Upgrade to Chess.com Premium!

Who Was Fischer's Father?

  • billwall
  • | Mar 19, 2008
  • | 29054 views
  • | 34 comments

Who was Bobby Fischer’s father?  Was it Dr. Paul Nemenyi or Hans-Gerhardt Fischer?  Robert James Fischer’s surname could just as easily have been Nemenyi or Wender.

 

Paul Felix Nemenyi (ne-MEN-yi) was born on June 5, 1895 in Fiume/Rijeka, Croatia.  He was a Jewish Hungarian physicist specializing in fluid dynamics.  From 1912 to 1918 he studied at the Polytechnical school in Budapest.  He had to leave Hungary where anti-Semitic laws had been enacted.  In 1922, he obtained is Doctor of Science degree in Berlin and lectured on engineering at the Technical University of Berlin.  In 1927, his son Peter (1927-2002), was born in Berlin.In the early 1930s, he published a textbook on mechanics that would be required reading in German universities.  In 1933, he was sacked from his university duties because he was a Jew when the Nazis came to power.  He was arrested on April 1, 1933 by SS troops for making “calumnious statements” against Hitler’s government.  He was jailed for one day, then released because of the lack of evidence.  Nemenyi belonged to a small Socialist party called the ITSK.

 

In 1934, he found work in Copenhagen, settling in a farm village on redistributed noble landholdings in Denmark. His wife fled to Paris and died some time later.  He then went to Britain.   He resettled in a collective of unemployed coal miners in an abandoned factory and manor in Wales.  In the fall of 1938, he arrived in the USA to find a job. He left his son, Peter, behind in various Quakers’ homes and young refugee hostals in the United Kingdom.  He visited Princeton to consult with Albert Einstein and gave his resume to the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars.  The committee wrote in its files that Dr. Paul Nemenyi was an unstable and undesirable person.  Dr. Theodore von Karman, a fellow Hungarian and leading aeronautical scientist, also proclaimed Nemenyi a misfit.

 

After being recommended by Albert Einstein, he took part in hydraulic research at the State University of Iowa, working for Albert Einstein’s son, Hans-Albert.  In late 1941, he was appointed instructor at the University of Colorado and taught college freshman mathematics for $165 a month.  He was an animal-rights support and refused to wear wool.  In the winter, he wore pajamas underneath his clothes to stay warm and refused to wear a suit and tie.

 

Dr von Karman wrote about Nemenyi, “When he came to this country, he went to scientific meetings in an open shirt without a tie and was very much disappointed as I advised him to dress as anyone else.  He told me that he thought this was a country of freedom, and the man is only judged according to his internal values and not his external appearance.”

 

In 1942, Dr. Paul Nemenyi, age 47, met Regina Wender Fischer (1913-1997), age 29, in Denver, according to FBI files.  Regina was taking classes at the University of Denver while working at a company that made chicken incubators.  She was a mother of a 5-year-old girl, Joan Fischer.  Her husband, Hans-Gerhardt Fischer, was in Santiago, Chile.  He was barred by immigration authorities from entering the United States.   Paul met Regina at the University of Denver.  Regina completed here degree at the University of Denver.  She majored in French, German, biology, and chemistry.

 

In 1942, Nemenyi told colleagues that he preferred communism to capitalism.  Regina may have had the same preference.    In the summer of 1942, Dr. Paul Nemenyi and Regina Fischer were romantically linked, probably had an affair, and he may have fathered Bobby Fischer.  He did provide some financial support for Regina and the baby.

 

In 1942, the Encyclopedia Britannica commissioned Dr. Nemenyi to write an article on theoretical mechanics.  The article was later rejected.

 

In September, 1942, Joan was working as a student instructor at the Army Air Force's Radio Instrutors' School at St. Louis Univeristy.  At the time, she was pregnant and financially desparate.  She went to a jewish charity and attempted to place Joan, her daughter, with another family.  She did so, but the foster mother asked Regina to take Joan back.  The foster mother had discovered that Regina had several pages of chemical formulae, a letter from a left wing friend (Paul Nemenyi), and an advanced camera with state-of-the-art lens and collapsible umbrella.  There were also a heavy rubber apron and two heavy rubber sheets.  The foster mother called the FBI on October 3, 1942 to report all of these suspicious items.

 

By 1943, Regina moved to Chicago and Paul Nemenyi moved to Rhode Island to teach.

Bobby Fischer was born on March 9, 1943, but Paul Nemenyi’s name was not on the birth certificate.  Regina gave birth to her son alone, in a clinic for poor single mothers (Michael Reese Hospital).  On the birth certificate, she listed Hans-Gerhard Fischer as the father.  She briefly considered putting Bobby Fischer up for adoption, but decided not to after talking to a social worker.  Regina then moved into a Chicago home for fatherless families.  At one time, she was arrested at this home and charged with disturbing the peace (she encouraged other mothers to question the institution’s rules), but was acquitted.  A court-ordered psychological exam found here to be paranoid.

 

 From 1944 to 1947, Paul Nemenyi was an instructor at the State College of Washington (now Washington State University in Pullman, Washington).  He also worked at Hanford, Washington on the Manhattan Project working on a mechanism which triggered the atomic bomb.  Dr. Robert Oppenheimer may have helped Paul get work at Hanford.  Peter Nemenyi joined his father, but was later drafted and served in Northern Italy, outside Trieste.

 

In 1947, he was appointed physicist with the Naval Ordinance laboratory in White Oak, Maryland.  He was head of the theoretical mechanics section of the laboratory.  He was one of the world’s leading authorities on elasticity and fluid dynamics. 

 

Dr. Nemenyi took a deep interest in Bobby Fischer and even paid child support to Regina.  At one time, in 1947, when Bobby was 3, he complained to a social worker about the way Regina was raising Bobby.  He told the caseworker that Regina was mentally upset and Bobby was an upset child.

 

In 1947, an informant told the FBI that Paul Nemenyi remarked that the Soviet system was superior to that of the United States.

 

In 1949, Dr. Paul Nemenyi went to a social worker again, complaining that his son was not being brought up in desirable circumstances, due to the instability of Regina.

 

In 1951, he wrote a review of the Encyclopedia Britannica for The New Republic and declared it out of date.

  

Dr. Paul Nemenyi died of a heart attack on March 1, 1952, at the age of 56.  He had just stopped at a dance at the International Student House in  Washington, DC.  There, he dropped dead of a heart attack.  He was living in Washington, DC, and working at the U.S. Naval Research Lab.  He was survived by his son, Peter , a civil-rights activist.  Peter wrote that his father, Paul, was the father of Bobby Fischer.

 

At the time of his death, Paul was paying for 8-year-old Bobby’s education and sending $20 a week to Regina.

 

When Nemenyi died, he had an envelope full of letters.  The police turned these letters over to the FBI.  In one of the letters, a female friend wrote that he (Paul) should not spend too much time worrying about Peter and Bobby.  She wrote, “I am sorry that you have so many sorrows with your children.”

 

At the time of Nemenyi’s death, Regina was in nursing school in Brooklyn, broke, and facing eviction.

 

Photos of Paul Nemenyi bear a striking physical resemblance to Bobby Fischer (see picture - Bobby Fischer is on the left, Dr. Paul Nemenyi is on the right).  The FBI file described Dr. Nenemyi “as having a large nose, large knobby fingers, and an awkward, slovenly walk and dress.”

 

When Dr. Paul Nemenyi died, Regina Fischer wrote to Peter Nemenyi, who was attending Black Mountain College in Asheville, NC.   “Bobby has not had a decent meal at home this past month and was sick for two days with fever and sore throat and, of course, a doctor or medicine was out of the question.  I don’t think Paul would have wanted to leave Bobby this way and would ask you most urgently to let me know if Paul left anything for Bobby.  Bobby is still expecting Paul.”  She also wrote that she could not afford to patch his torn shoes.

 

Regina did not want to tell Bobby of Paul Nemenyi’s death and was hoping that Peter Nemenyi would do it.  He was not comfortable with that, so he consulted a family doctor for advice.  He wrote to his family doctor, “I take it you know that Paul was Bobby Fischer’s father.  The matter is further complicated by the false pretenses about Bobby’s identity and the parents’ difference of opinion over the question.”  Peter felt he was not qualified to tell Bobby about Paul’s death since Peter had met Bobby only a few times.

 

In 1963, Peter Nemenyi received his Doctorate in mathematics from Princeton.

 

In the 1960s, Bobby’s half-brother, Peter Nemenyi, was beaten and arrested while trying to help black voters in Mississippi and trying to integrate coffee shops.  In 2002, Peter killed himself in Durham, NC, at the age of 75, after suffering from prostrate cancer.

  

In 2002, an article by Peter Nicholas and Clea Benson of  The Philadelphia Inquirer suggests that Nemenyi may be the biological father of Bobby Fischer.  Through the Freedom of Information Act, they were able to obtain a 900-page file (file 100-102290) that the FBI had on Regina Fischer.

 

An FBI report claimed that both Hans-Gerhardt Fischer and Dr, Paul Nemenyi harbored Soviet sympathies.

 

Hans-Gerhardt (sometimes written as Gerard or Gerhard) Fischer (also known as Gerardo Liebscher) was born on September 28, 1908 in Berlin, Germany.  He was a Jew and worked in Berlin in the early 1930s, where he met Regina Wender, whose father, Jacob (Jack) Wender, was a Polish dress cutter. 

Regina graduated from high school in St. Louis, Missouri and attended Washington University, the University of Arizona, and the University of Denver.  In 1932, she went to Berlin to study and to work as a governess.  It was in Berlin that Regina met Hans-Gerhardt.

Hans and Regina moved to Moscow in 1933 and were married in Moscow on November 4, 1933.  She was 20, he was 25.  He was a biophysicist working at the Moscow Brain Institute.   She was studying medicine at the First Moscow Medical Institute and he was studying biophysics.  Regina stayed for a year in medical school but never graduated.  Quitting school, she worked as a riveter in a defense plant in the Soviet Union.

 

Their first born child, Joan Fischer, was born in Moscow in 1937.  She died in 1998.

 

On July 29, 1938, Regina went to renew her passport at the American embassy.  She told a staff member that she had separated from her husband.  At about this time, Hans-Gerhardt had left or was sent to operated on the Republican side in the Spanish civil war to fight the Fascists.

 

I late 1938, Regina and Joan departed for France and met up with Hans-Gerhardt in Paris.  It's possible they also went to Austria.

 

On January 23, 1939, Regina Fischer left France and headed to the United States with her daughter, Joan.  She was born in Switzerland but raised in St. Louis, Missouri and was a naturalized American citizen.  She caught one of the last ships leaving France for America.  It is not clear if Hans-Gerhardt was on this ship (he did not have a U.S. passport, but had a Spanish passport).  The FBI does say that Hans-Gerhardt Fischer never entered the United States from any ship (was he a suspected Soviet spy?). 

The FBI file says that Hans Gerhardt Fischer lived for a time in Port San Antonio and Satiago, Chile where he sold and installed fluorescent lights and worked as a photographer.  He landed in Chile on January 4, 1940.

 

The FBI suspected that Hans might be a Soviet spy targeting Nazis in South America.  In one letter to Regina in June 1941, he made what the FBI called a cryptic reference to photographing fisherman (Nazis?) at a Chilean port.  During that time, three German agents had been arrested there, posing as fisherman.  They were charged with transmitting espionage information by radio.

 

Regina later divorced Hans-Gerhardt on September 14, 1945 on the grounds of willful neglect to provide for her and her two children.  At the time of divorce, Regina was living in Moscow, Idaho. He never lived with her in the United States.  He remained a lifelong German citizen.

 

Bobby Fischer’s only public statement about his father appeared in Start, a Zagreb newspaper.  “My father left my mother when I was two.  I have never seen him.  My mother has only told me that his name was Gerhardt and that he was of German descent.”  Fischer once said, “Children who miss a parent become wolves.”

 

Later, Bobby Fischer told a friend that he and Joan did not have the same father.  Joan Fischer Targ always insisted that her father’s name was Hans-Gerhardt Fischer.

 

Hans-Gerhardt Fischer died on Febuary 25, 1993 in Berlin, Germany.

 

Regina Wender was born on march 31, 1913 in Zurich, Switzerland.

 

Regina Wender Fischer Pustin died of cancer on July 27, 1997 at the age of 84 in the Stanford University Hospital.


Comments


  • 22 months ago

    PuntaArenas2012

    If you look more carefully the photo of Paul Nemeny

     , you may also discover a beauty-spot below his left eye, and Bobby had the same beauty-spot (it is more visible when Bobby is older, in his last photos, when he was released from the Japanese prison, and he was wearing a long beard) on the left cheek, more or less on the same location.

    Paul Nemenyi was really Bobby's father.

     

  • 22 months ago

    PuntaArenas2012

    Many chessplayers are like children, believing their chess heros are always perfect, pure, well above human defects.

    But there's nothing "outrageous" or disgraceful in being an illegitimate son.

    Recently it was calculated that nearly 10% of people in the world are illegitimate, even without any suspiscion of that.

    Now, from a legal standpoint, many lawyers would tell you that most of judges would sentence that Paul Nemenyi was the TRUE biological Fischer's father (even without a DNA test), for the following reasons:

    1) It is proved that Gehrardt Fischer was not allowed to cross the Chilean border after 1942, and then he never entered anymore the USA, preferring to live in Germany

    2) It is proved that Paul Nemenyi and Regina Wender had an intimate relationship in the summer 1942 (Bobby was born on March 1943)

    3) There are evidences of the payments by Paul Nemenyi (who surely was not so rich to send lightly money to a "friend", as Regina officially was for him) to Regina Wender, every month, to support her child.

    4) The resemblance between Bobby and Paul Nemenyi is really striking.

    5) Nemenyi's son, Peter, said to some close friends that Bobby Fischer was a secret brother of him

    Moreover, if we evaluate the very high level of Nemenyi's mind as a physicist (much more than Gehrardt Fischer), and his works, it is not so difficult to come to the conclusion that Paul Nemenyi was really the biological Fischer's father.

  • 3 years ago

    14words

    1. Nemenyi was not Fischer's Dad.
    2. Hans-Gerdhart was Fischer's Dad.
  • 3 years ago

    kencoach

    One of the best methods for learning chess is "fighting" with a chess computer. The wisdom of this has been proven I think. What do you think? I enjoy this site very much.http://www.chessworldnook-shps.com/chess-computers/

  • 4 years ago

    kenneth67

    Why don't they just do a DNA test to solve this whole issue?

  • 5 years ago

    DrFrank124c

    looking 4 a photo of joan, bobby's sister. would appreciate a link or jpeg. want to use it on my website dedicated 2 bobby fischer at http://www.webmasterfrank.com

  • 5 years ago

    Elroch

    The most striking line in this is  "The FBI suspected that Hans might be a Soviet spy targeting Nazis in South America." Like targetting Nazis was a bad thing!

  • 5 years ago

    flyingpawns

    Very nice article

  • 6 years ago

    figrock

    Thank you, Bill for helping us with our homework..! Cudos..! Cool

  • 6 years ago

    chester256

    A lot of brilliant people in Germany and Hungary and Britain supported communism as a positive developement during the Great Depression that preceded WWII.  

    Bobby Fischer's mother was obviously a briliant and talented woman and never got the success and recognition that she deserved in Academia.  Nemenyi also did not behave well in his relation to Regina.  Who knows anything about her family?

     


  • 6 years ago

    morphy_rocked

    Sad an all too often, that great instability in the home during childhood brings about instability in adulthood.  But this is a principle, not a law!
  • 6 years ago

    billwall

    No known picure of Hans-Gerhardt Fischer that I know of. 
  • 6 years ago

    Reprise

    Billwall,

    Have you got a photo of Hans-Gerhardt Fischer? I've been wondering if Bobby and Hans-Gerhardt look alike, like Bobby and Paul Neminyi.

    Laughing


  • 6 years ago

    purpleguy

    Thanks Bill, that's helpful to know.  Great work.
  • 6 years ago

    Psycho_Gemni

    That was a nice read. I think this article deserves more 5 star votes than it's getting at the moment =). Thank you for the article, Bill.
  • 6 years ago

    billwall

    Purpleguy,

    I cited the FBI files on Regina Fischer which you can get after filing a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) and which I requested from an ex-FBI agent.  It is case file 100-102290, dated April 17, 1959.  I also cited the 2002 Philadelphia Inquirer article by Nicholas and Benson.   You can find further info in Bobby Fischer Goes to War by Edmonds and Eidenow.  Some info can be found in My Great Predecessors IV by Kasparov.  


  • 6 years ago

    purpleguy

    Interesting.  No source citations, though?  Can you provide any?

     Thanks

     


  • 6 years ago

    SonofPearl

    It seems to be commonly accepted that Nemenyi was his father.  The circumstantial evidence is strong and the likeness is striking.
  • 6 years ago

    oldtale

    To dolphin44fan:

    A stupid donkey like you, who feels free to make such an ugly comment on the lives of a genious person and his parents, can only be father to another stupid donkey. So, shut up!!


  • 6 years ago

    RobjB76

    Great article... they look like similar... im always wonder that every person has its similarity...
Back to Top

Post your reply: