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New WPT Documentary Profiles Wisconsin Nazi Resistance Fighter Mildred Fish-Harnack
October 24, 2011
A new documentary from Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) showcases the courage and conviction of a remarkable Wisconsin woman who devoted her life to fighting for a better Germany during the rise of the Third Reich. Mildred Fish-Harnack was the only American woman executed on direct orders from Adolf Hitler for her role in the Berlin resistance movement.
Wisconsin’s Nazi Resistance: The Mildred Fish-Harnack Story, produced by WPT’s Joel Waldinger and narrated by actress Jane Kaczmarek, will air 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7 on public televisions statewide. This broadcast will be carried on WPT and on Milwaukee’s MPTV.
Through archival images, on-location video, letters, and interviews with biographers and family members, the program follows the life of Fish-Harnack from her birth in Milwaukee through her college years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she met and married Arvid Harnack, a Rockefeller Scholar from Germany.
In the late 1920s, Mildred and Arvid moved to Germany where a network of activists secretly worked in opposition to the Nazi regime, distributing leaflets, helping Jews and passing intelligence information about the Third Reich to the American, British and Soviet governments.
In the fall of 1942, German secret police arrested more than 100 Resistance
Fighters, including the Harnacks. Arvid was executed, and though Mildred was originally sentenced to six years in prison, Hitler intervened and sent her to the guillotine in February 1943 for assisting in espionage and treason.
Waldinger discovered Fish-Harnack while participating in a RIAS German-American Journalism Fellowship in 2006. While touring an exhibit titled “Topographie Des Terrors” at former Gestapo headquarters in Berlin, he came across a brief biography of a Wisconsin woman who was involved in the Nazi Resistance. “This was a Wisconsin story I had never heard before. Once I began to uncover Mildred’s amazing story of espionage and intrigue, I became convinced that it should be shared,” says Waldinger.
Support for Wisconsin’s Nazi Resistance: The Mildred Fish-Harnack Story is provided by the Frances and Laurence Weinstein Family Foundation, the L.E. Phillips Family Foundation, Mildred and Marv Conney, the Wisconsin Humanities Council with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Herbert and Elsbeth Weichmann Foundation and the Friends of Wisconsin Public Television.
WPT is a service of the Educational Communications Board and University of Wisconsin-Extension.
Wisconsin Public Television is a place to grow through learning on WHA-TV, Madison; WPNE-TV, Green Bay; WHRM-TV, Wausau; WLEF-TV, Park Falls; WHLA-TV, La Crosse; and WHWC-TV, Menomonie-Eau Claire.