Mili after her arrest by the Gestapo
featuring Mili and
issued by the German Republic.
From the collection of Myles Johnson
Tragic Intellectual Fighting
Mildred Fish - Mili to her friends
- was a native of Wisconsin. Following the death of her father in 1918
Mili moved to Chevy Chase, Maryland with her mother and sisters. Western
High was the school of choice for her senior year of high school. It was a
long trip by streetcar, but she made many new friends. She worked on the
Western Breeze and was an editor for the Trailblazer. She was active in
sports and played on both the girls basketball and baseball teams. Mili
portrayed the role of Princess Angelica in the senior class play,
Thackeray's The Rose and the Ring.
The two years following graduation
with the Western class of 1919 were spent working and attending George
Washington University. With money from her savings and from her family,
she returned to her home state to attend the University of Wisconsin.
Mili received a degree in English
from the University of Wisconsin and then began her graduate studies. Soon
after she met Arvid Harnack who was the scion of an academically
distinguished German family. Arvid was on a fellowship to continue studies
for his second Ph.D. After they were married, they went to Germany to
continue their graduate studies. Mili concentrated on American Literature
and became proficient as a translator of American classics into German.
A great beauty, educated and
cultured, Mili was accepted into the highest circles of the German
intelligentsia. These cultured circles were bitterly opposed to the rise
of Hitler and National Socialism (the Nazis) in their country. Many turned
to Communism for support. Arvid Harnack was one of the founders of the RoteCapelle or Red Orchestra. This Soviet dominated espionage
ring provided much high-quality military and industrial intelligence
especially during the German invasion of Russia. Ironically most of this
valuable information was either ignored or misused by the Soviets. Due to
their own procedural blunders, the Soviets managed to disclose enough
information that the German counterintelligence was able to rollup the
espionage ring. Arvid and Mili were arrested by the Gestapo in 1942. Arvid
was tried and hanged by a civilian tribunal. At first, Mili was given only
a relatively light prison sentence. Hitler personally countermanded
and ordered her execution.
Mili was guillotined in early 1943.
Want to read more? Try this new
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© Shareen Blair Brysac, 2000.