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Mildred Fish-Harnack
1902 - 1943

           Born to a modest merchant family in Milwaukee/Wisconsin in 1902, Mildred Fish met German Rockefeller scholar Arvid Harnack while studying literature at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Moving to his native Germany in 1929 and teaching American literature in Berlin, Mildred’s life became absorbed by wider events taking place around her. Friends of U.S. Ambassador William E. Dodd’s daughter Martha as well as figures central to the German resistance movement, Mildred joined her husband and a circle of intimates in resisting the Nazi regime—among other ways by spiriting information to the U.S. and Soviet governments. Their brave struggle against the spreading darkness, however, cost them their lives when betrayed by Soviet blundering. Her husband having been hanged in December 1942 from meat hooks at Ploetzensee, a detention and execution center outside Berlin, Mildred was guillotined in February 1943—the only American executed by Hitler’s command. (This material is partly adapted from author Shareen Blair Brysac's website.)


Timeline | Cast of Characters | Resisting Hitler | Plötzensee
Book Reviews | About the Biographer | Women in the Third Reich

The following excerpted texts, photos and documents are from Gedenkstaette Plötzensee/Plötzensee Memorial Center,written in German by Brigitte Oleschinkski, translated into English by John Grossman and published by the Gedenkstaette Deutscher Widerstand/German Resistance Memorial Center in Berlin


Ploetzensee: Site of Victims, Site of Culprits

execution room, with hanging hooks; photo: Klaus Lehnartz

cell corridors in Haus III, before 1940; photo: Landesbildstelle, Berlin


execution building, 1965; photo: Landesbildstelle, Berlin

Commemoration Entails Questions

main entrance to Ploetzensee Prison; photo: Landesbildstelle, Berlin

Ploetzensee Prison: A Short History

plan of the Ploetzensee Prison grounds, about 1935 (the execution building is to the right of "Gef. III"); document: Deutscher Widerstand, Berlin


aerial view of Ploetzensee Prison’s Haus III, before 1945; photo: Deutscher Widerstand, Berlin

the dedication of the monument “To the Victims of Hitler’s Dictatorship during the Years 1933-1945”
in September 1952; both photos: Landesbildstelle, Berlin

execution building, with the remains of Haus III in the background, about 1950;
photo: Landesbildstelle, Berlin

Criminal “Justice” under National Socialism

corridor with prison cells (left); photo: Deutscher Widerstand, Berlin







the guillotine (right), after Soviet troops liberated the prison in May 1945; photo: Landesbildstelle, Berlin

Executions at Ploetzensee Prison

prison chapel in the background, with the execution building to the left and the remains of
Haus III on the right, sometime after 1945; photo: Deutscher Widerstand, Berlin

the remains of Haus III, the "House of the Dead", about 1950; photo: Landesbildstelle, Berlin

Peter Buchholz (left) and Harald Poelchau; photos: Deutscher Widerstand, Berlin



Individuals Who Resisted National Socialism

Communists, Socialists and Social Democrats

Richard Huettig (left) and Liselotte Hermann; photos: Deutscher Widerstand, Berlin


Youth Groups

announcement of Hanno Guenther’s execution; document: Deutscher Widerstand, Berlin


The Ruetti Group

opening of the “Soviet Paradise” exhibit in Berlin’s Lustgarten, 8 May 1942;
photo: Deutscher Widerstand, Berlin

The Baum Group

Harro and Libertas (nee Haas-Heye) Schulze-Boysen (left), and Clara, Mildred and Arvid Harnack, 1931; photos: Deutscher Widerstand, Berlin


The Harnack/Schulze-Boysen Resistance Circle

Rudolf Wobbe, Helmuth Huebener and Karl-Heinz Schnibbe (left to right) in Hamburg, about 1941, in the left photo; Karlrobert Kreiten in the center photo, and Elisabeth von Thadden; photos: Deutscher Widerstand, Berlin

Resistance in Everyday Life

the execution site, 1955; photo: Landesbildstelle, Berlin

In Remembrance

Related Documents:
Execution as an Administrative Procedure

document: Bundesarchiv
document: Bundesarchiv

document: Deutscher Widerstand, Berlin

document: private collection

Ploetzensee Memorial Center

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