Louis Fischer

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Louis Fischer
File:Louis Fischer.jpg
Born (1896-02-29)February 29, 1896
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died January 15, 1970(1970-01-15) (aged 73)
Princeton, New Jersey

Louis Fischer (29 February 1896 – 15 January 1970) was a Jewish-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,[1]


Early life

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 European 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 Fisher began working for The Nation.

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.[2]

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).

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 traveled to Ukraine in October and November 1932, for The Nation, and was alarmed at what he saw. "In the Poltava, Vinnitsa, Podolsk and Kiev 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 "wreckers." 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 Bose

In January 2009, on the occasion of the 112th birth anniversary of Subhas Chandra Bose, Italian ambassador 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.[3] In a statement issued against this remark, Mission Netaji, a Delhi based non-profit trust stated that there was evidence which held that Bose did not die in any plane crash.[4] 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.[5]


  • 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)
  • Stalin (1952)
  • The Essential Gandhi (editor) (1962).
  • The Life of Lenin (1964).
  • Russia's Road from Peace to War (1969)


  1. "National Book Awards – 1965". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
  2. Max Eastman, Artists in Uniform: A Study of Literature and Bureaucratism, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1934) pp. 161-165
  3. TNN, 24 January 2009, 03:25AM IST (2009-01-24). "No point researching Bose death: Envoy - Kolkata - City - The Times of India". Timesofindia.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 2012-07-26.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "The Hindu News Update Service". Hindu.com. Retrieved 2012-07-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "US record contests Italian envoy's views on Netaji's death - India News - IBNLive". Ibnlive.in.com. 2009-03-19. Retrieved 2012-07-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links