All The Frequent Troubles Of Our Days : The True Story Of The American Woman At The Heart Of The German Resistance To Hitler
by Rebecca Donner
Milwaukee-born Mildred Harnack (nee Fish) met Arvid Harnack in 1926 when both were students at the University of Wisconsin. Arvid was a German student studying on a fellowship in Madison. After a brief engagement, they married, and in 1928, Mildred moved to Germany to live with her husband. Based in Berlin, she spent a number of years working as a professor and translator, and, along with Arvid, involved herself in political activism. With the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party, they began to recruit other like-minded individuals into an underground resistance group. Led by Mildred and her husband, they remained active from 1932 to 1942 when its members were finally rounded up and arrested by the Gestapo.
Over the years, the group distributed pamphlets urging resistance against the Nazi government, gathered intelligence to share with the American and Russian spy agencies, and helped Jews to escape Germany. To do so, members of the group (including Arvid) took jobs in different German agencies where they stole information to help bring down the regime. Mildred did the same by tutoring German soldiers needing to learn English for their duties. During this time, she also actively provided information to the American embassy in Berlin.
Rebecca Donner is the great-great-niece of Mildred, and because of this connection, she had access to her family letters. To flesh out the story of Mildred’s activities in Germany, Donner hunted down the letters, notes and memoirs from the collaborators working in the Resistance group. She also plumbed the archival records of the German, Russian, and U.S. governments. And what a fantastic story she tells, one of great courage against overwhelming odds of discovery. After the members were arrested in 1942, they underwent torture and were later put on trial, with most receiving death sentences. Mildred was beheaded by guillotine in 1943.
Mildred Harnack’s story is not well known in this country. One reason for this is that the United States government took pains to bury it, under the impression that both Mildred and her husband were Communist agents. Donner includes individual photographs of the members of the group taken after their arrest. While haunting, they are a testimony to their bravery in a country where opposing the Nazis was more than likely a death sentence. This book not only acknowledges Mildred’s Resistance activities, but honors them.