaji
, a Delhi
trust stated that there was evidence which held that Bose did not die in any plane crash. Mission Netaji cited reference to a note by Louis Fischer, which is preserved in the Princeton University Library
. The note quotes the former Italian ambassador Pietro Quaroni
, father of Alessandro Quaroni, as saying that he did not think the news of Bose's accidental death was true. Fischer had met Pietro Quaroni in Moscow
in November 1946 and quoted him saying it was possible "that Bose is still alive". Quaroni had told Fischer that Bose did not want the British to look for him, so the false rumor of his death was circulated.
George Fischer and Viktor Fischer were his sons.
*''Oil Imperialism: The International Struggle for Petroleum'' (1926)
*''The Soviets in World Affairs'' (1930)
*''The War in Spain'' (1937)
*''Men and Politics'' (autobiography) (1941)
*'' Gandhi & Stalin.'' (1947)
*''The God that Failed
'' (contribution) (1949)
*''The Life of Mahatma Gandhi'' (1950)
*''The Life and Death of Stalin'' (1952)
*''The Story Of Indonesia'' (1959)
*''The Essential Gandhi
'' (editor) (1962).
*''The Life of Lenin'' (1964).
*''Russia's Road from Peace to War'' (1969)
External linksLouis Fischer Papers at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton UniversityBiography at princeton.edu
Category:Jewish American journalists
Category:National Book Award winners
Category:Writers from Philadelphia
Category:Philadelphia School of Pedagogy alumni
Category:International Brigades personnel
Category:The Nation (U.S. magazine) people