Mildred Fish-Harnack Part II

Continued from Mildred Fish-Harnack Part I

Synagogue in Berlin, 1930
(German Federal Archives)

Mildred and Arvid were not Nazis. They worked and studied at the University of Berlin. They translated poetry and literature and studied other countries and ways of life. They toured the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union practiced a form of politics called Communism. In Communism, all work is done for the state. The state is in charge of equally sharing everything that comes from that work. Mildred and Arvid felt that Communism could save the world from poverty and hunger.

The Harnacks were popular in Germany and had many friends. In 1937, Mildred and Arvid started inviting friends to their home to talk about politics and other subjects. This was dangerous in Nazi Germany. People were arrested for saying anything bad about the government.

Soon, Germany and the Soviet Union were at war. Mildred and Arvid and their friends decided to do something to stop the Nazis. Britain was fighting the Nazis in Africa. The United States was staying out of the war. Mildred, Arvid, and their friends made the decision to help the Soviet Union.

US Government Report
(Wikimedia Commons)
Their group of friends became known as the Red Orchestra. This was because they named their secret radio transmitters after musical instruments. Between 1940 and 1942, the Red Orchestra was responsible for helping the Soviet Union in many ways. They transmitted messages to Soviet fighters. They reported on the strength of Germany's air force. They even knew how many fighter planes Germany could make each month! They warned of Nazi attacks and reported how much fuel German armies had. They found out how many chemical weapons Germany had and where they stored them. All of this information helped the Russians survive long enough to defeat the Nazis.

In August 1942, the Nazis captured a Soviet spy. The spy told the Germans all about the Red Orchestra. Soon, the radios were found. Mildred, Arvid, and 116 other people were arrested.

Arvid and Mildred were put on trial in December 1942. They were found guilty of espionage. Arvid was sentenced to death, and he was hanged on Christmas Eve. At first, Mildred was sentenced to four years in a prison camp. But Adolf Hitler wanted to make an example out of her. He ordered the court to change Mildred's sentence to death! On January 16, 1943, the judges did what he asked.
Memorial Stone
Mutter Erde)

Mildred Fish-Harnack spent her last month in prison doing what she loved, reading and translating works of poetry. She was executed on February 16, 1943. Her last words were "And I have loved Germany so much."

Mildred Fish-Harnack is celebrated in Wisconsin on September 16. She was an amazing woman who died a hero to the many people whose lives she saved.

Content for this article has been sourced from
 "Mildred Harnack: An Unknown Hero" by Michelle Munro, December 13, 2001.
The following websites were accessed on September 12, 2013: