Mildred Fish Harnack

September 16, 2015

arvidmildredBorn on September 16th,  1902, Mildred Fish Harnack was a Wisconsin native, UW-Madison graduate and the only American woman executed on the orders of Adolf Hitler. While a student at the University of Wisconsin, Harnack wrote and acted as an editor for the Wisconsin Literary Magazine. It was at UW-Madison that Harnack met and married Arvid Harnack, a German citizen on fellowship at the University.

The couple settled in Berlin in 1930 where Harnack taught English and received a PhD. It was in Berlin that the Harnacks, along with several others, created the Red Orchestra, an anti-Nazi resistance group. Arrested in September 1942, Mildred was intitially sentenced to six years in prison, but on orders of Hitler, was retried and sentenced to death. Arvid was convicted as well and was executed on December 22, 1942. Mildred Fish Harnack was beheaded on February 16, 1943. Her final resting place is Berlin’s Zehlendorf Cemetery.

Learn more about Mildred Fish Harnack’s time at the UW-Madison in the Mildred Fish Harnack Digital Collection or the UW-Madison Archives Exhibit, Honoring Mildred Fish Harnack.