Fischer, Bernd Jürgen 1952-
FISCHER, Bernd Jürgen 1952-
PERSONAL: Born January 27, 1952. Education: University of California, Santa Barbara, Ph.D., 1982.
CAREER: Educator, Balkans scholar. Indiana University, Fort Wayne, professor of history, 1993—; expert witness in political asylum cases involving people from the Balkans; member of advisory board of the University of London's Albanian studies program.
King Zog and the Struggle for Stability in Albania, East European Monographs (Boulder, CO), 1984.
Albania at War, 1939-1945 ("Central European Studies" series), Purdue University Press (West Lafayette, IN), 1999.
(Editor, with Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers) AlbanianIdentities: Myth and History, Hurst (London, England), 2001, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 2002.
Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times.
Albania at War, 1939-1945 has been translated into Albanian and Italian.
SIDELIGHTS: Bernd Jürgen Fischer first became interested in the history of the Balkans while a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and as a Ph.D. candidate he conducted numerous interviews with the widow of King Zog, who ruled Albania from 1928 to 1939. Before becoming king, Zog served as minister of war, minister of the interior, prime minister, and president. Once he became king, Zog drew criticism for his attempts at modernizing Albania, and his regime eventually became known for its authoritarianism. His foreign policy resulted in Albania's domination by Italy, and with the Italian invasion and occupation in 1939, Zog fled. Subsequently, the Allies refused to acknowledge his government in exile during World War II.
Fischer's 1984 volume King Zog and the Struggle for Stability in Albania is based on his dissertation. The volume was translated and published in Albania more than ten years later. When Fischer visited the country in 1998, he was given a warm welcome by educators and the media. The Albanian National Library asked Fischer to donate the original manuscript to the national archives.
Nicholas C. Pano reviewed King Zog in the Slavic Review, noting that Fischer acknowledges the king's shortcomings as well as his efforts "to fashion a viable Albanian national state in the wake of the country's experience of some 450 years of Ottoman domination and the disruptive effect of World War I." Pano called Fischer "sympathetic" to the fact that Zog was faced with social conservatism, a nonexistent educational system, and a degree of poverty that made development nearly impossible without outside help. Fischer concludes that despite his personal failings and external setbacks and circumstances, King Zog did instill national pride in Albania, laid the foundation for a centralized state, and established systems by which taxes could be collected and recruits for the army drafted. Pano called the volume "an important contribution to Albanian historiography."
Albania at War, 1939-1945 begins with the invasion of Italian Count Ciano and ends with the withdrawal of the Germans. Fischer drew from outside sources, using American, British, German, and Italian archival documents and diaries in reconstructing this period. As Richard Crampton noted in the Slavic Review, previous works generally focus on one aspect, such as the Italian invasion, or the resistance movements, or the communist regime of Enver Hoxha.
Crampton praised Fischer for addressing these themes and putting them "in context," and he added that the book's strength is that it tells the whole story. "Fischer gives the details of the puppet regimes set up by the occupiers," wrote Crampton. "He also draws a clear distinction between Italian domination with its opera bouffe attempts to create an imperial dependency, and the calculating efficiency of the Germans who occupied Albania after the Italian collapse in September 1943. He also makes plain the skillful manner in which the Germans manipulated the Kosovo issue."
Times Literary Supplement reviewer James Pettifer called Albania at War, 1939-1945 "a very sane and sensible book that should help improve the quality of discussion about this vital and controversial period. . . . The book will also have considerable value in relation to current events, the discussion of Kosovo issues in particular."
Fischer has also used his expertise on the Balkans in other arenas besides writing and teaching. For example, he was approached by the legal clinic of New York Law School to evaluate whether political asylum cases of Albanians in the United States on temporary or tourist visas had merit. The Political Asylum and Documentation Service, which provides research for immigration attorneys, asked Fischer to review the U.S. State Department's "Report on Human Rights in Albania," which is used by judges to decide individual cases. Fischer's brief concluded that the report was flawed, incomplete, and could possibly prejudice judges in ruling against legitimate claims. In addition, Fischer has served as an expert witness in many cases involving claimants from Albania, Serbia-Montenegro, and Macedonia in immigration courts throughout the United States and before immigration review boards in Canada. With the onset of action by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in March, 1999, Fisher also provided expert analysis and commentary to the media and government.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice, November, 1999, D. MacKenzie, review of Albania at War, 1939-1945, pp. 597-598.
European Historical Review, January, 1991, review of King Zog and the Struggle for Stability in Albania,
Slavic Review, summer, 1989, Nicholas C. Pano, review of King Zog and the Struggle for Stability in Albania, p. 330; autumn, 2000, Richard Crampton, review of Albania at War, 1939-1945, pp. 653-654.
Times Literary Supplement, August 13, 1999, James Pettifer, review of Albania at War, 1939-1945.
Russian and East European Institute Online (Indiana University), http://www.indiana.edu/~reeiweb/ (May, 1999), Carrie C. Ellingson, profile of Fischer.