Wisconsin's Nazi Resistance: The Mildred Fish-Harnack Story

Trace the life and legacy of Mildred Fish-Harnack through video, events, images, documents, personal correspondence and honors.

Explore Mildred's story at [wpt.org/naziresistance](http://www.wpt2.org/naziresistance/).

Friday Niters

WATCH VIDEO - The connection to economist and professor John R Commons begins as the academic study of “economies in turmoil” and leads to the “Friday Niters” or “Circle of Friends”, which was similar to their resistance group in Germany.

Mildred’s Remains Recovered?

WATCH VIDEO - Dr. Hermann Stieve at the Berlin Charite Anatomical Institute was conducting research on female prisoners.

Madison's Greenbush Neighborhood

WATCH VIDEO - Find out what this neighborhood would have been like in 1927-28 when Mildred and Arvid Harnack lived on Chandler Street in the heart of the Greenbush Neighborhood.

The Harnacks' Capture

WATCH VIDEO | PDF - Once the Gestapo made the first arrest, the Red Orchestra members fell like dominoes including Mildred and Arvid who are arrested in Preila, East Prussia (Kurische Nehrung near Konigsberg) on a weekend holiday at a fisherman's cottage.

Prison Questionnaire

PDF - Questionnaire provided to Mildred when entering Ploetzensee Prison for execution translated into English.

Adolf Hitler's Decree

Hitler signs Arvid's death sentence and orders Mildred Fish-Harnack and Erika von Brockdorff retried.

Mildred's Resume

A translated copy of Mildred’s 1939 resume.

Frau Dr. Mildred Fish-Harnack

Mildred earns her Ph.D. in Philosophy/American Literature.

Reason for Judgment

PDF | Written by the Nazis after the trials in Berlin describing why the defendants are being punished.

Secret Verdict Code

In a telegram to Falk Harnack, Arvid's brother, the Harnack family used a code: “Book out of stock. Six photos.” Translation: Arvid got the death sentence. Mildred’s (initial sentence) was six years in prison.

Ploetzensee Prison Certificate

PDF - Prison certificate had a question mark for the reason for imprisonment.

Execution Costs

PDF | The Harnack family was charged for housing, feeding and execution costs associated with Mildred and Arivds time in Prison.

Counterintelligence Corps Files

PDF | American reports from the Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) about Mildred and Arvid were based on Final Gestapo Report, which contained misleading information.

FBI Report

PDF - Mildred Fish-Harnack’s name shows up in a search of FBI files.

Treasury Department Visa

The U.S. Treasury Department files show a visa application from Arvid Harnack to visit the US along with other members of the German Economics Ministry.

With A Chosen Few Exhibit - Madison

"With a Chosen Few" - In memory of Mildred Fish-Harnack, German artist Franz Rudolf Knubel's exhibit appears in Madison.

German Postage Stamps

East Germany issues postage stamps in honor of seven Nazi resistance fighters, including Arvid and Mildred Harnack.


Mildred writes about her courtship with Arvid, using his middle name Rudolf.

American Literature

Mildred's preface to a study of American Literature prepared for her teaching position at the University of Berlin.

American Literature Lecture

Mildred begins teaching at the University of Berlin, now Humboldt University.

Heil Hitler!

Mildred taught English at the Foreign Studies Department of the University of Berlin from 1941 to 1942.

"The Moon and the Saxophone"

Mildred's creative writing, "The Moon and the Saxophone" about her days in Madison.

Mildred and Her Poems

WATCH VIDEO - In her final days in prison Mildred Harnack spent hours translating the poems of the great German poet Goethe.

Farewell Family

WATCH VIDEO - On the night before his execution Arvid Harnack wrote a final letter to his family and he made one final wish. Narrated by Ulrich Rosenhagen.

Farewell Letter to Mildred

WATCH VIDEO - On the night before his trial, Arvid Harnack wrote a moving letter to his wife Mildred. (This letter was returned to 10 years later.)

Our Wedding

PDF | Arvid writes to his mother, Clara, describing his wedding on Mildred's brother's farm in the Town of Rutland.

Devil's Lake Memories

In a letter sent home to Germany Arvid describes a visit to Devil’s Lake to his mother, Clara.

Asking for Her Hand

PDF | Arvid writes in German to Mildred's mother, Georgina, announcing his plans to marry her daughter.

Mildred’s Prison Letter

PDF | Mildred was able to get one letter out of prison to the Harnack Family.

Dearest Clara

Mildred writes to her mother-in-law Clara Harnack.

Mildred’s Siblings Offer Help

PDF | Marion Carlson, Mildred’s sister wrote to her siblings after seeing a Milwaukee Journal article on Arvid’s death on December 22, 1942.

The Convictions

PDF | Inge, Arvid’s sister, wrote to her mother Clara about both convictions.

US Ambassador William Dodd

In Berlin, Ambassador William Dodd writes a letter of support for Mildred's lecture tour.

Prison Memories

Recollections sent to Harnack Family by Gertrud Lichtenstein. Gertrud, was paired as cellmate with Mildred after she was isolated and may have tried to commit suicide.

Arvid Harnack's Birth Day

Arvid is born in Darmstadt, Germany.

Remembering Mili

PDF - Grace Carlsruh, Mildred's best friend from West Division High School in Milwaukee, wrote about Mildred’s death.

Mildred's Birth Day

WATCH VIDEO | PDF - Mildred is born in Milwaukee, Wis.

Hitler Comes to Power

WATCH VIDEO - German President Paul von Hindenburg appoints Adolf Hitler Chancellor and sets the stage for the emergence of Nazi Germany.

Reichstag Fire Decree

An arson attack on the Reichstag (Germany’s capitol building) takes place in Berlin on February 27, 1933.

FDR elected president

AUDIO - Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected president in a landslide, defeating Herbert Hoover by 7 million votes just four months after the Dow Jones Industrial Average had reached its lowest level of the Great Depression. FDR's first inaugural speech on March 4, 1933 includes, "... let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Paul von Hindenburg dies

The German president’s death removes the last impediment to Adolf Hitler consolidating all power in a single office.

FDR wins second term

Franklin D. Roosevelt is re-elected President, defeating Alfred M. Landon of Kansas.

World War II Begins

Germany invades western Poland. Britain and France declare war on Germany on September 3rd. Soviet forces invaded eastern Poland on the 17th of September.

FDR wins unprecedented third term

Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor

AUDIO - The day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Congress declared war on Japan. Hitler declared war with the United States on December 11, 1941.

Unlimited National Emergency

AUDIO - The President’s proclamation apprises the American people of the worsening conflict in Europe and growing tensions in Asia.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Dies

Five months after winning his fourth term, Franklin D. Roosevelt dies following a massive stroke.

FDR's "Four Freedoms"

AUDIO - At the start of his third term, Franklin D. Roosevelt uses his State of the Union address to argue for the country’s greater involvement in world events.

Victory in Europe Day

Victory in Europe Day commemorates the date when the World War II Allies accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

Japan Surrenders

Victory over Japan Day, as observed by the United States. Japan’s surrender effectively ended World War II.

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