1. Humble beginnings
I am Dieter Rolf Fischer, born Jan. 30th 1950 in Esslingen, Germany. My parents were not rich. My father, Wilhelm Ludwig Fischer was a quiet, contended man. He didn't have a higher education due to the first world war. Later he lost a leg in an industrial accident, which put many of his plans on hold. His income as factory worker never gave us enough money. My mother, Pauline, a small-built, active woman, constantly worried about finances.
I was the youngest of five children at home. My two older sisters were actually from another man. Five children with a small income and a mother that did not know how to budget set the scene for preventable, yet real poverty.
In the late fifties and early sixties West Germany was regarded as a miracle economy. Out of the ruins of World War Two sprung a vibrant society that surprised the world with a staggering recovery. My family missed out on the fairytale. To make matters worse my mother was the kind of person who let it all hang out. We always knew how much money, or should I say how little money, she had left and hear her worrying cry: “Will it last until the next pay day”. It usually didn’t. We kids dreaded the long walk across town to a lady who used to lend us money. The constant cycle of borrowing money, overspending and wasting it on silly, unnecessary items, made me into a shy boy with a giant inferiority complex.
One of my earliest childhood memories was sitting on top on an ironing machine watching television. None of my friend's parents had television yet, let alone ironing machines. My mother bought these luxury goods on credit. She must have regarded herself a pioneer in this field, because in Germany in 1957 buying on credit was not a common practice. Money for food was often non-existent. I remember times when we had to run an electric cable to a neighbour, so we could watch television, because the electricity had been cut off.
Mother controlled the family. She was a hard worker, very honest and always paid back any money borrowed. On father’s pay day mother would take the short walk across the railway line to meet my dad at a prearranged spot for him to hand over the pay through the fence. My father was a very contented man despite the loss of his leg. I remember him sitting by the window smoking his pipe and watching television. There was not much physical play or interaction, partly because of his leg. I still loved my dad and respected him.
Out of the five children I was the only one to complete a higher education. My eldest brother, despite having less education than me, completed a cadetship in the management of a department store. He stayed with the same company all his working life and made it right to top level. I was just as bright but not as assertive. All my life I harboured a slight resentment towards his success. He seemed to receive all the accolades. I felt ignored while playing the nice guy. Later I realized I was craving for recognition, but at the same time was afraid of it.
After finishing Mittel-Schule (Secondary college) I took on an traineeship as commercial clerk with a machine tool manufacturer. I learned all aspects of the commercial operations and worked in the sales department after completion. I found early on that I had a good grasp of issues. I remember once during a meeting clarifying a matter to the senior sales director on behalf of a foreign client. I spoke much better English than he, despite my young age.
At age 14 I came in contact with a church that was small in number but took their faith very seriously. A boy from the neighbourhood invited me to the kid’s club. I enjoyed the fun, the games and the stories. I started to attend the Sunday Church services as well. During a weekend retreat on a farm in the country I was one of a number who indicated they wanted to become “born again”. The leaders tried to explain the theology to us. I must confess that it was only many years later that I fully understood the real reason why a man was nailed to a cross 2000 years ago. Yet I know that on May 2nd 1964 something took place in my life that still has consequences and affects my daily life to this day.
In early 1969 I answered an advertisement by the Australian Government trying to attract migrants to the young country. “Come to Australia, land of the Future” the brochure read. It was an opportunity I did not want to let pass by. It only cost 50 dollars. I could afford that. Only months after completing my traineeship as commercial clerk, I found myself on a plane bound for Sydney, Australia. It happened to be same weekend Neil Armstrong and the crew of Apollo 13 ventured into outer space and landed on the moon. I did not know anybody, had little money and no job. I was eager to embark on a future of adventure.