Here's a favorite post of mine from a few years back. I've updated it and posted a new picture. It shows Mildred Fish Harnack and her husband, Arvid..
led a double life. She and her husband Arvid Harnack, a German national who she
met while attending the University of Wisconsin, were respected
academics at Berlin University. They also led The Red Orchestra, an anti-Hitler resistance group that included Greta Lork Kuckhoff, a UW grad student from Germany who had met Mildred and Arvid in Madison during the 1920s.
early 1942, the Red Orchestra was rounded up and put on trial. Arvid
Harnack was sentenced to death and Mildred was sentenced to six years in
prison. The defense argued well in her favor, convincing the German
judges that because of her job at the University translating great
German works into English, she was an asset to the German cause. The
decision angered a Fish/Harnac obsessed Hitler. He now took a personal interest in
Arvid Harnack and many other members of the Red
Orchestra were quickly hung with a short rope, a technique meant to
prolong the agony of the victims. For Mildred, there was to be a
retrial. On Jan. 16, 1942, she was sentenced to death and transferred to
Prison. Five months of interrogation left her broken, unable to stand
upright. On February 16, 1943, she was led into a courtyard and inside a
red brick building that housed a guillotine.
She would be the only American woman to be executed on direct orders from Hitler.
In a cemetery in the Zehlendorf neighborhood of Berlin is Arvid and Mildred's headstone. "It
was only by luck that Mildred was buried there. After execution, her
headless body was put in a wooden crate and sent to an anatomical
institute for dissection. But, as it turned out, a professor that
Mildred knew recognized her remains and secretly cremated her. He kept
her ashes in an urn and, after the war, returned them to the Harnack
On the night before their trial, Arvid wrote a farewell letter to Mildred, he wrote of Wisconsin.
you remember picnic point, when we became engaged? Before that our
first serious conversation in the restaurant on State Street? That
conversation became my guiding star, and has remained so. You are in my
heart. You shall be in there forever. My greatest wish is for you to be
happy when you think of me. I am when I think of you."