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This gripping and heartbreaking narrative is the first full account of an American woman who gave her life in the struggle against the Nazi regime. As members of a key resistance group, Mildred and her husband, Arvid Harnack, assisted in the escape of German Jews and political dissidents, and for years provided vital economic and military intelligence to both Washington and Moscow. But in 1942, following a Soviet blunder, the Gestapo arrested, tortured and tried some four score members of the Harnack's group, which the Nazis dubbed the Red Orchestra.
Mildred Fish-Harnack was guillotined in Berlin on February 16, 1943, on the personal instruction of Adolf Hitler—the only American woman executed as an underground conspirator. Yet as World War II ended and the Cold War began, her courage, idealism and self-sacrifice went largely unacknowledged in America and the democratic West, and were distorted and sanitized in the Communist East. Only now, with the opening of long-sealed archives, can the full story be told.
Resisting Hitler is based on extensive interviews with Fish-Harnack family, friends and associates; it draws on personal correspondence and formerly classified German and Soviet KGB files and recently released CIA and FBI dossiers. It describes the life of a Wisconsin girl whose intelligence and beauty captivated a visiting scholar, Arvid Harnack, a member of a distinguished German academic family. It explores for the first time the complex familial connections of the Harnacks, Delbrücks and Bonhoeffers, twelve of whom were executed for resistance acts. And it details Mildred's friendship with Martha Dodd, daughter of FDR's ambassador to the Third Reich, whose affair with a Soviet diplomat led to his death.
Moments before her death, Mildred said, "I have loved Germany so much." In this superbly told life of an unjustly forgotten woman, Shareen Blair Brysac depicts the human side of a controversial resistance group that for too long has been portrayed as merely a Soviet espionage network. The extraordinary story of Mildred Fish-Harnack's ten dramatic years of resisting the Nazi regime also reminds today's readers of the hard moral choices that beset opponents of a ruthless totalitarian dictatorship.
"In telling Mildred Fish-Harnack's neglected life story, Shareen Brysac extends our knowledge of German anti-Nazi resistance, and of the landscape of Nazism in general. She also illuminates a great deal of German and American intellectual and cultural history. This is an extraordinarily valuable study." —Robert Jay Lifton, M.D., author of The Genocidal Mentality: Nazi Holocaust and Nuclear Threat and The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide
"The twists and turns of wartime politics and espionage provide a gripping background for the tragic life of this doomed American woman in Nazi Germany. It is a fine contribution to contemporary history and biography." —Deirdre Bair, biographer of Simone de Beauvoir, Anais Nin, Samuel Beckett