Sculpture dedicated in Germany to honor UW alum and hero of the Nazi resistance

Arvid and Mildred Fish Harnack sit on the grass in Saalfeld, Germany in 1930. UW-Madison Archives

In 1943, Mildred Fish-Harnack died by guillotine, the only American civilian executed by direct order of Adolf Hitler.

On the eve of what would have been his 119e birthday, she was celebrated in the same country where she died.

Justus Liebig University in Germany held a ceremony on September 15 to celebrate the installation of “Mildred”, a reproduction of John Burbow’s sculpture located in Marshall Park in Middleton. Watch the ceremony here.

Fish-Harnack graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1925 and stayed on to teach English and pursue graduate studies. She received her master’s degree in 1926 and later her doctorate from Justus Liebig University.

Photo: Sculpture standing by the lake

The “Mildred” sculpture, dedicated to UW Alumna and Resistance Fighter Mildred Fish-Harnack in Marshall Park, with Picnic Point in the background. Picnic Point is where she was engaged to her husband, Arvid. An identical statue has been installed in Germany.

UW-Madison has partnered with JLU for almost 40 years.

“Our long-standing partnership has demonstrated a shared commitment to giving our students new ways of approaching global issues, a shared understanding of the value our exchanges bring to both campuses, and a shared commitment to continue to nurture our relationship.” , said Chancellor Rebecca Blank. said by video.

The ceremony also included remarks by Governor Tony Evers and can be seen here.

Fish-Harnack met Arvid Harnack, a German Rockefeller Scholar, while on a scholarship while attending UW-Madison.

The couple then moved to Germany. Alarmed by the rise of Hitler and the Nazi regime, Mildred and her husband joined a small resistance group. Their group published an underground newsletter and provided economic information to the US and USSR embassies in Berlin. After Germany invaded Russia, the group transmitted military intelligence to Moscow via radio “concerts”, which prompted the Gestapo to call them “the red orchestra”.

The group was discovered and arrested in September 1942.

Mildred was taken to Charlottenburg Women’s Prison.

Arvid was sentenced to death for high treason and espionage. He was executed in December 1942, hanged with a rope a foot long. It was a method that the Nazis refined to prolong the agony of the victim.

His last words:

“Ich habe Deutschland auch so geliebt”

“And I loved Germany so much.”

In 1986, the Mildred Fish-Harnack Day was established in Wisconsin. It takes place every year on his birthday, September 16.

To learn more about Mildred, click here.

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