JWG (jwg) wrote,

Bobby Fischer and anti-semitism

Bobby Fisher died yesterday. I remember the incredible publicity when he won the chess championship in 1972. When I was a kid I played chess but haven't since then but that contest was quite exciting.

A year or two later I was at a meeting with the head of the Information Processing Center at MIT where our developing version of Multics was running. We had some tough negotiation with them to get them to agree to a reasonable (from our point of view) policy about installing new versions of the system. Multics was a Honeywell product, and MIT was our beta test site (there still were MIT people working on the project although we had hired some of them by then. My boss said to me afterward that it was just like watching a Fischer-Spassky match.

Later in his career, Fischer disgraced himself by becoming an ardent anti-semite among other things.

Last night we watched episode 2 of the PBS series Jewish Americans, The Best of Times, the Worst of Times. This one mostly focussed on anti-semitism. I was a little kid from an agnostic jewish family during World War II and I was aware somewhat of the concentration camps. I do remember that my parents helped get some distant relatives from Germany to Argentina.

It was striking to hear again about the hatred of immigrants particularly those from eastern Europe and the parallel to what we hear these days particularly from some of the Republican candidates for President.

One thing I learned in this program was about the 1915 lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager, in Georgia who was accused of murdering a young girl. He was imprisoned awaiting his death when the governor commuted his sentence to life because of some doubts about his guilt (he probably was innocent). There was a raid by a gang of men on the prison and he was hung. The group of raiders were the beginning formation of the new Ku Klux Klan - I certainly was not aware of this aspect of this piece of history.

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