|Birth||26 July 1905, Leipzig|
|Death||29 March 1934 (aged 28 years)|
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; those certificates were part of the ransom money in the kidnapping of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. The Fisch story was an integral part of Hauptmann's unsuccessful defense in his kidnapping and murder trial.
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.
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.
Years later, following Hauptmann's arrest, investigations conducted by the U.S and German police revealed that Fisch 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. Fisch's brother, Pinkus Fisch, told the German police that Fisch had never made any mention of Hauptmann prior to his death, and Fisch's German acquaintances characterized him as a "harmless fur trader".
Fisch applied for a passport on 12 May 1932, the same day that the Lindbergh baby was found dead. Nineteen months later, on 9 December 1933, Fisch set sail on the ocean liner Manhattan to return to Germany. He took with him only $600 worth of Reichsmarks. Only four months after his return, on 29 March 1934, Fisch died of tuberculosis in Leipzig.
The Ransom Money and the Shoebox
On 17 September 1935, Hauptmann used a gold certificate at a Bronx gas station near his home. Since gold certificates were rapidly being withdrawn from circulation and it was unusual to see one, the gas station attendant took note of Hauptmann's license plate, and he was arrested the next day.
After Hauptmann's arrest, police found $14,600 of the ransom money in a box in his garage. Hauptmann claimed that Fisch, his former business partner, had left the money behind. Hauptmann claimed that Fisch had given him a shoebox on 5 December 1933, on the eve of his return to Germany. According to Hauptmann, it was wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, and Fisch said the box contained "important papers." Hauptmann never opened the box, and put it on a high shelf in a closet.
Hauptmann claimed that he discovered the money only after a leaky roof had disintegrated the box. He hid the bills behind some wooden boards in his garage and, since Fisch had owed him $7,000, he decided to keep the money for his family. Hauptmann told investigators that he began spending the cash without telling his wife.
This sequence of events, told by Hauptmann throughout the trial, was dubbed by police and reporters as "The Fisch Story."
Testimony at Hauptmann's Trial
Under cross-examination at his trial, Hauptmann was defiant and "in a high, whining voice, he was unable to satisfactorily explain Isador Fisch" and his connection to the ransom money or to the crime.
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, and that she regularly saw him in Hauptmann's company. 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."
Fisch's siblings, as well as his nurse, traveled to New Jersey and disputed Hauptmann's story at his trial. They testified that Fisch had been too destitute to afford medical treatment in his final months, and had died a pauper. In April 1934, a few weeks after Fisch's death, Hauptmann wrote to the family advising them that Fisch had left certain articles in his care. In the letter, Hauptmann made no mention of the shoebox or of any money.
The defense never convincingly tied Fisch to the Lindbergh crime, and Hauptmann was convicted of first-degree murder. He was executed on 3 April 1936.