|Birth Day:||March 5, 1908|
|Death Date:||Dec 1, 1999 (age 91)|
As per our current Database, Fritz Fischer died on Dec 1, 1999 (age 91).
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He was a member of the Nazi party between 1939 and 1942.
For most Germans, it was acceptable to believe that Germany had caused World War II, but not World War I, which was still widely regarded as a war forced upon Germany by its encircling enemies. Fischer was the first German historian to publish documents showing that the German chancellor Dr. Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg had made plans in September 1914 (after the war began) to annex all of Belgium, part of France and part of Russia. Fischer suggested that there was continuity in German foreign policy from 1900 to the Second World War, implying that Germany was responsible for both world wars. These ideas were expanded in his later books Krieg der Illusionen (War of Illusions), Bündnis der Eliten (From Kaiserreich to Third Reich) and Hitler war kein Betriebsunfall (Hitler Was No Chance Accident). Though Fischer was an expert on the Imperial era, his work was important in the debate about the foreign policy of the Third Reich.
In the 1950s, Fischer examined all e Imperial German government archives in their entirety relating to The Great War. (This had previously been done by Karl Kautsky, Professor Walther Schucking and Count Max Montgelas and published at Charlottenburg in November 1919 in a collection known as The Kautsky Documents. In 1924 this large book was published in English. A further book by Count Montgelas, The Case for the Central Powers was published in London the following year.)
Fischer was born in Ludwigsstadt in Bavaria. His father was a railway inspector. Educated at grammar schools in Ansbach and Eichstätt, Fischer attended the University of Berlin and the University of Erlangen, where he studied history, pedagogy, philosophy and theology. Fischer joined the Nazi Party in 1939, and left the Party in 1942. Fischer's major early influences were the standard Hegelian-Rankean opposition typical of the pre-1945 German historical profession, and as such, Fischer's early writings bore a strong bend towards the right. This influence was reflected in Fischer's first books, biographies of Ludwig Nicolovius, a leading 19th-century Prussian educational reformer and of Moritz August von Bethmann-Hollweg, the Prussian Minister of Education between 1858-1862.
In 1942, Fischer was given a professorship at the University of Hamburg and he married Margarete Lauth-Volkmann, with whom he fathered two children. Fischer served in the Wehrmacht in World War II. After his release from a POW camp in 1947, Fischer went on as a professor at the University of Hamburg, where he stayed until his retirement in 1978.
After World War II, Fischer re-evaluated his previous beliefs, and decided that the popular explanations of National Socialism offered by such historians as Friedrich Meinecke in which Adolf Hitler was just a Betriebsunfall (an occupational accident, meaning 'a spanner in the works') of history were unacceptable. In 1949, at the first post-war German Historians' Congress in Munich, Fischer strongly criticized the Lutheran tradition in German life, accusing the Lutheran church of glorifying the state at the expense of individual liberties and thus helping to bring about Nazi Germany. Fischer complained that the Lutheran church had for too long glorified the state as a divinely sanctioned institution that could do no wrong, and thus paved the way for National Socialism. Fischer rejected the then popular argument in Germany that Nazi Germany had been the result of the Treaty of Versailles, and instead argued that the origins of Nazi Germany predated 1914, and were the result of long-standing ambitions of the German power elite.
The American Klaus Epstein noted, when Fischer published his findings in 1961, that in his opinion Fischer instantly rendered obsolete every book previously published on the subject of responsibility for the First World War, and German aims in that war. Fischer's own position on German responsibility for World War I has become known as the "Fischer thesis."
In 1961, Fischer, who by then had risen to the rank of full professor at the University of Hamburg, rocked the history profession with his first postwar book, Griff nach der Weltmacht: Die Kriegszielpolitik des kaiserlichen Deutschland 1914–1918 (published in English as Germany's Aims in the First World War), in which he argued that Germany had deliberately instigated World War I in an attempt to become a world power. In this book, which was primarily concerned with the role played in the formation of German foreign policy by domestic pressure groups, Fischer argued that various pressure groups in German society had ambitions for aggressive imperialist policy in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East. In Fischer's opinion, the "September Program" of September 1914 calling for the annexation of parts of Europe and Africa was an attempt at compromise between the demands of the lobbying groups in German society for wide-ranging territorial expansion. Fischer argued that the German government used the July Crisis caused by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the summer of 1914 to act on plans for a war against the Dual Entente to create Mitteleuropa, a German-dominated Europe, and Mittelafrika, a German-dominated Africa. Though Fischer argued that the German government did not want a war with the British Empire, they were ready to run the risk in pursuit of annexation and hegemony.
The book was preceded by Fischer's groundbreaking 1959 article in the Historische Zeitschrift in which he first published the arguments that he expanded upon in his 1961 book. In The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History, Philip Bobbitt has written that after Fischer published it became "impossible to maintain" that World War I had been a "ghastly mistake" rather than the consequence of German policy.
In his 1969 book War of Illusions (Krieg der Illusionen), Fischer offered a detailed study of German politics from 1911 to 1914 in which he offered a Primat der Innenpolitik (Primacy of Domestic Politics) analysis of German foreign policy. In Fischer's view, the Imperial German state saw itself under siege by rising demands for democracy at home and looked to distract democratic strivings through a policy of aggression abroad.
Fischer was the first German historian to support the negative version of the Sonderweg ("special path") interpretation of German history, which holds that the way German society developed from the Reformation (or from a later time, such as the establishment of the German Reich of 1871) inexorably culminated in the Third Reich. In Fischer's view, while 19th-century German society moved forwards economically and industrially, it did not do so politically. For Fischer, German foreign policy before 1914 was largely motivated by the efforts of the reactionary German elite to distract the public from casting their votes for the Social Democrats and to make Germany the world's greatest power at the expense of France, Britain and Russia. The German elite that caused World War I was also responsible for the failure of the Weimar Republic, which opened the way for the Third Reich. This traditional German elite, in Fischer's analysis, was dominated by a racist, imperialist and capitalist ideology that was little different from the beliefs of the Nazis. For this reason, Fischer called Bethmann-Hollweg the "Hitler of 1914." Fischer's claims set off the so-called "Fischer Controversy" of the early 1960s when German historians led by Gerhard Ritter attempted to rebut Fischer. The Australian historian John Moses noted in 1999 that the documentary evidence introduced by Fischer is extremely persuasive in arguing that Germany was responsible for World War I. In 1990, The Economist advised its readers to examine Fischer’s “well documented” book to examine why people in Eastern Europe feared the prospect of German reunification.
Currently, Fritz Fischer is 114 years, 2 months and 12 days old. Fritz Fischer will celebrate 115th birthday on a Sunday 5th of March 2023.
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