Social worker who played a crucial role in rebuilding social work in postwar Germany
Stuttgart-born Anne Fischer became a social worker in the United States and played an active role in rebuilding German social services after World War II.
Born Anne Rosenberg in Stuttgart in 1902, Anne Fischer took classes in a variety of fields, such as chemistry, literature, psychology, and art history at universities in Stuttgart, Heidelberg, and Mannheim. In 1925, she married Ernst Fischer, a physiologist and outspoken socialist. The couple had two children in the subsequent years. After the National Socialists came to power, the Jewish-socialist family left Germany for the United States in 1934, going first to Rochester, NY. In 1935, they moved to Richmond, VA.
In the early 1940s, Anne Fischer started volunteering in refugee resettlement, i.e., she helped refugees from Nazi-occupied territories find accommodations and employment in the United States. After becoming acting director of the Richmond Jewish Community Center in 1942, she attended the Richmond Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth University), where she graduated with a Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) in 1944.
In addition to Anne Fischer’s casework and supervising activities with a variety of welfare organizations in Richmond (e.g. Family Service Society, Memorial Guidance Clinic, Richmond Children’s Aid Society, Jewish Family Services), she worked as a social work teacher both in the United States and in Europe. Her assignments as a welfare specialist for the U.S. State Department’s International Educational Exchange Services as well as for the Victor Gollancz Stiftung enabled her to go back to Germany seven times for extended periods starting in 1952. During these assignments, Anne Fischer played a crucial role in rebuilding German social work according to new theoretical and methodological insights developed in the United States. Her German colleagues credited her with helping them overcome intellectual traditions in social work that were still dominated by authoritarian ideology and therefore build a more democratic profession. She also facilitated transatlantic exchange in the other direction. Anne Fischer supported German social work students who sought hands-on experience in the United States by arranging internships for them.