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
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
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
In 1942, Nemenyi told colleagues that he preferred communism
to capitalism. Regina may have had the same preference. The FBI suspected Regina
of communist sympathies after a babysitter found what she believed to be
pro-communist letters from Chile
belonging to her, then turned them over to the FBI
after calling them. 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
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
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
Photos of Paul Nemenyi bear a striking physical resemblance
to Bobby Fischer (see picture). 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 Ashville, 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.
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 1963.
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
Inguirer suggests that Nemenyi may be the biological father of Bobby Fischer. Through the Freedom of Information Act, they
were able to obtain a 750-page file (file 100-102290) that the FBI had on
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 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. 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 and may have fought the
Fascists in the Spanish civil war in the 1930s.
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 1938. She died in 1998.
In 1939, Regina and Hans left
Moscow together and traveled first to Austria.
In 1939, Regina Fischer returned 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. 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, Chile where he sold
fluorescent lights and worked as a photographer.
The FBI suspected that Hans might be a Soviet spy targeting
Nazis in South America. In one letter to Regina, he made what the FBI called a cryptic
reference to photographing fisherman (Nazis?) at a Chilean port. During that time, several German agents had
been arrested there, posing as fisherman.
later divorced Hand-Gerhardt in 1945. He
never lived with her in the United
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