Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with David J. Fischer
FISCHER: No I loved Frankfurt. For me to go to a German speaking country, I felt very comfortable. My wife (I was then married. I got married in September.) was able to take the language course at FSI, which was a godsend because it would have been very difficult for her to survive in Germany in those days without German. It was a terribly luxurious life. I will never forget that we drove from Washington to New York to board the SS United States. Foreign Service Officers in those days were sent first class as a way to subsidize the shipping business. So I was twenty-two, my wife was twenty. Here we are sitting in first class on one of the most luxurious ships in the world. Among the other passengers were Catherine Cornell, an aging but sill somewhat famous actress. We got to eat at the right tables. It was ludicrous. Here we were these young kids sitting in the first class dining room with everybody else aged eighty. I think the stewards recognized before we landed at La Havre the chances of their getting a decent tip out of these two children was about zero. So they rigged it, I know they rigged it, so that we won the horse race game the night before we landed. I won two hundred bucks, precisely the amount of money we were supposed to tip these people. It was wonderful.
Frankfurt for us was a good posting. I was put to work in the visa section, work I rather enjoyed, frankly. I did citizenship work. It was a chance to use my German. We lived in State Department/Army housing for senior army officers which was owned by the Consulate, very luxurious standards in the early 1960s. My wife enrolled at the University of Frankfurt so she was kept intellectually occupied. Every evening I would leave the office at five o'clock and walk and meet her in the Gruenberg Park in Frankfurt, and we would go out to a restaurant to eat. Coming from the U.S., it was almost inconceivable that we could have afforded a restaurant. We bought our first car, a little Renault, brand new from the factory in Paris for the grand sum of the nine hundred and eighty dollars. On weekends we would go to Strasbourg, all over Europe, and it was a wonderful life.
I think it's worth noting that in 1961 it was only 15 years since the end of World War II. Germany was in the midst of what was called the “Wirtschafts- wunder,” the rebuilding process. But compared to the U.S., Germany was a poor country. We were treated as the occupier, even though the occupation had ended ten years earlier. Still, being an American government official gave one certain privileges. The fact that the exchange rate was 4.20 DM to the dollar certainly helped make us very rich in comparison to the local German population. Few Germans owned cars and those that did spend Sundays driving out to the nearest river to wash the family car.
Q: Who was Consul General at that time?