Gadsden Times, p.A6
1 Aug 1994.
ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Bosnian Serbs don’t like him because he collects evidence of war crimes. Croats and Bosnian authorities are wary he effectively abets the “ethnic cleansing” of non-Serbs from Bosnia.
But people he has helped praise him as saint.
Martin Fischer, an Austrian freelance journalist living in Germany, is credited by may with saving thousands of Bosniaks and Croats in Bosnia since war erupted in spring 1992.
His tiny organization, Surviving Winter, has defined bureaucratic obstacles and visa restrictions to help Bosnians settle abroad and escape war.
“We cannot repay him for what he’s done for us as long as we live,” said Bele, a Bosniak from the central Bosnian town of Jajce, who declined to give his full name for fear of possible reprisals against his relatives.
After escaping digging trenches for Bosnian Serbs, Bele now waits with 83 other Bosniaks in a converted fire station in Ivanic Grad, Croatia, for a visa to a third country. They are fed and housed, and Bosniaks enjoy a free bus to the local mosque.
“He is like a father to us,” Bele said of Fischer.
The 35-year-old reporter was moved by the fate of terrorized civilians the Serbs have cleared from northwestern Bosnia, where his group began work in the town of Bosanska Dubica in late 1992. The goal, he said, is to help people “survive the winter of human rights.”
Bosniaks learn about Fischer from relatives and friends in Germany, who relay documents to his group, based in Bonn, Germany.
The group then seeks families or church organizations to act as host for the Bosnians and provide them with visas allowing them to pass through Croatia and on to Germany and other European countries.
Fischer’s records show he has helped 4,000 Bosnians settle abroad, despite mounting European reluctance to house refugees.
Azra Krajisek, the attaché for refugee affairs at the Bosnian Embassy in Zagreb, said Fischer may have helped even more Bosnians.
Fischer was arrested in Bosanska Dubica in May 1993 and questioned for two days by Bosnian Serbs.