Born and raised in Milwaukee, Mildred Harnack was twenty-six when she enrolled in a PhD program in Germany and witnessed the meteoric rise of the Nazi party. In 1932, she began holding secret meetings in her apartment—a small band of political activists that by 1940 had grown into the largest underground resistance group in Berlin. She recruited working-class Germans into the resistance, helped Jews escape, plotted acts of sabotage, and collaborated in writing leaflets that denounced Hitler and called for revolution. When the first shots of the Second World War were fired, she became a spy, couriering top-secret intelligence to the Allies.
On the eve of her escape to Sweden, she was ambushed by the Gestapo. At a Nazi military court, a panel of five judges sentenced her to six years at a prison camp, but Hitler overruled the decision and ordered her execution. On February 16, 1943, she was strapped to a guillotine and beheaded. Historians identify Mildred Harnack as the only American in the leadership of the German resistance, yet her remarkable story has remained almost unknown until now.
Join the Museum for this program exploring Harnack’s life and legacy with her great-great-niece Rebecca Donner, author of the newly-released book All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler. Donner is in conversation with Ari Goldstein, the Museum’s Senior Public Programs Producer.
Watch the program below.
This program’s original recording transcript is below. This transcription was created automatically during a live program so may contain inaccurate transcriptions of some words.
Ari Goldstein: I'm Ari Goldstein, Senior Public programs producer at the Museum of Jewish heritage and it's a pleasure to welcome you to today's book talk with Rebecca Donner.
00:00:50.670 --> 00:01:04.710
Ari Goldstein: author of all the frequent troubles of our days published by little, brown this month and already very deservedly so a best seller a Hebrew translation of the book is forthcoming from Qatar publishing in Israel and it's already out in the UK as well.
00:01:06.030 --> 00:01:15.750
Ari Goldstein: Rebecca is a novelist by trade writing two books before this sunset terrorists and burnout and numerous essays and reports and publications, including the New York Times.
00:01:16.170 --> 00:01:22.980
Ari Goldstein: Rebecca as a member of the National books critics circle and has taught writing wesleyan and Columbia university's and Barnard college.
00:01:23.700 --> 00:01:37.770
Ari Goldstein: All the frequent troubles of our days is a very different kind of book that she's written before and we're quite excited to be hosting her today to discuss it, you can order a signed copy of the book from Community bookstore in brooklyn at the link in the zoom chat.
00:01:38.850 --> 00:01:49.590
Ari Goldstein: we'll begin our discussion in a moment please feel free to share questions, using the zoom Q amp a box anytime during the discussion and we'll get to as many as we can Rebecca welcome, thank you for being here.
00:01:49.920 --> 00:01:51.840
Rebecca Donner: Thank you so much sorry it's such a pleasure.
00:01:52.590 --> 00:01:57.450
Ari Goldstein: So I wanted to invite you to begin today's discussion with a brief reading from the book and then we'll go from there.
00:01:57.840 --> 00:01:58.770
Rebecca Donner: Okay, certainly.
00:02:00.450 --> 00:02:02.430
Rebecca Donner: This is the book and.
00:02:03.990 --> 00:02:10.740
Rebecca Donner: I think that the best place to start is just the introduction, because it provides readers that a good sense of what is to come.
00:02:12.060 --> 00:02:14.160
Rebecca Donner: Well, just began introduction.
00:02:16.350 --> 00:02:18.240
Rebecca Donner: Her aim was self aeration.
00:02:19.290 --> 00:02:28.530
Rebecca Donner: The more invisible she was the better chances of survival in her journal she knows what she ate bread thought.
00:02:29.310 --> 00:02:39.810
Rebecca Donner: The first was uncontroversial, the second and third were not, for this reason she hit the journal when she suspected the Gestapo was closing in on her.
00:02:40.290 --> 00:02:54.900
Rebecca Donner: She destroyed it burned it most likely she was at the heroin Center of the German resistance, but she wasn't German nor was she Polish or French she was American conspicuously so.
00:02:56.370 --> 00:03:06.420
Rebecca Donner: The men she recruited acquired code names on this beamer worker she operated under no code name still she was elusive.
00:03:07.170 --> 00:03:16.770
Rebecca Donner: The nature of her work required absolute secrecy, she didn't dare tell her family who were scattered across the towns and dairy farms of the of the Midwest.
00:03:17.160 --> 00:03:39.540
Rebecca Donner: They remained bewildered that she at 26 have jumped aboard a Steamship and cross the Atlantic, leaving behind everyone she loved her family is my family three generations separate us she preferred anonymity, so I will whisper her name mildred are not.
00:03:40.770 --> 00:03:51.990
Rebecca Donner: In 1932 she held her first Columbus time meeting in her apartment a small band of political activists that grew into the largest underground resistance movement for them by the end of the decade.
00:03:52.590 --> 00:04:13.350
Rebecca Donner: During the Second World War, for group collaborated with a Soviet espionage network that conspired to defeat Hitler employing agents and operatives in Paris Geneva Brussels and then in the fall of 1942 the Gestapo pounced she was thrown in prison so we're her co conspirators.
00:04:15.060 --> 00:04:26.580
Rebecca Donner: During a hastily convened trial at the ice cream skirmish the right court martial a prosecutor who earned the moniker hitler's bloodhound hammered them with questions.
00:04:27.180 --> 00:04:40.560
Rebecca Donner: She sat on a wooden chair in the back of a courtroom other chairs held high ranking Nazi officials at the Center of the room sat a panel of five judges everyone there was German except her.
00:04:41.820 --> 00:04:50.490
Rebecca Donner: When it was her turn she approached the stand she was emaciated her lungs ravaged by tuberculosis she'd contract contract it in prison.
00:04:51.720 --> 00:05:00.510
Rebecca Donner: How long she stood there remains unknown surviving documents don't note the time the prosecutor began questioning her or the time he stopped.
00:05:01.110 --> 00:05:15.750
Rebecca Donner: What is known, is this the answers she gave him realize real whoppers the judges believed her the sentence she received was considered miles six years of hard Labor in a prison camp.
00:05:16.320 --> 00:05:28.650
Rebecca Donner: Two days later hit their overrode to the verdict and ordered for execution on February 16 1943 she was strapped to a good team and beheaded.
00:05:32.100 --> 00:05:46.260
Rebecca Donner: After the war, the US army's counterintelligence core opened an investigation mildred hard knocks actions are laudable one cic official served in 1946 noting the rather extensive file they had.
00:05:47.520 --> 00:05:57.240
Rebecca Donner: It is quite possible, but investigation will disclose the condition of a war crime wrote one other their higher ranking colleague later recommended them in a terse memo.
00:05:57.960 --> 00:06:09.570
Rebecca Donner: This case is classified as our secret restricted and should not have been referred for investigation withdraw case from the attachments D and to do not continue the investigation.
00:06:10.350 --> 00:06:30.870
Rebecca Donner: So the cic buried her case, the reason for this would not come to light for 50 years still news leaked out on December 119 47 the New York Times ran a story under the headline Hitler beheaded American woman as a personal reprisal in 1940.
00:06:32.640 --> 00:06:42.510
Rebecca Donner: With comprehensive knowledge of the German underground movement mildred Warnock stood up courageously under Gestapo torture and revealed nothing didn't know that.
00:06:43.290 --> 00:06:59.670
Rebecca Donner: Later, that week the Washington Post praised her as one of the leaders in the underground against the Nazis readers of the New York Times, and the Washington Post were probably surprised to learn that an active underground resistance in Germany hadn't even existed.
00:07:00.810 --> 00:07:11.910
Rebecca Donner: essential problem for anyone who wanted to write about her group was a lack of documentary evidence it wasn't until 1989 when the Berlin Wall came crashing down.
00:07:12.420 --> 00:07:16.770
Rebecca Donner: That a trove of documents stashed in an East German archive came to light.
00:07:17.610 --> 00:07:24.570
Rebecca Donner: Several years later, Russia permitted historians a peek at Foreign Intelligence files and in 1998.
00:07:24.990 --> 00:07:36.360
Rebecca Donner: Under the Nazi war crimes disclosure Act, the CIA FBI and US army began to release records once classified as top secret, a process that continues to this day.
00:07:37.200 --> 00:07:55.110
Rebecca Donner: We now have a more nuanced understanding of the underground resistance in Germany but factual inaccuracies process details about mildred Karnak are scams and to frequently incorrect the ashes of the journal she kept can't serve as a corrective.
00:07:56.760 --> 00:08:09.090
Rebecca Donner: Despite her wish to remain invisible she left a trail for us to follow along the trail are official documents British us and Soviet era intelligence file stick a service.
00:08:09.780 --> 00:08:19.920
Rebecca Donner: Then there are the unofficial documents which will do deeper truths, the letter she wrote the letters other people wrote to her about her.
00:08:20.730 --> 00:08:30.810
Rebecca Donner: family's friend Member part of the family and friends left behind notes date books diaries photographs testimonials.
00:08:31.470 --> 00:08:45.270
Rebecca Donner: It can't be said that there was a consensus about the woman they knew or thought they knew too many she was an enigma inspiring a range of contradictory conclusions about who she was and why she did what she did.
00:08:46.500 --> 00:08:57.660
Rebecca Donner: and nearly all the people who knew her or lost to history, those who are still alive or well into their 91 I hope to find more than any other.
00:08:58.980 --> 00:09:15.630
Rebecca Donner: He was just a boy when he left over young enough to be her son I tracked him down and implored him What did she tell me how did she entered the room, did you hear her we saying that she trusts you.
00:09:19.980 --> 00:09:29.730
Ari Goldstein: What a perfect introduction to the book, which is a long book with has so much happening in it and you hinted a lot of the storylines in the introduction.
00:09:31.020 --> 00:09:36.240
Ari Goldstein: I want to begin by asking you picking up and where you finish off that reading and asked me a little bit about.
00:09:36.660 --> 00:09:42.630
Ari Goldstein: The process and then we'll get into the story itself, but this isn't just a scholarly work about holding her knock it's also.
00:09:43.050 --> 00:09:54.480
Ari Goldstein: A quest to tell part of your own family's story, because she was your great great aunt and so on, so i'll start with that see what you mentioned introduction introduction that you wanted to track down.
00:09:55.110 --> 00:10:08.580
Ari Goldstein: At the young boy who had known mildred and was one of the last sources about her by the time you began your research, he was not a boy anymore, but an 89 year old man in California and you've done but brought you to dawn as part of your research.
00:10:09.090 --> 00:10:20.490
Rebecca Donner: Well, yes, my my grandmother told me about dawn when I was a teenager and I I his name's would have stayed in my memory for for many years.
00:10:20.910 --> 00:10:24.570
Rebecca Donner: And don he was 11 when he became built with Korea in Berlin.
00:10:25.050 --> 00:10:37.770
Rebecca Donner: And I had been intending to write this book really since I was a teenager and when my grandmother escape the matrix letters and said, you must write this book one day she knew that I wanted to be a writer that I wanted to write great books.
00:10:38.100 --> 00:10:42.570
Rebecca Donner: And she felt that this book was a worthy one to write.
00:10:43.680 --> 00:10:47.490
Rebecca Donner: When I begin writing the manuscript in earnest.
00:10:48.570 --> 00:10:57.690
Rebecca Donner: I assumed that I had missed my chance to interview don Keith and then I found out quite accidentally.
00:10:58.350 --> 00:11:03.810
Rebecca Donner: That he indeed was alive, I was at an artist residency in upstate New York and and and I.
00:11:04.530 --> 00:11:13.650
Rebecca Donner: Immediately got on the phone and called him and he answered and I interviewed him I couldn't quite believe that I was listening to his voice.
00:11:14.010 --> 00:11:22.710
Rebecca Donner: And then I jumped on a plane and flew up to northern California, where he lived with his wife and I interviewed him for days and.
00:11:23.220 --> 00:11:35.310
Rebecca Donner: And he told me in great detail about how twice a week between 19 4039 and 1941 he would visit children's department ostensibly for Tutoring sessions.
00:11:36.270 --> 00:11:45.270
Rebecca Donner: And at the end of the session mildred would slip a note into his knapsack which you then pass on to his father, who was a diplomat at the US Embassy in Berlin.
00:11:45.780 --> 00:11:57.030
Rebecca Donner: Who are confidential arrangement with Secretary of treasury Henry Morgan junior Assistant Secretary of State, George Mr Smith and Under Secretary of State sumner wells to obtain.
00:11:57.780 --> 00:12:10.050
Rebecca Donner: Intelligence from key sources in Berlin, and after dawn passed away shortly after our interview the heat family gave me exclusive access to 12 steamer trunks of documents.
00:12:10.620 --> 00:12:20.910
Rebecca Donner: That were filled with letters and date books and diaries and it was such a treasure and in it, I discovered his mother movies heats diaries.
00:12:21.360 --> 00:12:33.330
Rebecca Donner: And and those in particular were valuable to me because I was able to corroborate a lot of what he said and connect the dots so that's when you speak a process, this is when I decided, first of all, the.
00:12:34.200 --> 00:12:42.630
Rebecca Donner: The the book blew wide wide open for me I I interviewed who may have been the last person alive, who had.
00:12:43.380 --> 00:12:54.540
Rebecca Donner: witnessed melts acts of espionage, on behalf of the United States, and it also participated in them, and so I realized that I needed to devote a lot more space to him and to this family.
00:12:55.200 --> 00:13:02.820
Rebecca Donner: In the book, and so I did structure the book and as kind of two parallel narrative lines there's mildred line and then there's don king.
00:13:04.200 --> 00:13:17.850
Ari Goldstein: He becomes a really important secondary character, but there are so many interesting secondary characters I mean it's a biography of Milton or not that is also sort of a profile of this American world that she inhabited in Berlin.
00:13:17.970 --> 00:13:21.210
Rebecca Donner: Yes, definitely I am well there is there's done he.
00:13:22.770 --> 00:13:24.180
Rebecca Donner: that's it that's about the age.
00:13:25.020 --> 00:13:30.450
Rebecca Donner: When he started working as a reporter, and so, as I say, in, and there I am with him.
00:13:31.500 --> 00:13:36.090
Rebecca Donner: he's 89 we had just finished our final interview and.
00:13:37.350 --> 00:13:43.500
Rebecca Donner: And after that picture was taken he actually looked at me with tears in his eyes and he said now I can die but.
00:13:45.030 --> 00:13:52.950
Rebecca Donner: It was incredibly dramatic and and I said, you know don't do that, but then, as I said about a month later he did die.
00:13:54.450 --> 00:13:59.550
Rebecca Donner: And I think that you know he had spoken about his story in various.
00:14:00.990 --> 00:14:03.090
Rebecca Donner: to various interviewers including.
00:14:04.140 --> 00:14:15.480
Rebecca Donner: mildred hornets first biographer showing bryce act, but he did not go into great detail if you held back a lot because i'm related to mildred he said i'm like family to him, he called her aunt mildred.
00:14:16.140 --> 00:14:28.530
Rebecca Donner: When he spoke to me and and and I think he was ready to tell more of a story, and so, and again in the steamer trunks, not only did I discovered his mother's diaries and date books, but also some.
00:14:29.550 --> 00:14:33.030
Rebecca Donner: unpublished memoirs both written by hand and also by his father does.
00:14:34.860 --> 00:14:43.110
Ari Goldstein: It really make the story come alive in the book so mildred hard knock was for fish or knock which use for free to with something some places.
00:14:43.260 --> 00:14:43.470
Rebecca Donner: It was.
00:14:43.530 --> 00:14:54.120
Ari Goldstein: A blond blue eyed American woman born to a Christian family in Wisconsin and she moved to Germany for love in I believe 1929.
00:14:54.360 --> 00:14:55.800
Rebecca Donner: Yes, that's right mentioned to her.
00:14:55.800 --> 00:14:57.180
Ari Goldstein: husband rv park.
00:14:57.510 --> 00:15:04.680
Rebecca Donner: What 11 also to proceed to pursue a PhD she had professional ambitions as well, and there was a PhD program she wanted to.
00:15:05.010 --> 00:15:21.120
Rebecca Donner: enroll in yes in their image was our their their their notion of the future was they would become academics, he was finishing his PhD as well, and they would lecture in German, universities and also in American universities and there was go back and forth across the Atlantic.
00:15:22.140 --> 00:15:35.790
Ari Goldstein: So what kind of life, did they build in those first years before the Nazis rose to power in Germany, she was teaching and studying at the same time and in a relatively intellectually open environment under the Weimar regime.
00:15:36.030 --> 00:15:45.690
Rebecca Donner: Yes, yes, yes, so those first few years she she enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Houston and they were actually separated for.
00:15:46.320 --> 00:16:00.180
Rebecca Donner: For stretches of months, at a time, because he was working on his PhD and in, and so, and she would lecture and at the University of Berlin when he was studying for.
00:16:01.530 --> 00:16:03.750
Rebecca Donner: A certification and so basically.
00:16:05.160 --> 00:16:10.080
Rebecca Donner: But they wrote letters to each other and and they met also on weekends and.
00:16:11.130 --> 00:16:11.850
Rebecca Donner: and
00:16:12.990 --> 00:16:26.910
Rebecca Donner: read books to each other and and really plan for the future, I think, during this time mildred was appalled at the rise in popularity of the Nazi party.
00:16:27.720 --> 00:16:39.690
Rebecca Donner: And she really it's really important to understand that in 1928 year before she arrived, the Nazi party received less than 3% of the vote in their high stock election.
00:16:40.260 --> 00:16:55.080
Rebecca Donner: The German Parliament just two years later, in 1930 the Nazi party receive 18% and then in 1932 37% for the first time the Nazi party was a majority of the largest party, I should say, and the rest.
00:16:56.190 --> 00:17:02.790
Rebecca Donner: And and and there were many other political parties and at that time, all sort of covering the whole spectrum, from left to right.
00:17:04.440 --> 00:17:11.430
Rebecca Donner: mildred saw the University of decent swastikas everywhere 50% of the students were members of the Nazi paternity and she.
00:17:11.790 --> 00:17:19.140
Rebecca Donner: You know this was around the time where she and orbit started talking about what they could do to resist so here before Hitler was Chancellor.
00:17:19.710 --> 00:17:27.930
Rebecca Donner: She began holding her first meetings in their Berlin apartment and both of them would invite friends and friends of friends.
00:17:28.440 --> 00:17:35.940
Rebecca Donner: And she would invite her students actually the University of Berlin was her was a pool of recruits potential recruits for her and.
00:17:36.540 --> 00:17:48.270
Rebecca Donner: So she would invite when she thought were like minded people, people who oppose the Nazi party and wanted to discuss what to do about it to the apartment it was a small scrappy group.
00:17:48.870 --> 00:18:12.060
Rebecca Donner: A diverse group of men and women, there were Jews in the group there were Catholics, though we're atheists there were factory workers and, as I said, students and professors and people who are unemployed as well and, and they were Social Democrats and communists and they tended to be.
00:18:13.350 --> 00:18:20.070
Rebecca Donner: represented the left side of the political spectrum, but there was no centralized ideology that governed this group.
00:18:20.670 --> 00:18:37.890
Rebecca Donner: They were unified in their opposition to the Nazi party and to Hitler, who was also a with the rise in popularity of the Nazi party, of course, if you can set its head and and his popularity was it was just a meteoric rise very quickly and then.
00:18:39.420 --> 00:18:46.860
Rebecca Donner: As she continued to recruit Germans into the resistance after getting that became Chancellor, it was just a lot more difficult and dangerous.
00:18:48.330 --> 00:18:56.220
Ari Goldstein: So I want to ask you about that in more detail, but before I do mildred was really at the Center of the American social world and Berlin you write that.
00:18:57.330 --> 00:19:03.630
Ari Goldstein: He was well connected to diplomats and businessmen and you write in the book that she knew virtually every American living in Berlin, at the time.
00:19:04.050 --> 00:19:11.070
Ari Goldstein: Including the daughter of the American Ambassador, who is discussed in the book at length market dog, can you paint a picture of the American.
00:19:11.280 --> 00:19:21.270
Ari Goldstein: Community in Berlin for us, and my understanding is that mildred was pretty unique in the way she responded to the rights of Nazis and how did others in her American Community as.
00:19:21.990 --> 00:19:33.990
Rebecca Donner: Well, yes I I am as you alluded to earlier era, I do include a lot of people in this book it's it's populated by so this the full spectrum of people in in Berlin, at that time.
00:19:34.440 --> 00:19:48.750
Rebecca Donner: And I do spend a lot of time, not only on the Nazi officials who are in power and all of all of hitler's lackeys and their participation in oppressing.
00:19:50.880 --> 00:20:03.810
Rebecca Donner: People who lived in Germany and and and and also as the as the as the regime continued into the Second World War I also cover those years, and what occurred as well.
00:20:04.470 --> 00:20:12.060
Rebecca Donner: But in the early years and I should also mention I I structure my book chronologically because I really want people to see in real time.
00:20:12.420 --> 00:20:26.850
Rebecca Donner: How quickly Germany progressed from a parliamentary democracy during the Weimar era to a fascist dictatorship, it really did happen in the blink of an eye after Hitler became Chancellor and it through three.
00:20:27.900 --> 00:20:31.050
Rebecca Donner: And so we move up in chapters through.
00:20:32.310 --> 00:20:34.290
Rebecca Donner: Through the years and and so.
00:20:35.730 --> 00:20:57.000
Rebecca Donner: I in the in the mid 30s I I talked about how what was going on in Germany, how anti semitism was was adopted as a as a policies of governmental policy and how in the beginning, and on April 1 1933.
00:20:58.800 --> 00:21:10.170
Rebecca Donner: When the persecution of Jews began with the national boycott of all Jewish businesses and then just continued from there, and also all of the Germans who did.
00:21:11.550 --> 00:21:25.170
Rebecca Donner: there's a word for it, who were to be characterized as middle alpha which is one who follows along due to opportunities and more cowardice and a lot of people close their eyes to what was going on as we very well know.
00:21:26.940 --> 00:21:27.210
Rebecca Donner: That.
00:21:28.350 --> 00:21:37.890
Rebecca Donner: And also, I focus on the Americans in Berlin and the American basically the diplomats who were there and.
00:21:38.670 --> 00:21:57.780
Rebecca Donner: The barely concealed anti semitism that that was prevalent among a lot of the diplomats at that time and I go into the archives, and I quote some letters and and and I also talked about the the ambassador i'm at the time dog and his and his daughter.
00:21:58.950 --> 00:22:20.160
Rebecca Donner: And Martha Dodd who became a friend of acknowledgments and there was a way in which the Americans could turn a blind eye, the American expats in Berlin to turn a blind eye to the atrocities around them, or many of them did, and they continued in a kind of a protective bubble.
00:22:21.510 --> 00:22:31.830
Rebecca Donner: And I I think you know mildred met a lot of them that American women's club, where she lashes frequently on American literature.
00:22:32.280 --> 00:22:45.060
Rebecca Donner: And, and then she soon became President of the American women's club and the the the members of the American women women's club tended to be wives of diplomats and and.
00:22:46.380 --> 00:22:55.080
Rebecca Donner: sort of people in the upper echelons of society who again sort of moved in these rarefied circles and and so in mildred became quite.
00:22:56.550 --> 00:23:08.280
Rebecca Donner: well known, and in fact there's a there's a document that that turns up in in a US intelligence files were mildred is described as one of the most.
00:23:10.620 --> 00:23:29.310
Rebecca Donner: conspicuous and popular American women in Berlin, at the time she just knew everybody, and she used that to her advantage as she got deeper and deeper deeper into the resistance her active resistance, no involvement in the resistance and so by 1935.
00:23:30.390 --> 00:23:33.090
Rebecca Donner: She and orbit her not decided that.
00:23:35.070 --> 00:23:39.960
Rebecca Donner: That they would try to seek assistance from countries outside of Germany.
00:23:41.010 --> 00:23:44.700
Rebecca Donner: They wanted to connect with the resistance in.
00:23:45.690 --> 00:23:59.910
Rebecca Donner: In other places, so that they could receive assistance as well, because it was quite difficult to function in the fascist dictatorship leaflets will be paper with our only weapon against the Nazi regime at that point they distributed paper again.
00:24:00.930 --> 00:24:08.790
Rebecca Donner: These were legal the the leaflets would basically urge Germans to resist and called for revolution.
00:24:09.120 --> 00:24:16.230
Rebecca Donner: But if they were caught with one of these leaflets the punishment was a year in a concentration camp and so actually to upper recruits were.
00:24:16.620 --> 00:24:25.710
Rebecca Donner: arrested and hold up to a concentration camp and then they turn around afterwards came back and continue their work in the resistance, but this was you know.
00:24:26.730 --> 00:24:36.180
Rebecca Donner: There was a high attrition rate for this reason, and so so she used her so getting back to her connection to the US Embassy she used that.
00:24:37.410 --> 00:24:55.560
Rebecca Donner: Her connections there to help Jews escape but to help people obtain visas and she also because she had an American passport she could travel to other countries and meet with contacts and the resistance much more freely than those who were the Germans were in her.
00:24:58.290 --> 00:25:06.990
Ari Goldstein: And she did all of this at great personal risk she could have left anytime and up and up until a certain point, you could have left with relative ease.
00:25:08.220 --> 00:25:12.030
Ari Goldstein: because she was American but she chose to say and to.
00:25:13.080 --> 00:25:19.740
Ari Goldstein: put her life on the line, in order to you know for the future of a country that wasn't her own, why do you think she stayed.
00:25:21.090 --> 00:25:36.900
Rebecca Donner: that's such a great question and it's one that I that I really sat with for quite a while, when I was writing this book, you know she does she did visit the United States once the 1937 she visited her family her mother was dying and she.
00:25:38.010 --> 00:25:44.730
Rebecca Donner: decided that probably this will be the last time she could see her and every single one of her family members urged her to stay.
00:25:45.420 --> 00:25:53.490
Rebecca Donner: don't go back to Germany and if they said to her and they actually thought that she had lost her mind brother thought that she had lost her mind, because at that point.
00:25:54.180 --> 00:26:00.570
Rebecca Donner: mildred was quite paranoid she thought that she was under surveillance and in Germany, she was she had a very.
00:26:01.050 --> 00:26:12.780
Rebecca Donner: It was a realistic concern that the Gestapo would have kept the you know eye on her and members of the group, and in fact that there was a stop a rate of their apartment in 1940 so.
00:26:14.460 --> 00:26:27.390
Rebecca Donner: So she knew that that she had to be exceedingly careful and but here she wasn't the next stage and and she couldn't tell her family that she was in the resistance, she just said, I need to go back and she couldn't she couldn't.
00:26:29.400 --> 00:26:35.670
Rebecca Donner: She couldn't be frank with them, and so, and there was something riddle in her demeanor and.
00:26:36.960 --> 00:26:44.010
Rebecca Donner: and ends with withholding and quite ironically several members of her family thought that she had quote gone Nazi.
00:26:45.090 --> 00:26:49.230
Rebecca Donner: Little did they know that that Nazis were who she was fighting but.
00:26:50.250 --> 00:27:04.050
Rebecca Donner: She did go back and 1939 are bought a a one way ticket for her to return, you know by Steamship to the United States, he was so concerned that she would.
00:27:04.980 --> 00:27:12.630
Rebecca Donner: That her life was in peril and and that ticket was in her purse when she was arrested stoppable and I.
00:27:13.110 --> 00:27:21.120
Rebecca Donner: In the archives, I found the questionnaire that was given to her at clinton's a prison and from them, which is where she was executed and she.
00:27:21.900 --> 00:27:40.980
Rebecca Donner: had to fill this out and shortly before she was executed and I, and I feature it in throughout the book or not, we can see, but there is a little there's a little snippet of it and and I throughout the book I have these fragments core I I show the readers.
00:27:42.420 --> 00:27:51.420
Rebecca Donner: bits of this questionnaire little bits at a time and, and so in this questionnaire is, you see, one of the questions is what are your belongings.
00:27:52.440 --> 00:28:02.910
Rebecca Donner: And, and what do you have with you right now, and also what do you own whereas your apartment what valuables to have, of course, all these things were confiscated and but she says.
00:28:04.590 --> 00:28:05.130
Rebecca Donner: here.
00:28:07.290 --> 00:28:12.060
Rebecca Donner: At the top of her answer is one ship ticket United States lines.
00:28:13.500 --> 00:28:16.140
Rebecca Donner: And then she goes on to describe our apartment furnishings.
00:28:18.270 --> 00:28:22.500
Rebecca Donner: and other possessions and so yeah she ignored her own husband's.
00:28:24.270 --> 00:28:34.680
Rebecca Donner: Please, for her to leave I think she felt, and you know we are just left to speculate she burned her diary she did not write about this choice in her in her letters.
00:28:35.640 --> 00:28:51.840
Rebecca Donner: Back home she knew that that they were censored, and so you know not to sensors will reading all the mail and so she often wrote in code, but you know, so I i'm very careful in this book, I never.
00:28:53.250 --> 00:29:08.370
Rebecca Donner: state what she felt, unless I know that there is a primary source documents, a letter post your testimony a diary entry, something that tells me clearly this is the case, so I can only conjecture, but I think she felt like it was important.
00:29:09.600 --> 00:29:13.140
Rebecca Donner: In this is this was not her home country, but she felt that she.
00:29:15.990 --> 00:29:24.030
Rebecca Donner: Very much felt that there was a great injustice being done, and she believed in in her early letters she talks about how important it is to resist.
00:29:24.780 --> 00:29:33.780
Rebecca Donner: And we must do something about and she wrote to her mother, we must do something about this as soon as possible so she felt this tremendous urgency.
00:29:35.190 --> 00:29:39.240
Rebecca Donner: And and and this gave her life purpose clearly.
00:29:41.340 --> 00:29:44.130
Ari Goldstein: i'm just going to put up what we're talking about mildred a couple photos for.
00:29:44.250 --> 00:29:58.560
Rebecca Donner: Can I just i'm sorry I just now, they have something on the screen to display so i'm just about to run out of my battery power is is running out just going to run and get an adapter and then i'll be back in about really one minute i'm sorry I didn't realize I didn't have one in here.
00:29:58.740 --> 00:29:59.820
Ari Goldstein: i'm glad you notice, no.
00:30:01.980 --> 00:30:09.300
Rebecca Donner: So so everybody, you can look at these images and that's a good stuff a mug shot, and I can speak up more about this, and just one second.
00:30:09.720 --> 00:30:10.410
Ari Goldstein: Thank you becca.
00:30:11.430 --> 00:30:23.010
Ari Goldstein: she's gone and just going to share a couple of the I mean if you've read the book that the stunning details to illustrate the scope of the resistance work that was happening and how intimately involved mildred and her her husband were so.
00:30:24.720 --> 00:30:34.200
Ari Goldstein: Our bid her husband was a became a Soviet spy with sharing information with the Soviets that he glean from his senior role in the German Ministry of Economics.
00:30:34.830 --> 00:30:42.300
Ari Goldstein: mildred was sharing information with the US Government they both were distributing leaflets it's Rebecca mentioned she also was.
00:30:42.780 --> 00:30:54.900
Ari Goldstein: Helping to publish an underground newspaper orbitz intelligence, the Soviet Union was the key he was the key source that notified Stalin in Germany was planning to invade Soviet Union 41.
00:30:55.410 --> 00:31:07.440
Ari Goldstein: and several of their close friends and acquaintances including orbitz cousins but came together with the plan to assassinate Hitler in 1938 so when we talk about resistance and.
00:31:07.890 --> 00:31:14.940
Ari Goldstein: The fact that they invaded capture, I think, all the more impressive, given some of those facts and Mike are you plugged in.
00:31:18.900 --> 00:31:20.970
Rebecca Donner: Just sprinted down the stairs and sprinted back.
00:31:22.110 --> 00:31:28.800
Rebecca Donner: And discovered that the actually the the adapters right here so i'm just going to take a SIP of water, and then we can proceed.
00:31:29.130 --> 00:31:40.680
Ari Goldstein: Your so I mean I just been sharing some of the amazing facts about BELTRAN and orbits espionage and and it's also important to note that, what are we doing all of this, they were publicly presenting themselves as a.
00:31:41.700 --> 00:31:51.510
Ari Goldstein: Nazi dutiful Nazi couple he Nazi with this American life, he at one point, decided to actually join the Nazi party in order to keep up as cover have achieved resisted doing.
00:31:51.900 --> 00:32:06.240
Ari Goldstein: and know that I found absolutely fascinating was that mildred decided to join the daughters of the American revolution, at the same time as Arvin during the Nazi party because she thought the Dir would give her two Nazi credentials as an American.
00:32:06.450 --> 00:32:15.150
Rebecca Donner: Yes, she did she she was living a double life at that time, and so it was our bit I they really did present themselves as this.
00:32:16.140 --> 00:32:18.600
Rebecca Donner: I don't know if he got a job at the Ministry of Economics and.
00:32:18.990 --> 00:32:29.820
Rebecca Donner: rose through the ranks and he bought this job with the express purpose of gaining access to top secret documents about that was operational and later military strategies which then he passed on to the.
00:32:30.450 --> 00:32:36.090
Rebecca Donner: Soviet Union, and then also to the United States and multiple assisted in this as well.
00:32:38.010 --> 00:32:38.490
Rebecca Donner: I.
00:32:39.810 --> 00:32:43.260
Rebecca Donner: So, and another member of there are several Members actually.
00:32:44.460 --> 00:33:02.610
Rebecca Donner: followed the same strategy, they got jobs and ministries and so partial to voice and got a position at the move to offer and so he had access to all of the missions we have during World War Two and then he passed this information on to that was enemies and.
00:33:03.780 --> 00:33:11.670
Rebecca Donner: Very specific military strategies and, in fact, both are good and partial to voice them because they were so effective at.
00:33:13.440 --> 00:33:18.330
Rebecca Donner: convincing those around them that they were loyal Nazis, they were able to obtain.
00:33:19.980 --> 00:33:22.350
Rebecca Donner: I a an abundance of information about.
00:33:24.030 --> 00:33:32.070
Rebecca Donner: hiller's plan to obey the Soviet Union, and so they went to some of the documents that I uncovered in a in a Russian archive.
00:33:32.700 --> 00:33:47.280
Rebecca Donner: Soviet era intelligence documents and I found the memos that were kept in Moscow Center with all of their intelligence, the date the intelligence, they passed their names code names and.
00:33:48.000 --> 00:34:03.480
Rebecca Donner: There is a documents in my book, I also make sure I just opened up to the page, this is, this is the document there and i'm and I make sure throughout the book to to feature photographs to really bring the history, you know.
00:34:04.980 --> 00:34:05.760
Rebecca Donner: To vivid life.
00:34:06.810 --> 00:34:28.200
Rebecca Donner: But when when presented with this with this with these memos was really it was compiled and report stolen refuse to believe that, at that time I filler who he had, of course, had a packed with at that time could refuse to believe that he would ever invite him and so.
00:34:29.310 --> 00:34:30.330
Rebecca Donner: I he.
00:34:31.410 --> 00:34:37.890
Rebecca Donner: scroll down scrolled an obscenity across the report which I also include in my book and.
00:34:39.210 --> 00:34:50.370
Rebecca Donner: And, and then and then just a few days later hit me invaded the Soviet Union so so part herschel's voice in an arbiter not tempted to warn.
00:34:52.530 --> 00:35:02.070
Rebecca Donner: Stalin and he refused to listen, but again, going back to a question I mean there they were so effective at getting these documents.
00:35:03.990 --> 00:35:08.940
Rebecca Donner: Because they were able to convince everybody that they believed.
00:35:11.220 --> 00:35:24.210
Rebecca Donner: That they they did they shared the the beliefs of of those Nazi officials around them mildred had to play the part of this oil Nazi wife and So yes, she she joined the car she she.
00:35:25.650 --> 00:35:38.130
Rebecca Donner: would also when she would recruit Germans into the persistence, she at that point in the mid 30s to late 30s she became exceedingly careful because she knew that if she were caught and turned into the Gestapo.
00:35:38.970 --> 00:35:48.510
Rebecca Donner: It would be very easy for her to be arrested and thrown in prison and so she adopted a strategy, and you know this from the post war testimony.
00:35:48.780 --> 00:35:54.900
Rebecca Donner: From one of the survivors, she would pretend, she would present somebody with a book and pretend that.
00:35:55.440 --> 00:36:06.120
Rebecca Donner: That that she supported Hitler and ask this person, what do you think of this book and the book would be something that is that was antithetical to.
00:36:06.780 --> 00:36:14.490
Rebecca Donner: Nazi beliefs and then depending on what their reaction would be she would assess whether or not there might be some receptivity and then she would.
00:36:15.240 --> 00:36:27.840
Rebecca Donner: to join in the resistance and then she would slowly initiate conversations and sometimes this led to tremendous misunderstandings and in my book, I talk about one occasion when the writer Rebecca West.
00:36:28.980 --> 00:36:39.930
Rebecca Donner: Multiple paid a visit to her in London and attempted this and and Rebecca West through her out of the apartment she said she was so disgusted and she bought, how could you ever support this.
00:36:41.220 --> 00:36:51.510
Rebecca Donner: This regime, I and and then later she wrote to the head of the CIA and recounted the whole episode, and by that point mildred had been.
00:36:52.860 --> 00:37:00.480
Rebecca Donner: executed and Rebecca westwood credit that she had misunderstood pitch that nothing was actually tempting clumsily to.
00:37:02.010 --> 00:37:05.190
Rebecca Donner: To see whether she could recruit her resistance.
00:37:07.350 --> 00:37:12.090
Ari Goldstein: In many ways, mildred resistance work and her husband are average resistance work work.
00:37:12.690 --> 00:37:25.860
Ari Goldstein: Totally linked, and also in other ways, they were pursuing independent resistance activities at the same time, but a lot of the the post war focus has sort of downplayed her role and focused on arby's work can you.
00:37:25.890 --> 00:37:26.580
Rebecca Donner: Yes, indeed.
00:37:28.800 --> 00:37:40.140
Rebecca Donner: Yes, well, I think you know it's important historians typically name our guitar and off as a leader and either ignore mildred entirely or mentioned her nearly as as armpits wife.
00:37:41.310 --> 00:37:46.140
Rebecca Donner: mildred recruits are transformed into arguments with friends.
00:37:46.920 --> 00:37:55.260
Rebecca Donner: And I didn't really speak about this that much, but she also recruited after she was fired from the University of Berlin, in part because of her political viewpoints and.
00:37:55.620 --> 00:38:04.260
Rebecca Donner: For issues very candid in her opposition to the Nazi party and the administration didn't look to find me on this she got a job.
00:38:04.980 --> 00:38:20.400
Rebecca Donner: And this is a 1932, and so this is before Hitler became Chancellor and like said she then got a job at an adult mates for and in Berlin, and it was the first of its kind and it was basically a lot of unemployed and.
00:38:21.480 --> 00:38:22.620
Rebecca Donner: blue collar workers.
00:38:24.780 --> 00:38:28.860
Rebecca Donner: And unplug Germans were the students there and they were given hot meals and.
00:38:30.720 --> 00:38:41.910
Rebecca Donner: books and and after they work, the factory jobs they would come and sit down and and take classes and mildred found that this group of up Germans were among her most loyal recruits.
00:38:42.690 --> 00:38:49.260
Rebecca Donner: And this was a group that was being targeted for mindlessly by the Nazi party with propaganda, but several several i'm certainly.
00:38:49.800 --> 00:39:02.220
Rebecca Donner: She had to be very careful, who, she would recruit but there were a couple students in that group who actually went on, and got codenamed was like mentioned a couple of the code names in the introduction harmless beamer worker those.
00:39:02.940 --> 00:39:09.900
Rebecca Donner: Among them were people who are former students but but historians call them are gets recruits.
00:39:11.010 --> 00:39:25.050
Rebecca Donner: And and and you know our that is presenting is presiding over the meetings with mildred as a kind of silent partner, but in fact archival evidence establishes that at the beginning of 1935 she lived most of the meetings.
00:39:26.070 --> 00:39:33.750
Rebecca Donner: And this was around the time that notepad that rv got the job at the Ministry of Economics So these are these are areas that have.
00:39:34.260 --> 00:39:42.480
Rebecca Donner: calcified over time and to so called facts and and even in 1947 with the New York Times when that story that I also mentioned in the introduction.
00:39:43.290 --> 00:39:58.170
Rebecca Donner: About mildred at it's riddled with riddled with factual errors and then I counted at least eight of them and and most consequential is that are that is called an underground leader and mildred is dismissed as his wife.
00:39:59.460 --> 00:40:00.030
Rebecca Donner: You know that.
00:40:01.140 --> 00:40:16.680
Rebecca Donner: The prominent eminent British historian Richard Evans wrote that women played and i'm quoting right now Women played particularly prominent role in the underground resistance in Germany, particularly he says hard knocks American wife and children.
00:40:18.300 --> 00:40:37.260
Rebecca Donner: And then he goes on and changes the subject and talks about the men again so it's never really explained what per prominent role was on she was just passed over and as recently as as just last year, the best selling German writer Norman older in his book about this group.
00:40:38.580 --> 00:40:47.100
Rebecca Donner: trivializes mildred central goal and confuses the manner of her death as well, describing her as climbing up the scaffold to be hanged.
00:40:48.660 --> 00:41:05.400
Rebecca Donner: Instead of mental acuity and then you know these are these these details are important, but the women in the group were primarily the instrument of their execution was a guillotine the men were either hand or shot.
00:41:06.810 --> 00:41:09.720
Rebecca Donner: And it was a the Nazi special perversity to view.
00:41:11.010 --> 00:41:13.230
Rebecca Donner: beheading is more humane than hanging.
00:41:14.850 --> 00:41:26.490
Rebecca Donner: But the women were also mildred and the others in her group or also subjected to dissection after they were executed and and I also very grim chapter, at the end of my book, I describe.
00:41:27.930 --> 00:41:29.580
Rebecca Donner: A professor, the head of.
00:41:30.660 --> 00:41:41.670
Rebecca Donner: The anatomy department at the University of Berlin same as from on super he had a special arrangement with the director at clinton's a prison to transport the women's bodies.
00:41:42.300 --> 00:41:57.270
Rebecca Donner: To his laboratory immediately after they're beheading so that he could investigate the effects of acute stress on their reproductive organs this this all came to light just recently and.
00:41:58.620 --> 00:42:13.620
Rebecca Donner: In 19 in 2019 you can see a story in the New York Times about basically the microscopic remains that these were discovered and and given proper burial at the Guardian also published an article about this.
00:42:17.010 --> 00:42:27.120
Ari Goldstein: it's a oft repeated pattern in history that that important women are left out or relegated to the title of housewife but sometimes those stories never get on earth, because.
00:42:27.510 --> 00:42:38.970
Ari Goldstein: The primary source material isn't there, or because there isn't a really enterprising historians going to go on earth it so it's sort of a heroic act that you've lifted her to the Center of our conversations about resistance in Berlin.
00:42:39.780 --> 00:42:42.150
Rebecca Donner: Oh yeah I am I think.
00:42:43.530 --> 00:42:44.760
Rebecca Donner: This was one of my.
00:42:45.930 --> 00:42:51.540
Rebecca Donner: aims and writing this book was to not only to tell the aspects of mildred story that haven't been told before.
00:42:52.800 --> 00:43:02.220
Rebecca Donner: But also the stories of others and her group and and and I did focus on women in her group, and I do I basically this.
00:43:02.730 --> 00:43:11.070
Rebecca Donner: This began, for me, when I when I was at this archive in Berlin at the Convention Center which would be the start, which is the German resistance memorial Center.
00:43:11.970 --> 00:43:22.830
Rebecca Donner: And, and I there I discovered, it was really one of my most significant archival discoveries were the notes that were passed in prison between the women in this group.
00:43:23.880 --> 00:43:24.570
Rebecca Donner: and
00:43:25.800 --> 00:43:37.230
Rebecca Donner: You know, they were charged with treason and awaiting trial and and the men were to the men were basically locked up in men's prisons and the women were and.
00:43:37.650 --> 00:43:47.940
Rebecca Donner: locked up in women's prisons after they worked processed by the Gestapo in Stockholm headquarters, and I should also just very quickly, before I.
00:43:49.020 --> 00:44:07.410
Rebecca Donner: move on the show both of the service in my book in the photo and sort of show the photographs of members of this group, these are the Gestapo headshots that the mug shots that were taken after they were arrested, this is a 1942 and that's not with my bare.
00:44:08.490 --> 00:44:19.890
Rebecca Donner: And you showed that, when I was running and getting my my plug right so and you can see any way other members of the group, either, this is just I just took two pages to it, there were.
00:44:21.240 --> 00:44:26.670
Rebecca Donner: Many more after they were processed at the Gestapo headquarters, the women were sent to women's prisons women's.
00:44:27.300 --> 00:44:45.060
Rebecca Donner: Center men's prisons and they awaited a mass cheese and trial and and, and so the they would, in order, they were forbidden to communicate with one another, but they did pass these notes and they were called cassie board and and and I found these at this.
00:44:46.410 --> 00:44:58.980
Rebecca Donner: This Berlin archive and, and so they would slip them to me this is, they would slip them to each other, during their daily walk in the prison yard and sometimes they would so them into the homes of their garments or.
00:45:02.790 --> 00:45:18.030
Rebecca Donner: burn the bridge and the cracks in the fishers of the walls in the prison for other prisoners to find and they were strictly prohibited and the guards were given a reward for finding them, and so I.
00:45:19.080 --> 00:45:32.250
Rebecca Donner: So it's quite rare to find an archive that it's still saved some of these and basically some of them were quite poetic they're almost like little poems and impressions of what that might look like.
00:45:33.300 --> 00:45:38.610
Rebecca Donner: And some of them describe the work that they do all day long.
00:45:40.890 --> 00:45:53.430
Rebecca Donner: They were engaged and forced Labor and in some of them who are just filled with gossip anyway, I found one that mentioned mildred and mentioned one of the members of the group who had betrayed her to.
00:45:54.000 --> 00:46:00.150
Rebecca Donner: The Gestapo interrogators So this was really this This, then, when I found these and then I was able to sort of.
00:46:00.960 --> 00:46:11.700
Rebecca Donner: trace, who was who then that gave me an idea of which Members which women in the group to focus on, and then I trace trace backwards to.
00:46:12.390 --> 00:46:17.910
Rebecca Donner: I decided to begin with their acts of resistance, and these were women who did everything that the men did.
00:46:18.750 --> 00:46:27.360
Rebecca Donner: And they participated in producing the leaflets distributing the leaflets, some of them participated in acts of espionage and planning sabotage.
00:46:27.990 --> 00:46:42.090
Rebecca Donner: And and and then I document their arrest and then follow them through prison and and so on, so, so I think you know I think it's also important to understand that there are gaps in the record.
00:46:43.050 --> 00:46:52.350
Rebecca Donner: The Nazis burned and destroyed or two different accounts to what about what happened to the trial transcripts, but they were destroyed.
00:46:53.460 --> 00:47:09.720
Rebecca Donner: And, and so all that exists is the sentencing document, so this is just one example of the gaps in the record that that exist, and so, and one of the ways in which it's been difficult to tell the story.
00:47:10.980 --> 00:47:23.310
Rebecca Donner: So I definitely in my story know where we have those gaps by both in the narrative and also in my end notes, because I think that's an important part of the record to not only to discuss what.
00:47:23.790 --> 00:47:36.600
Rebecca Donner: What we know about these people whose stories have remained and told, but also what we don't know and what we don't know tells us about the people who participated in destroying that evidence and their knowledge of culpability.
00:47:39.000 --> 00:47:47.730
Ari Goldstein: Thank you so much Rebecca i'm going to turn to some of the audience questions now, there was a bunch of questions about what happened to mildred and her husband at the war that's.
00:47:48.270 --> 00:47:49.050
Rebecca Donner: takes a couple of.
00:47:49.230 --> 00:47:53.880
Ari Goldstein: Just as briefly as you can see, the trial and the execution.
00:47:54.030 --> 00:48:04.140
Rebecca Donner: Sure, so um so in the fall of 1942 partial to voice and I mentioned him earlier he he was a lieutenant.
00:48:05.670 --> 00:48:14.130
Rebecca Donner: In the office billing information, giving it to Soviet Union, he was arrested and his wife of the protests that weren't as many people as possible.
00:48:14.610 --> 00:48:24.300
Rebecca Donner: find yourselves, you know they found us there's a long there's a long and false story about radio transmitters and and messages that are intercepted by.
00:48:25.050 --> 00:48:40.830
Rebecca Donner: Members of the German intelligence and we don't have time for that, so I urge you all to read my book and it's also it's one of the aspects of this group that is pretty well known and then that's the spy thriller aspect of the book.
00:48:42.630 --> 00:48:54.300
Rebecca Donner: The messages that were intercepted and and and then eventually just put that decoding and then everybody's attempt to flee and avoid stop oh capture mildred and arvind.
00:48:56.220 --> 00:49:10.620
Rebecca Donner: fled to Nazi occupied Lithuania and they were planning to by all accounts escaped to Sweden and the next morning after their arrival the stucco arrived and they.
00:49:11.130 --> 00:49:20.730
Rebecca Donner: drove 500 miles to track them down an SS officer named horse Coco was it was basically took it upon himself to personally arrest unfiltered and Harvard.
00:49:21.810 --> 00:49:39.030
Rebecca Donner: And so, then they were taking to the stucco headquarters and I showed you the mug shots and they had mildred spent three and a half months in solitary confinement, she is an American was actually treated more harshly than the others in the group, she was not permitted to write letters.
00:49:40.350 --> 00:49:47.040
Rebecca Donner: and read books at that time our hood was given some of these privileges he actually started writing a new book.
00:49:48.090 --> 00:49:53.490
Rebecca Donner: But, and he was even allowed to receive a visit from his brother fall corner.
00:49:54.570 --> 00:50:10.710
Rebecca Donner: And at least twice and Belgium was not permitted any visitors and then there was one trial, the first trial and mildred was given as Minister, I read in the beginning of the book, but she was given six months and pardon me six years in a.
00:50:11.790 --> 00:50:19.590
Rebecca Donner: prison camp six years of hard Labor and then and arvind was sentenced to hang so right before he.
00:50:20.640 --> 00:50:38.610
Rebecca Donner: Is execution he wrote a letter to mildred and that letter is in my book as well mildred gave it to her soulmate Gertrude clap who was then transferred to robin's book concentration camp and miraculously survived and held on to the letter, and this is the reason we have it to this.
00:50:50.070 --> 00:50:51.990
Ari Goldstein: we're back I think you're frozen right now.
00:50:53.340 --> 00:51:06.870
Ari Goldstein: we'll come back in just a moment I don't know if you can hear me, we cannot hear you if you can hear us, I would suggest just logging out of zoom in and logging right back in and hopefully you'll be with us for the last 10 minutes or so.
00:51:14.460 --> 00:51:16.860
Ari Goldstein: Rebecca now, you can see you again, you just need to unmute.
00:51:21.930 --> 00:51:24.270
Ari Goldstein: Rebecca you're just muted, right now, can you hear me.
00:51:31.440 --> 00:51:32.130
Rebecca Donner: i'm back.
00:51:32.640 --> 00:51:34.500
Ari Goldstein: Okay excellent welcome.
00:51:37.620 --> 00:51:40.770
Rebecca Donner: cut off, but, basically, I was just getting to the end of the point which was.
00:51:41.940 --> 00:51:48.360
Rebecca Donner: Our big wrote a letter on that survived and two days after mildred sentence.
00:51:49.890 --> 00:51:52.830
Rebecca Donner: Hitler reverses the sentence in order for execution.
00:51:54.510 --> 00:52:00.030
Ari Goldstein: there's a beautiful question from an audience and we're going to carry says Rebecca, why do you think so few individuals.
00:52:01.260 --> 00:52:10.800
Ari Goldstein: stood up and participated in the resistance, do you identify a common trait that people like Miller shared enabling them to resist, despite the fear oppression and threats of death.
00:52:12.180 --> 00:52:19.650
Rebecca Donner: yeah I of course i've given so much thought to that a common trait I mean I think about I think about.
00:52:21.690 --> 00:52:39.540
Rebecca Donner: how important it is to recognize that you know these are real stories of courage and sacrifice and in the name of persistence and I think about every morning mildred and her co conspirators waking up and what must have been in their minds.
00:52:41.070 --> 00:52:45.540
Rebecca Donner: They didn't know whether they would live or die that day, they were very well aware of the.
00:52:46.050 --> 00:53:01.620
Rebecca Donner: risks that they were taking but unlike so many they're willing to take the risk and without knowing what the outcome would be some and I think they had the courage of their convictions, they they they simply could not.
00:53:02.790 --> 00:53:05.160
Rebecca Donner: Wake up and get to the day.
00:53:07.170 --> 00:53:11.520
Rebecca Donner: Without taking a moral stance against the atrocities around that.
00:53:14.160 --> 00:53:30.000
Ari Goldstein: there's two wonderful questions here from an audience Member named sheldon and so i'll ask them both at once, first, have you been able to discover new insights about mildred since your book went to press if someone anyone come forward and gotten in touch with you i'm not sure if.
00:53:31.200 --> 00:53:34.020
Ari Goldstein: We should be back with us in just a moment but it's great question sheldon.
00:53:36.480 --> 00:53:36.960
Ari Goldstein: I again.
00:53:38.220 --> 00:53:53.910
Rebecca Donner: Know what's going on yeah but anyway, I I don't know where I I got cut off, but um I think we do need a history lesson, right now, and I think we need to take inspiration from the stories of these people who did risk and lose their lives in fighting a fascist dictator.
00:53:54.570 --> 00:54:00.750
Ari Goldstein: God knows, there is a lot of injustice hate for terrorism in our world today, so these lessons are timely.
00:54:00.990 --> 00:54:11.910
Ari Goldstein: Yes, there's two questions I want to ask you here from not interpretive sheldon have you been able to discover new insights that mildred since your book went to press and also what is your next project.
00:54:13.800 --> 00:54:25.200
Rebecca Donner: I I I just never knew I feel like I discover new things, every day, I mean I could have kept a really I would have kept writing this book for the next 20 years if I if I.
00:54:27.120 --> 00:54:30.930
Rebecca Donner: If I wanted to, I mean I, and I just decided I needed to get the book out now.
00:54:31.860 --> 00:54:40.080
Rebecca Donner: But because I have her letters and I poured over them every time I look at them again I find something new, when I i've read them hundreds and hundreds of times.
00:54:40.920 --> 00:54:49.320
Rebecca Donner: But in in terms of what's in historical records, you know I submitted Freedom of Information Act requests for point of requests to.
00:54:51.300 --> 00:55:01.260
Rebecca Donner: To try to declassify some of the intelligence documents on mildred and most of them have been declassified and some of them have not I succeeded, I had to submit.
00:55:03.780 --> 00:55:08.070
Rebecca Donner: Several letters about one particular document and, finally, they did to classify.
00:55:09.060 --> 00:55:17.580
Rebecca Donner: This document and and and with the story got a broader and fuller for me, then, but there are still documents that are redacted.
00:55:18.570 --> 00:55:33.420
Rebecca Donner: And so, and there are still a lot of documents that are under lock and key in archives and Russia, and so I think that we will continue to find out more about both mildred and people in this group in the years ahead.
00:55:34.920 --> 00:55:38.550
Ari Goldstein: Well we're glad that you stopped writing book at some point and went to price.
00:55:38.610 --> 00:55:45.330
Rebecca Donner: Maybe yes Oh yes, definitely and that that I am too i'm very glad this this timing, in particular, I feel that i'm.
00:55:46.470 --> 00:55:57.600
Rebecca Donner: i'm i'm glad it all came together and the way that it did, and very briefly just to answer the second part of the question that the next book I had two books and can't say much about one one is a novel.
00:55:58.680 --> 00:56:02.760
Rebecca Donner: And the other I can't say really much about either one of them I just I feel.
00:56:03.750 --> 00:56:12.990
Rebecca Donner: That they're still in the incipient stages, but, but the second one is the work of narrative nonfiction and it actually follows a person who was who's in my book, and I just.
00:56:13.500 --> 00:56:26.910
Rebecca Donner: If I if it more closely and focuses on just a six week period in 1945 and and I felt that it was so important to this story is so important that it deserves assemble.
00:56:28.950 --> 00:56:30.540
Ari Goldstein: Just try to squeeze in two more questions love.
00:56:30.540 --> 00:56:32.370
Rebecca Donner: Sharing speak fast.
00:56:33.570 --> 00:56:43.230
Ari Goldstein: museum is located in New York, and it was exciting to read about some New York connections and Milton story, including that two weeks she stayed on St mark's place which was visiting New York.
00:56:43.230 --> 00:56:43.320
00:56:45.150 --> 00:56:52.590
Ari Goldstein: Other other New York tidbits to mildred story that can help us sort of connect to at home to this heroin overseas.
00:56:53.190 --> 00:56:59.370
Rebecca Donner: Oh well, she actually lectured at nyu when she mentioned 37 when she visited her family.
00:57:00.150 --> 00:57:05.940
Rebecca Donner: She also she likes to that a few universities really just to make money to to go back because she wasn't permitted to take.
00:57:06.270 --> 00:57:26.670
Rebecca Donner: much money at all away from Germany and and and so she had to make money while she was in the US so she did lecture in that at nyu and I found a letter that was written by one of the professors complimenting her for lecture and, yes, she lived with her former acquaintance.
00:57:27.930 --> 00:57:29.460
Rebecca Donner: Formal Wisconsin friend.
00:57:30.840 --> 00:57:34.410
Rebecca Donner: Claire leiser who wrote really gossipy letters about her.
00:57:35.460 --> 00:57:45.870
Rebecca Donner: her visit, which is why I called her former because I she really was was well, you have to read my book, but anyway it's it's a moment when i'm amused how.
00:57:47.010 --> 00:58:01.080
Rebecca Donner: How much Claire really goodness is measured in this misunderstand what's going on she's one of the people who saw her as brittle and and didn't understand the transformation that it happened and didn't quite piece together that mildred was in the resistance.
00:58:02.100 --> 00:58:15.210
Rebecca Donner: You know, in a fascist dictatorship, and so you know her personality was not the sunny personality, she wasn't the millie that she used to be, you know in our college days um another New York well Thomas close as.
00:58:21.840 --> 00:58:26.250
Ari Goldstein: I think we've lost her again, but I know that there were some questions about where the title of the book came from and.
00:58:26.820 --> 00:58:42.030
Ari Goldstein: The title all the frequent troubles for days comes from the translated lines poetry that mildred left us in her prison cell at the end of her life and and just pasting in the chat all four lines as she translated from which the title of the book comes.
00:58:43.590 --> 00:58:54.150
Ari Goldstein: Think will close here, but we are so grateful to Rebecca Donner for spending, this time with us today and for writing all the frequent troubles of our days, the true story of the American woman at the heart.
00:58:54.720 --> 00:59:05.880
Ari Goldstein: Of the German resistance to Hitler, you can order the book at the link in the zoom chat from the Community bookstore in brooklyn which is rebecca's local bookstore and they'll make sure that it's a signed copy.
00:59:06.270 --> 00:59:11.730
Ari Goldstein: i'll be hope you'll take the lessons of military hard knocks amazing story with you as you navigate our world today.
00:59:12.030 --> 00:59:21.510
Ari Goldstein: And that you will support the museum's Jewish heritage just work and join us for upcoming programs and events you can check those out at the link in the zoom chat we have.
00:59:21.750 --> 00:59:34.440
Ari Goldstein: Several significant book launch programs this fall was a lot of really interesting exciting new literature our nonfiction work coming out about the history and legacy of the Holocaust, so we hope to see you there.
00:59:34.920 --> 00:59:39.330
Ari Goldstein: Thank you for joining us Thank you again to Rebecca and we wish everyone a great afternoon.
Learn About German Resistance to the Nazis
Most Germans did not resist Nazism. But there was an underground resistance movement nonetheless, which included many Germans and some foreigners like Mildred Harnack. Read more about resistance in Germany in this encyclopedia entry from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Learn About Jewish Resistance to the Nazis
Thousands of Jewish women fought back against the Nazis in ghettos, forced labor camps, concentration camps, and partisan units. Author Judy Batalion recently told some of their stories in The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos. Learn more about these women in this Museum conversation between Batalion and Molly Crabapple.
Learn About American Resistance to the Nazis
Florence Mendheim was an American Jewish librarian who spied on Nazis in New York City around the same time as Mildred Harnack conducted her espionage work in Germany. Read about Mendheim on our Museum blog.