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Series 1, General Correspondence, 1918-1970

14 boxes
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Collection Overview

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Series 1, General Correspondence, 1919-1970 [bulk dates 1935-1969], contains correspondence, arranged alphabetically by last name of correspondent, with publishers, politicians, writers, ambassadors, political activists, and friends around the world. Correspondence with his wife and children can be found among the family papers (Series 9). Topics include World War II and early Cold War issues, American politics and international relations, with a special emphasis on the Soviet Union, India, and Spain during its civil war. Much of the correspondence is personal, some reflecting longstanding friendships with people whom Fischer met in the various countries that he visited, including ambassadors and their wives, journalists and politicians. Where the correspondence was not strictly personal, Fischer kept carbon copies of the letters he wrote, which can sometimes be found on the back of the letters to which he replied. Reports on his conversations with politicians or his journeys may be found here too.

The series contains correspondence with numerous people whom Fischer knew through his work, including Josip Tito, President Sukarno of Indonesia, Robert Oppenheimer, Eleanor Roosevelt, Robert Kennedy, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi. Of particular note is the correspondence with George Chicherin, Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs, 1918-1929, which contains carbon copies of transcripts of Chicherin's detailed comments and corrections (in English) on Fischer's manuscript The Soviets in World Affairs (1930). (The original correspondence was donated to the Yale University Library.) Other correspondence reflects Fischer's attempts to influence politicians such as Franklin Roosevelt (about World War II strategy and India), John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, United Nations Secretary Dag Hammarskjöld, Belgian prime minister Paul-Henri Spaak (about the need of a gesture towards Italy in 1948 to curb Communist influence), and Anthony Eden (discussing the casualties in Spain, 1938). In these letters, Fischer spoke his mind. He corrected Eleanor Roosevelt on a point about the Soviet Union's foreign policy, and he chided Dean Acheson for wanting to resign his post because of the low salary. Correspondence with other notable people, often perfunctory, can also be found in the general A-Z files.

Much of the correspondence pertains to India. Fischer corresponded with many Indian politicians and activists, such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Yusuf Meherally, Pyarelal, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, and Jayaprakash Narayan. These letters shed light on the political developments and differences in India during the period before and after independence. Some of the correspondence, such as letters from Chester Bowles, American ambassador to India, 1963-1969, contains personal and off-the-record remarks. There is original correspondence from Mohandas K. Gandhi, as well as correspondence with Gandhi's disciples and family members. The correspondence with Motilal Kothari details the early attempts to turn Fischer's biography of Gandhi into a motion picture film. (Fischer gave away the film rights.) Russian film director Sergei Mikhaylovitch Eisenstein is the subject of other correspondence. Fischer communicated with Upton Sinclair on behalf of Eisenstein concerning a conflict over payments for the Moscow-Hollywood production Thunder over Mexico (1933), for which Sinclair and his friends had furnished money.

To understand Fischer's early life, the correspondence with Eiga Shapiro (1918-1921) is important. Shapiro worked for the Zionist Commission in Palestine, and the original letters Fischer sent to her when he served as a volunteer in the Jewish Legion for Palestine are rich in details. Of general biographical interest is the correspondence between Fischer and his publishers and editors, as it contains copies of his own letters, and sheds light on his personal life. The correspondence with Freda Kirchway, editor of The Nation, is of particular importance, as it includes many details of Fischer's life before 1938. This file contains Fischer's outgoing letters, probably returned to him for reference. (Fischer's letters to Markoosha from this period were destroyed before the family left the Soviet Union.) Correspondence with Harper & Brothers in 1956 includes Fischer's views on foreign policy that he wrote at editor Cass Canfield's request for use in Adlai Stevenson's electoral campaign.

Some of the correspondence discusses Fischer's projects and ideas. In 1945, when he publicly left The Nation, he corresponded with various people (including Eleanor Roosevelt) about a magazine devoted to international affairs he wanted to start with the help of Sumner Welles. (Welles later withdrew his support.) During the Second World War, because of his charisma and outspoken views on the horrors of fascism and dictatorships, the Office of War Information and the War Finance Committee asked Fischer to speak at various occasions and make radio broadcasts. Later, Fischer communicated with CIA director Walter Bedell Smith, detailing his views on how best to undermine Stalin's position in Soviet public opinion. Fischer was an active member of the Congress of Cultural Freedom, which sponsored international cultural exchanges. He was among the majority of members who voted against accepting director Michael Josselson's resignation in 1967, after it became known that the Congress's activities and sponsorships were funded by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Much of the later correspondence documents Fischer's life in Princeton, including the correspondence with his research assistant and close friend Deirdre Randall, and correspondence with academics, including former ambassador to the Soviet Union, George Kennan, who brought Fischer to work at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1958. The two exchanged views on both scholarly and political matters: in a 1959 exchange Fischer commented on Kennan's proposals on disarmament and asked Kennan to pass on certain ideas to people "with the ear of Eisenhower" in Washington. Other Princeton correspondents include Don Wolfe, Elias Lowe, Robert Oppenheimer, and Princeton University president Robert Goheen, who consulted Fischer about the student riot of 1963. In 1967, Fischer wrote Michael Josselson about his visit to see Oppenheimer on his death bed. Fischer had a brief relationship with Svetlana Allilueva, Stalin's youngest daughter, who defected from the Soviet Union in 1967 and settled in Princeton. In fact, the correspondence series reveals that Fischer was involved with many women, and love letters can also be found in the file "unknown correspondents" (alphabetically arranged by first name, if present).

Arrangement

No arrangement action taken or arrangement information not recorded at the time of processing.

Collection History

Appraisal

No appraisal information is available.

Sponsorship:

These papers were processed with the generous support of George Fischer.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Helene van Rossum in 2000, with the assistance of Desmond Dorsey '99, Bev Prewitt '02, Lindsey Tripp '04. Finding aid written by Helene van Rossum in 2000. Finding aid updated by Phoebe Nobles in February, 2019.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, any copyright vested in the donor has passed to The Trustees of Princeton University and researchers do not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with use of donor-created materials within the collection. For materials in the collection not created by the donor, or where the material is not an original, the copyright is likely not held by the University. In these instances, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Series 1, General Correspondence; Louis Fischer Papers, MC024, Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Location:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 1-14

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Bibliography

Fischer, Louis. Men and Politics, An Autobiography. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1940. Fischer, Markoosha. My Lives in Russia. New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1944. Raucher, Alan. "Beyond the God that Failed: Louis Fischer, Liberal Internationalist". The Historian 44, No. 2 (1982): 174-189.

Names:
Congress for Cultural Freedom.
Liberal Party (U.S.)
Genoa Conference (1922)
Great Britain. Army. Jewish Legion
Allilueva, Svetlana, 1926-2011 (1926-2011)
Chicherin, G. (Georgiĭ), 1872-1936
Fischer, George, 1923-
Fischer, Viktor, 1924-
Gándhí, Mahátma, 1869-1948
‏Lenin, Vladimir Ilʹich, 1870-1924‏
Nehru، ‏ Jawaharlal, 1889-1964
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962.
Soekarno, 1901-1970
Stalin, Joseph, 1878-1953.
Tito, Josip Broz, 1892-1980
Welles, Sumner, 1892-1961