All the frequent troubles of our days : the true story of the American woman at the heart of the German resistance to Hitler / Rebecca Donner.

By: Donner, RebeccaMaterial type: TextTextPublisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2021Edition: First editionDescription: xiv, 560 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cmContent type: text | still image Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9780316561693; 031656169XSubject(s): Harnack-Fish, Mildred, 1902-1943 | Rote Kapelle (Resistance group) | Anti-Nazi movement -- Germany -- Berlin -- Biography | World War, 1939-1945 -- Underground movements -- Germany -- Berlin | Espionage -- Germany -- Berlin -- History -- 20th century | Executions and executioners -- Germany -- History -- 20th century | Americans -- Germany -- BiographyGenre/Form: Biographies.Summary: Part biography, part political thriller, part scholarly detective story that draws on letters, diary entries, notes smuggled out of a Berlin prison, and other documents, this true story chronicles the life and brutal death of Mildred Harnack, the American leader of one of the largest underground resistance groups in Germany.
List(s) this item appears in: New Adult Nonfiction
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Adult Book Phillipsburg Free Public Library
Adult Non-Fiction New Books 943.155086092 DON Available 36748002495473
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

A New York Times Bestseller

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice



The "highly evocative, deeply moving" true account of the extraordinary life and brutal death of Mildred Harnack, the American leader of one of the largest underground resistance groups in Germany during WWII--"a stunning literary achievement" (Kai Bird, author of The Outlier and co-author of Pulitzer Prize-winning American Prometheus )



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. Her coconspirators circulated through Berlin under the cover of night, slipping the leaflets into mailboxes, public restrooms, phone booths. 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.



Harnack's great-great-niece Rebecca Donner draws on her extensive archival research in Germany, Russia, England, and the U.S. as well as newly uncovered documents in her family archive to produce this astonishing work of narrative nonfiction. Fusing elements of biography, real-life political thriller, and scholarly detective story, Donner brilliantly interweaves letters, diary entries, notes smuggled out of a Berlin prison, survivors' testimony, and a trove of declassified intelligence documents into a powerful, epic story, reconstructing the moral courage of an enigmatic woman nearly erased by history.

Includes bibliographical references (pages 537-544) and index.

Part biography, part political thriller, part scholarly detective story that draws on letters, diary entries, notes smuggled out of a Berlin prison, and other documents, this true story chronicles the life and brutal death of Mildred Harnack, the American leader of one of the largest underground resistance groups in Germany.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Author's Note (p. xiii)
  • Fragment (p. 3)
  • Introduction (p. 5)
  • The Boy with the Blue Knapsack (1939) (p. 8)
  • Mildred
  • I (1902-1933)
  • We Must Change This Situation as Soon, as Possible (p. 15)
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy (p. 25)
  • Good Morning, Sunshine (p. 29)
  • The BAG (p. 40)
  • II (1933-1934)
  • Fragment (p. 51)
  • Chancellor Hitler (p. 52)
  • Two Nazi Ministers (p. 58)
  • A Whisper, a Nod (p. 63)
  • The People's Radio (p. 70)
  • The Reichstag Fire (p. 74)
  • An Act of Sabotage (p. 81)
  • Mildred's Recruits (p. 86)
  • Tumbling Like Dominoes (p. 90)
  • Torched (p. 97)
  • Dietrich Does Battle with the Aryan Claus (p. 101)
  • Arvid Burns His Own Book (p. 105)
  • The Boy
  • III (1938-1939)
  • American in Berlin (p. 111)
  • Don't Dawdle (p. 121)
  • Mildred
  • IV (1933-1935)
  • The Proper Care of Cactus Plants (p. 127)
  • Fair Bright Transparent (p. 130)
  • Two Kinds of Parties (p. 136)
  • Bugged (p. 138)
  • Esthonia, and Other Imaginary Women (p. 141)
  • Arvid Gets a Job (p. 144)
  • Thieves, Forgers, Liars, Traitors (p. 148)
  • Rudolf Ditzen, aka Hans Fallada (p. 150)
  • The Night of the Long Knives (p. 155)
  • The Boy
  • V (1939)
  • A Molekül and Other Small Things (p. 163)
  • The Kansas Jack Gang (p. 167)
  • Mildred
  • VI (1935-1937)
  • Fragment (p. 171)
  • A New Strategy (p. 172)
  • Bye-Bye, Treaty of Versailles (p. 176)
  • Tommy (p. 180)
  • Monkey Business (p. 189)
  • Rindersteak Nazi (p. 194)
  • An Old Pal from ARPLAN (p. 198)
  • Spies Among Us (p. 203)
  • Beheadings Are Back (p. 206)
  • Widerstand (p. 210)
  • Ernst and Ernst (p. 217)
  • Identity Crisis (p. 224)
  • VII (1937-1939)
  • Homecoming (p. 231)
  • Georgina's Tremors, Big and Small (p. 236)
  • Jane in Love (p. 241)
  • My Little Girl (p. 247)
  • A Circle Within the Circle (p. 250)
  • A Child, Almost (p. 254)
  • Stalin and the Dwarf (p. 260)
  • Boris's Last Letter (p. 265)
  • Seeking Allies (p. 268)
  • The Boy
  • VIII (1937-1940)
  • Morgenthau's Man (p. 273)
  • Joy Ride (p. 282)
  • Lunch Before Kristallnacht (p. 287)
  • Getting to Be Pretty Good (p. 292)
  • A Fateful Decision (p. 298)
  • Air Raid (p. 304)
  • Louise Heath's Diary (p. 313)
  • Mamzelle and Mildred and Mole (p. 317)
  • Mildred
  • IX (1940-1942)
  • Fragment (p. 323)
  • Foreign Excellent Trench Coats (p. 324)
  • Corsican Drops a Bombshell (p. 326)
  • Libs and Mildred Among the Cups and Spoons (p. 329)
  • AGIS and Other Agitations (p. 332)
  • Zoya Ivanovna Rybkina's Eleven-Page Table (p. 338)
  • Stalin's Obscenity (p. 346)
  • Hans Coppi's First Message (p. 349)
  • Anatoly Gurevich, aka Kent, aka Vincente Sierra, aka Victor Sukolov (p. 352)
  • Code Red (p. 357)
  • A Single Error (p. 360)
  • Gollnow (p. 363)
  • One Pain Among So Many (p. 366)
  • Oil in the Caucasus (p. 370)
  • X (1942-1945)
  • Fragment (p. 375)
  • Arrest (p. 376)
  • The Gestapo Album (p. 382)
  • Knock-Knock (p. 392)
  • Falk Does His Best (p. 396)
  • Wolfgang's Seventh Interrogation (p. 401)
  • Kassiber (p. 403)
  • The Red Orchestra Is Neither All Red nor Particularly Musical (p. 407)
  • Anneliese and Witch Bones (p. 412)
  • Hitler's Bloodhound (p. 418)
  • The First of Many Trials (p. 421)
  • Mildred's Cellmate (p. 424)
  • The Greatest Bit of Bad Luck (p. 429)
  • The Armband She Wore (p. 431)
  • The Mannhardt Guillotine (p. 433)
  • All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days (p. 436)
  • Stieve's List (p. 439)
  • The Final Solution (p. 443)
  • Gertrud (p. 445)
  • XI (1942-1952)
  • Harriette's Rage (p. 457)
  • Valkyrie (p. 462)
  • Recruited (p. 467)
  • By Chance (p. 470)
  • Arvid's Letter (p. 472)
  • The Boy
  • XII (1946)
  • Don Goes Back (p. 477)
  • Acknowledgments (p. 483)
  • Notes (p. 487)
  • Bibliography (p. 537)
  • Illustration Credits (p. 545)
  • Index (p. 549)

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Kirkus Book Review

Historical biography of an American woman who led resistance groups against the Nazis before Hitler personally ordered her execution in 1943. Donner's subject is Mildred Harnack (1902-1943), who traveled to Germany in 1929 to obtain a doctorate in literature. She opposed Hitler even before he came to power in 1933 and spent 10 years in the resistance before her arrest and execution. Specific facts about the lives of people who aim to leave no evidence are hard to come by ("her aim was self-erasure"), but Donner has clearly worked hard in East German, Soviet, and recently released American archives to tell an impressive story. Living mostly in Berlin, Harnack earned money by lecturing, translating, and teaching English. In the first years of Nazi rule, when public opposition was possible, she made no secret of her beliefs and organized informal meetings in her apartment to "discuss Germany's political climate." After several years, her group moved underground and began active resistance, largely by printing and distributing leaflets. Many urged readers to sabotage military production. Harnack's group came to be known as the Red Orchestra, but this was a name given by German intelligence. Orchestra described any enemy network, and Red labeled it as communist. Although sympathetic to the Soviet Union, Harnack may not have engaged directly in espionage. Others did, however, and it was an intercepted transmission from Moscow that provided information that led to her 1942 arrest. Harnack was a brave idealist, and she died for her beliefs, but Donner--like many historians of civilians who opposed Hitler--largely passes over the painful fact their efforts did not significantly inconvenience the Nazis. Mostly novelistic, the narrative contains some manufactured tension, melodrama, and passages of purple prose and paragraphs broken apart or clipped short to create a dramatic effect that feels forced. Despite the breathless delivery, this is a welcome contribution to the history of the anti-Nazi underground. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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