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Fisch in a 1934 passport application
|Born||Isidor Srul Fisch
26 July 1905
|Died||29 March 1934
Cause of death
Isidor Srul Fisch (26 July 1905 – 29 March 1934) was a German friend and business associate of Bruno Hauptmann, from whom Hauptmann claimed to have received a box containing gold certificates which had earlier been used to pay a ransom in the kidnapping of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr.
Fisch was born into a Jewish family in Leipzig, Germany, and emigrated to America in 1925. Upon his arrival, he went to live with the family of Herman Kirsten, his former boss back in Germany, and continued to work in the fur trade as a cutter. He lived in rented rooms together with fellow German immigrants, Karl Henkel, Gerta Henkel and Henry Uhlig. Sometimes, he earned as much as sixty to eighty dollars a week.
Involvement with Bruno Hauptmann
Fisch was well known in the German American community of the Bronx as a very strange character. He had approached many of the community to invest in a variety of business schemes, most of which were bogus. He was also involved in some small fencing operations which included the purchasing of "hot" money cheaply to store and re-use later. Fisch and Hauptmann met in 1932, became friends, and agreed to pool the risks and profits of Fisch's trade in furs and Hauptmann's stock investments.
Fisch had applied for a passport on 12 May 1932, which was the same day that the Lindbergh baby was found dead. On 9 December 1933, Fisch set sail on the ocean liner Manhattan for a visit to Germany, shortly after the ransom money was paid by the Lindbergh family. He paid for his ticket with $420 worth of gold certificates purportedly lent by Hauptmann. He had also purchased, with the Hauptmann money, $600 worth of Reichsmarks.
According to Hauptmann, on 5 December 1933, Fisch left various items, including a shoe box in which Hauptmann claimed to have later found $14,000 in gold certificates. One of the certificates was identified in circulation on 18 September 1935, although others reportedly appeared in circulation years after Hauptmann's execution. During this period, gold certificates were rapidly being withdrawn from circulation and it was unusual to see one. One gold certificate used at a Bronx gas station was traced to Hauptmann, and he was subsequently arrested.
During his trial, Hauptmann claimed he had discovered the money while cleaning a closet with a leaky roof and that the leak had made the shoe box fall apart. He took his findings to his garage and began to dry the wet bills. He then hid them behind some wooden boards in the garage. He figured that since he was owed $7,000, it was okay for him to keep the money for his family. This sequence of events, told by Hauptmann throughout the trial, was dubbed by police and reporters as "The Fisch Story."
Throughout his trial, Hauptmann insisted that Fisch had owed him money and he was only spending what he was owed. The defense never convincingly tied Fisch to the crime, and the jury disregarded Hauptmann's claims. However, to this date, a few investigators still believe that Fisch was in fact, responsible for the kidnapping and subsequent murder of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr.
Fisch died of tuberculosis in Leipzig, Germany on 29 March 1934. A multinational police investigation of Fisch conducted by the U.S and German police, in the aftermath of Hauptmann's arrest, discovered that he was so poor that his parents had to regularly send him money from his native Germany. He was constantly sick and always virtually starving to death. An interrogation of Fisch's brother, Pinkus Fisch, by the German police, revealed that Fisch had never made any mention of Hauptmann prior to his death. Moreover, Fisch's German acquaintances characterized him as a "harmless fur trader".
Mrs. Laura Urant, the daughter of Hauptmann's landlady, told American investigators that she had once met Fisch at a party in Hauptmann's apartment, after which she regularly saw him in Hauptmann's company. Speaking of Fisch, she said, "Fisch knew that he was plagued by an illness that would take many years to cure. Knowing that, I do not believe that if he had a great sum of money, he would have delayed getting the medical attention that he so badly needed."
A police investigation into Fisch's financial records also revealed that, in 1931, Fisch had borrowed several thousand dollars to embark in a pie-baking business that later went bankrupt. In April 1934, a few weeks after Fisch's death, Hauptmann wrote to his family advising them that Fisch had left certain articles in his care. In the letter, Hauptmann made no mention of a shoe box that Fisch had left behind.
- "Fisch Kin to Testify for State", Archives The Lodi News - Jan 16, 1935
- Jim Fisher, The Lindbergh Case. Rutgers University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8135-2147-5
- Lloyd C. Gardner, The Case that Never Dies: The Lindbergh Kidnapping. Rutgers University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8135-3385-6