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Mildred Fish-Harnack: a Milwaukee woman who became one of Hitler's most wanted

mildred fish harnack
Hoan Bridge, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

September 16 is Mildred Fish-Harnack Day in Wisconsin, and if you don't know that is, you're not the only one. Despite the courageousness of her life's work fighting the Nazis as a founder of the Red Orchestra, an anti-Nazi resistance group in Germany, much of her story has been lost over time. Fish-Harnack's work and her courage remain a potent reminder of the power of people to overcome great evil.

READ: How A Milwaukee Woman Became One of Hitler's Most Wanted

Art Heitzer has been an integral part of reviving Fish-Harnack's story by lobbying for the state holiday, recognizing her life, and as the President of the Milwaukee Turners.

According to Heitzer, Fish-Harnack, born in 1902, came from a working-class family from near the west side of Milwaukee.

Heitzer says Fish-Harnack was not of German nor Jewish ancestry, but became very involved in German culture. She married a German scholar after meeting him at UW-Madison and moved to Germany when Adolf Hitler was taking power.

Fish-Harnack and her husband "had a regular group, the Friday Nighters, who would meet and discuss issues like should there be some kind of compensation for people who are unemployed?" says Heitzer.

She was someone who did not accept injustice, he adds. Fish-Harnack and her husband, "did not accept the intolerance and the brutality and the aggression, the racism, I would say subjugation of female ideology of the Nazis," describes Heitzer.

So they formed the core group of what is sometimes described as the most significant resistance group based in Germany against the Nazi regime.

Fish-Harnack has the distinction of being the only American woman to be executed on the direct orders of Adolf Hitler. "I think it's a fair statement that she's the only American who played a significant role or was executed for being a part of the German resistance, male or female," notes Heitzer.

Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2016.
Kobe Brown is WUWM's Eric Von fellow.
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