If the imperial period offers rich material also to the teacher of modern European history on both sides of the Atlantic today, it is in no small degree thanks to the breach that Fischer made, and the courageous stand that he took, in rejecting the historiographical orthodoxies of the early postwar period.
His achievements as a scholar and as a man of firm convictions and great integrity were recognized by the many honorary doctorates that he received from universities around the world.
For the first time since the Wilhelmine period, Germany became willing to recognize the existing frontiers in Europe and to pursue a policy of reconciliation toward those countries of eastern Europe that had suffered from German expansionism in two world wars.
The lesson had at last been learned from the disastrous course that German foreign policy had taken in the first half of the 20th century.
The repercussions of Fischer's work upon the political development of postwar Germany have been his first lasting achievement.
His books helped to pave the way for West Germany's abandoning the territorial revisionism of the Adenauer era and to facilitate the emergence of Brandt's.What is the truth about the nature of the First World War and why have historians been unable to agree on its origins?The interpretation that no one country was to blame prevailed until the 1960s when a bitter international controversy, sparked by the work of the Hamburg historian Fritz Fischer, arrived at the consensus that the Great War had been a ‘bid for world power’ by imperial Germany and therefore a conflict in which Britain had necessarily and justly engaged.As criticism continued, Fischer decided to present his subsequent archival findings concerning Germany's aggressive foreign policy and the origins of World War I in a second 800-page tome, titled ).In this volume he also advanced the theory that in December 1912, at an infamous "War Council," Wilhelm II and his military advisors had made a decision to trigger a major war by the summer of 1914 and to use the intervening months to prepare the country for this settling of accounts.Gerhard Ritter, the doyen of West Germany's historians, spoke of the "self-obscuration of German historical consciousness." He continued to hold that all powers were more or less equally guilty of pushing Europe over the brink.Fischer held his ground against these attacks, repeatedly pulling from his pocket, during televised debates with fellow historians and journalists, yet another official memorandum or telegram proving his point.But his challenge to interpretations of German history that had entrenched themselves in early postwar Germany encouraged a younger generation of historians who were not members of the "Fischer School" to move beyond Fischer's kind of political history and toward the analysis of the country's social and economic structures and political-cultural traditions since 1871.The history of the German Empire became a major field of research, attracting also many non-German scholars, and the work they undertook has yielded very fruitful results as well as fresh arguments.Meanwhile students from all faculties at Hamburg University flocked to his lectures, easily filling the large Auditorium Maximum, and some of them stayed on to write a doctoral dissertation under his supervision.Several of them made important contributions to the history of the German Empire in their own right and some historians of German historiography have spoken of a "Fischer School," whose members went to bat for their mentor's cause.