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All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler

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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 Pulitze 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.


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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 Pulitze 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.

30 review for All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I am devastated. I am enlightened. I am in awe. Rebecca Donner has taken a buried life and resurrected it in a narrative nonfiction that grabbed my attention and didn’t let go. Do Donner is the great-great niece of her subject, Mildred Harnack, an American who traveled to Berlin to study and teach. At University of Wisconsin she fell in love with a fellow student, the German Arvid. They moved to Berlin during a time of great freedom. Mildred runs the English club where the talk is all political. “L I am devastated. I am enlightened. I am in awe. Rebecca Donner has taken a buried life and resurrected it in a narrative nonfiction that grabbed my attention and didn’t let go. Do Donner is the great-great niece of her subject, Mildred Harnack, an American who traveled to Berlin to study and teach. At University of Wisconsin she fell in love with a fellow student, the German Arvid. They moved to Berlin during a time of great freedom. Mildred runs the English club where the talk is all political. “Life is good,” Mildred writes. But it is January, 1933 and Hitler’s rise to power is just beginning. Mildred’s passion was for equality and justice for the common man. The American Literature she taught to German Students books that shared her values. As the Nazis rose to power, Mildred and Arvid became a part of the Resistance. Arvid masqueraded as a loyal Nazi government worker, slipping confidential information into the Soviet Union. Mildred’s club became a salon for the resistance. They were outed by an inexperienced pianist who used their real names instead of code names. The entire Circle was arrested, tortured, imprisoned, and after a kangaroo court trial, beheaded. Because they had been in communication with the Soviets, the United States had little interest in Mildred’s fate, and what information was made public was slanted and incorrect. Mildred was an amazing woman, strong in her convictions, even when starving, even in solitary confinement and battling TB, up to her last moments which were spend translating Goethe into English with a pencil stub while shackled in a cold cell. Donner sets Mildred’s story against the rise of Hitler. Those in power thought he was a fool, a crackpot who could be controlled. But Hitler systematically dismantled every check and balance in government, told grand lies to rally the people, affirming his desire for peace while planning for war. It is a terrifying look at history and a warning of how easily one person can topple a government. I knew that Neville Chamberlain was fooled by Hitler. I had not known that Stalin was also duped, signing a non-aggression pact with Germany while Hitler built up his war machine to attack the Soviet Union. Famous people appear in the story. There is Arvid’s cousin Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor famous for his involvement in the plot to kill Hitler. He was arrested because of his relationship to Arvid. Mildred was friends with the American Ambassador to Berlin’s daughter, Martha Dodd. Martha fell in love with men easily, even Nazis and Soviet spies. She had a relationship with Thomas Wolfe when he returned to Germany to spend the profits from his books that had sold so well there. The Nazi forbade money to leave the country! And, Mildred was a big fan. Later, Wolfe wrote “I Have a Thing To Tell You,” speaking of the changes he had seen in Germany, writing, “What George began to see was a picture of a great people who had been psychically wounded and were now desperately ill with some dread malady of the soul. Here was an entire nation, he now realized, that was infested with the contagion of an ever-present fear.” Donner’s book is a stand-out not just for Mildred’s powerful story, but also for the scholarship and research that supports it, and for being a mesmerizing tale that is as emotionally impactful as a novel while making history understandable and relevant. I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Linden

    The author is the great-great-niece of Mildred Harnack, an American woman who, along with her German husband. worked for the Resistance in Nazi Germany. This book highlights a group I hadn't read much about--progressive people living in Germany who are appalled by what Hitler and his cronies are doing, and do all that they can to undermine it. Mildred's husband Arvid even worked for the Reich and joined the Nazi party. Things didn't end well for these brave people; some were even betrayed by for The author is the great-great-niece of Mildred Harnack, an American woman who, along with her German husband. worked for the Resistance in Nazi Germany. This book highlights a group I hadn't read much about--progressive people living in Germany who are appalled by what Hitler and his cronies are doing, and do all that they can to undermine it. Mildred's husband Arvid even worked for the Reich and joined the Nazi party. Things didn't end well for these brave people; some were even betrayed by former friends and, not surprisingly, there are some very disturbing parts in the book. It reads like a novel, and reminded me of the style found in Erik Larsen's nonfiction. If you are interested in WWII history, this extensively-researched book is a must-read. Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the ARC.

  3. 4 out of 5

    donna backshall

    I truly wanted to love this book, but the presentation was a bit dry and jumped around a lot. The story was fascinating, but I would have liked a bit more depth to the true characters I was reading about.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Katz

    Powerful, moving, and successful by whatever measure you choose. The book purports to be the story of an American woman in Nazi Germany. It is that, but Mildred Harnack (the woman to whom the sub-title alludes) is absent from the pages of the book more than she is present. That is most definitely not a flaw: Large chunks of information about her has been lost to history, some of it deliberately discarded in anger. But Donner, who is related to Harnack, does a masterful job of weaving what is kno Powerful, moving, and successful by whatever measure you choose. The book purports to be the story of an American woman in Nazi Germany. It is that, but Mildred Harnack (the woman to whom the sub-title alludes) is absent from the pages of the book more than she is present. That is most definitely not a flaw: Large chunks of information about her has been lost to history, some of it deliberately discarded in anger. But Donner, who is related to Harnack, does a masterful job of weaving what is known into a rich, revealing, and surprisingly suspenseful picture of life in Nazi Germany. "All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days" (the title comes from a poem by Goethe) reads like a novel. A quite creative novel, in fact. Mildred Harnack's story is told in the present tense which has (at least to me it did) the effect of making the events being described more vivid. Donner artfully mixes short chapters with somewhat longer ones, close-ups involving Mildred and her husband/co-conspirator Arvid with scenes that step back and take in the broader milieu. This choice may have been a result of necessity, given the lack of available information on Mili, but Donner definitely makes a virtue of this necessity. We move from seamlessly family mattes and pregnancies to secret meetings, sinister block wardens, Soviet spies, we become acutely aware of what is going on around the characters -- in the streets, the building down the block, the towns and villages. ("Mildred sees swastikas on cigarette packages, coffee cans, cake pans. Every day, Nazi propaganda disseminates misinformation and false promises. Every day, Hitler wins more German hearts and minds.") We see the skies darken, the threats growing larger and larger. We meet a lot of heroes -- some of whom we've seen before (Dietrich Bonhoffer, for example), and many more whom we have not. They are ordinary people, many of them quite young, some more cautious than others. I was struck by the incredible bravery of the people who resisted the Nazi regime; the extraordinary effort it took to resist, not only in terms of the risk involved but also because the most quotidian supplies were hard to find; the shockingly arrogant blindness of leaders in the US, England, and Russia to what Hitler was planning, no matter how many times they were warned (Ambassador Wilson believes that the American press is “Jewish controlled” and praises Hitler as “the man who has pulled his people from moral and economic despair.”; the inhuman cruelty of Nazi officials and apparatchiks, which never ceases to shock and astonish; the complicated nature of Mildred's relationship with her family who can't understand why she would go back to Germany ( [Mildred is] “slightly off.” Harriette [her mother] is studying her too. The odd rigidity, the severity in her facial expressions—it all adds up: Nazi. Harriette hasn’t the slightest idea how to handle the situation, and her husband isn’t much help. Fred keeps telling Mili, in the stern voice he reserves for disciplining their children, Don’t go back to Germany. Stay with us.). And so much more. Some examples of how well Donner captures the reality on the ground with the kind of details that conventional history books overlook and that express so much: Stores no longer sell shaving cream, razors, or cigars. Toilet paper is no longer white—it’s brown, and is called “unity paper.” Louise Heath shares her husband’s disdain for it; she doesn’t know how a whole family can survive on “one roll of toilet paper (more like sandpaper) for our family every 10 days.” Soap has a new name too, “unity soap.” Families are allowed a single bar a month, which “was supposed to suffice for face washing, dish washing, bathing and all laundering.” Groceries are also strictly rationed. One-pot Sundays are instituted. German women are instructed to fill a pot with old vegetables and meat scraps for the Sunday meal and calculate how much money they save. When a Nazi Party worker bangs on their doors, they must deposit this money in a can [or else]... Meanwhile, some stores in Berlin display pyramids of canned goods that are not for sale, intended to present the illusion “that there were unlimited supplies in the Reich.” And this: The voluminous archives at the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library don’t tell us that in the summer of 1939, Donald Heath informed Chargé d’Affaires Kirk that he had received intelligence indicating that “Nazi military aggression would shortly occur,” or that Kirk gave him a “pitying” look and said, “My dear Don, even somebody as stupid as myself… knows there’s not going to be any war.” There is an extraordinary moment early in the book where American Consul General George Messersmith says to a colleague in the Roosevelt White House, "With few exceptions, the men who are running the government are of a mentality that you and I cannot understand. Some of them are psychopathic cases and would ordinarily be receiving treatment somewhere." [In truth, the reader put down the book entirely convinced that most of the people in Hitler's government were psychopaths.] Even so prestigious an observer as The New York Times was willfully blind, reminding its readers that Hitler was “ 'twice rejected last year' for the position he now occupies. 'The composition of the cabinet leaves Herr Hitler no scope for gratification of any dictatorial ambition.' " I'm not saying much about Mildred herself in this review;that's by design. I don't want to do anything that might deprive readers of the experience of witnessing her evolution from an idealistic graduate student teaching American literature and language to unemployed German workers to a brave resister in the underground war against Hitler's government. We don't get all the details about her thoughts that we would like, and there is much about her that we cannot know or understand. That notwithstanding, "All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days" deserves all the attention it's been getting. The words used by reviewers -- "compelling," "gripping," "evocative," "revelatory," "intimate" -- are all well deserved. It's the kind of history book/biography that readers who typically stick with fiction will enjoy. Maybe "enjoy" isn't the best word, given the subject matter, but you know what I mean. I got the digital book from the library. Now I have to decide whether to buy a hard copy for myself so I can share it with my wife and daughter.

  5. 5 out of 5

    ✨ Anna ✨ | ReadAllNight

    https://www.economist.com/books-and-a... A new book gives an American heroine her due from TheEconomist https://www.economist.com/books-and-a... A new book gives an American heroine her due from TheEconomist

  6. 5 out of 5

    Linda Galella

    Absolutely stunning and supported by archival documentation from four countries, “All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days” is a mesmerizing story of an American woman who travels to Berlin to teach and study, falls in love and champions a successful resistance group that was very effective in thwarting Hitler and assisting Jews. At times the book reads like a diary and often it’s like an high intensity thriller. I always felt immersed in the story. Author, Rebecca Donner, includes clips from letter Absolutely stunning and supported by archival documentation from four countries, “All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days” is a mesmerizing story of an American woman who travels to Berlin to teach and study, falls in love and champions a successful resistance group that was very effective in thwarting Hitler and assisting Jews. At times the book reads like a diary and often it’s like an high intensity thriller. I always felt immersed in the story. Author, Rebecca Donner, includes clips from letters, journals, newspapers, notes, pictures, flyers, government forms - all the pieces of this puzzle waiting to be assembled. The passion and intensity of Mildred Harnack fairly leap from the pages. It’s a story about relationships, one of which is her own love story with Arvid. It’s sweet and provides much needed relief occasionally. There are relationships with famous folks Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Thomas Wolfe and an host of historical figures as well as relationships with regular folks; herein lies her success and ultimately her downfall. Most amazing of all are the insights to Hitler’s relationships with other world leaders. This book should be required reading📚

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cami Anderson

    I read an advanced copy of this book -- and it blew me away. ORDER IT NOW!!! I am a non-fiction, history, social justice enthusiast and this book has elements of all of those genres plus reads like a literary novel meets a spy thriller. It is painstakingly researched and puts you on the streets where brave leaders, like Mildred, went to extraordinary lengths and risked everything resisting Hitler. Not only does this book shed new light on such a notable moment in history, it has direct implicati I read an advanced copy of this book -- and it blew me away. ORDER IT NOW!!! I am a non-fiction, history, social justice enthusiast and this book has elements of all of those genres plus reads like a literary novel meets a spy thriller. It is painstakingly researched and puts you on the streets where brave leaders, like Mildred, went to extraordinary lengths and risked everything resisting Hitler. Not only does this book shed new light on such a notable moment in history, it has direct implications for rejecting the dangerous demagoguery we are experiencing right now. Thanks to Donner for writing such a beautiful, painful, topical, and inspiring page-turner.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Timerman

    This is a book that we know the beginning and the end, even before we turn the cover. Knowing what is going to happen to Rebecca Donner’s Great Great Aunt is terrifying, and all the while reading I kept hoping it wouldn’t happen, but this is a true story, and I can’t change the past. Ah, if one was able to change history, well, not possible. Through the words of the author, we follow Mildred on her journeys, and her personal effort to thwart the evil that is being perpetrated on Europe. We meet Mi This is a book that we know the beginning and the end, even before we turn the cover. Knowing what is going to happen to Rebecca Donner’s Great Great Aunt is terrifying, and all the while reading I kept hoping it wouldn’t happen, but this is a true story, and I can’t change the past. Ah, if one was able to change history, well, not possible. Through the words of the author, we follow Mildred on her journeys, and her personal effort to thwart the evil that is being perpetrated on Europe. We meet Mildred as she is leaving her teaching job in America, before she marries Arvid, and her move to Germany. She is totally unaware of the part she is about to play as the a leader in the German resistance. This should really be required reading, walking in her shoes, would I have had the courage to do what she did? I would hope so, but I also hope I never have to make those choices. This is a powerful read, and you will meet some well know individuals, some I was familiar with and others we get to know. These are remarkable people, who for some risked the ultimate! I received a copy of this book from the Publisher Little, Brown and Company, and was not required to give a positive review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Karen Miller

    This biography was very well-written and researched. It’s a fascinating read, a page-turner. I could not put it down even though at times it was very difficult to read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Mulder

    Such an interesting story, and I wanted to love it so much. But it felt too detailed and disjointed for me to go with the flow. What an amazing woman though and what a tragic time and place to live and love.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kim Krieger

    This is one of the most eye opening biographies I’ve ever read. Really opened my eyes to the people who were in the resistance. Their stories. The risks. And the parallels to what odd occurring today. Highly recommend.

  12. 5 out of 5

    John Jay

    I was blown away by this book. I got the audiobook so I could listen to it during my long commute, and I found it thoroughly engrossing and beautifully narrated. I listen to a lot of audiobooks, esp about WWII, and I would rank this at the top. The narrator (who I was delighted to discover is the author) has a masterful sense of pacing and modulation--dramatic in some passages, delicately nuanced and subtle in others. Her voice gripped me and wouldn't let go. I was blown away by this book. I got the audiobook so I could listen to it during my long commute, and I found it thoroughly engrossing and beautifully narrated. I listen to a lot of audiobooks, esp about WWII, and I would rank this at the top. The narrator (who I was delighted to discover is the author) has a masterful sense of pacing and modulation--dramatic in some passages, delicately nuanced and subtle in others. Her voice gripped me and wouldn't let go.

  13. 4 out of 5

    John Davis

    All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, by Rebecca Donner; Little, Brown: New York; $32.00 hardback Those who seek to know what the subtle, horrific, then relentless growth of dictatorship looks like will do well to read of the final years of Mildred Harnack in this, ‘The true story of the American woman at the heart of the German resistance to Hitler.” Harnack, American wife of Arvid Harnack, himself from a renowned German democratic family, became involved in resisting the encroachment of Nazi All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, by Rebecca Donner; Little, Brown: New York; $32.00 hardback Those who seek to know what the subtle, horrific, then relentless growth of dictatorship looks like will do well to read of the final years of Mildred Harnack in this, ‘The true story of the American woman at the heart of the German resistance to Hitler.” Harnack, American wife of Arvid Harnack, himself from a renowned German democratic family, became involved in resisting the encroachment of Nazi power from the onset of her married life in Berlin of the late 1920s. Rebecca Donner, widely published and greatly respected author and essayist, brings us a thoroughly researched, nuanced, and insightful study of the largest German resistance movement during the 12 year reign of Nazi terror. She offers this appreciation through the prism of the life of Mildred Harnack, one of its most active underground members. That Harnack’s life in the underground was well hidden is only now appreciated. We only now have access to hitherto classified records of the former Nazi, Soviet, and American governments. These documents allow insight to what was then known, and clarifies what had been speculated about, a group of anti-Nazis whose activities were to last from roughly the mid ‘30s until 1943. Well educated, socially interlinked, largely bourgeois, Mildred Harnack’s associates came from all walks of Berlin diplomatic, military, academic and social milieus. Indeed, her club memberships, social outreach groups, and academic communities served as valuable centers for identification and recruitment of fellow spies. For in the end, this is what she did. Strange to confirm, the group’s title, Red Orchestra, was given by their Gestapo opponents who believed they served Stalin alone. This, as Donner demonstrates, was not the case. The largely middle class membership was drawn from various sectors of Berlin society. Each recruitment was based upon a potential member’s access to information that, if betrayed, would help defeat Hitler. Largely amateurs, resisters were often recruited by professional Soviet spy-handlers. When their access to valuable information was confirmed Soviet training, communications equipment, and espionage trade craft materials were provided. How all of this finally unraveled, due to poor compartmentalization, is a study in tragedy. Donner is a master of research. She literally found diaries, rescued troves of forgotten letters, and interviewed the few surviving knowledgeable observers of those pre- and early war years. Writing in the present tense for the most part, she brings a vivid sense of you-are-there to her writing. Best of all, she tells this truly tragic tale of noble efforts-- brought down by the powers of absolute Gestapo lawlessness-- in utterly readable fashion. Donner’s work is magnificent, because her storytelling skill will keep you at once intrigued by the numerous schemes, stunned by the revelations, and horrified at the moral dilemmas revealed. In the end, the choices made by Harnack’s group to secretly fight for a Germany based on the rule of law, in the face of Nazi torture chambers and relentless persecution, is a testimony to humanity’s best qualities

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Cook

    I’ve read a lot of WWII history. So the general discussion of evil of Hitler’s reign of terror and evil was not new. But Mildred Harnack has basically been lost to history until now. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Mildred was 26 when she enrolled in a PhD program in Germany and witnessed the rise of the Nazi party. In 1932, she began holding secret meetings in her apartment with a small group of friends. The group became the largest underground resistance group in Berlin. Mildred was the only Ame I’ve read a lot of WWII history. So the general discussion of evil of Hitler’s reign of terror and evil was not new. But Mildred Harnack has basically been lost to history until now. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Mildred was 26 when she enrolled in a PhD program in Germany and witnessed the rise of the Nazi party. In 1932, she began holding secret meetings in her apartment with a small group of friends. The group became the largest underground resistance group in Berlin. Mildred was the only American in the leadership of the German resistance Mildred recruited trusted friends and common folk into the resistance, helped Jews escape, plotted acts of sabotage, and collaborated in writing leaflets that denounced Hitler and called for revolution. The group met under the guise as a “book club” that met to discuss mostly fiction. She and group members traveled through Berlin at night, slipping the leaflets into mailboxes, public restrooms, phone booths. The group included the famous theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was later executed for his involvement with the Valkyrie conspiracy to kill Hitler. When war broke out Mildred became a full-fledged spy conveying intelligence to the Allies. As she sensed her possible capture she planned an escape to Sweden. Unfortunately, her plan was thwarted. She was captured by the Gestapo and sentenced to 6 years in a labor camp. Hitler, personally intervened and ordered her execution. She died by guillotine on February 16, 1943. The author Rebecca Donner is Harnack’s great-great-niece. The book is fusion of biography, political thriller, scholarship, and detective story. I listened to the audio book while doing yard work. It is a book that builds to a crescendo. As it ended I stopped spreading mulch and just sat on the lawn under a tree as the sun was setting and contemplated again the abject evil of the Nazi regime and man’s inhumanity to man. I wondered, would I have been as courageous as Mildred, Dietrich and others who are lost to history buried in unknown graves. I hope so!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

    Not very far into it yet but riveting and painful, so much more painful than if we had never had a Trump. Powerful and made more so by the use of the present tense. ---- A must-read. SPOILER ABOUT Mildred's sister. Don't read on if you prefer to know nothing about her. This is such a riveting book. This woman seems to have been born with a need to help others. As saintly as she is, her horrible older sister Harriett was an intolerant, heartless, dreadful person and except for her daughter Jane, Rebe Not very far into it yet but riveting and painful, so much more painful than if we had never had a Trump. Powerful and made more so by the use of the present tense. ---- A must-read. SPOILER ABOUT Mildred's sister. Don't read on if you prefer to know nothing about her. This is such a riveting book. This woman seems to have been born with a need to help others. As saintly as she is, her horrible older sister Harriett was an intolerant, heartless, dreadful person and except for her daughter Jane, Rebecca Donner's grandmother, the descendants seem to be equally unhelpful. Also dreadful was the rat in the resistance. Disgusting person. There are heroes and villains of all stripes in this account: Russians, Americans, Germans, Swedes, and on and on. I wonder if in such a situation I would have had the nerve to risk, then sacrifice, my life for others, for a moral cause. It is impossible to know in the abstract whether one would flee and save oneself or stay and try to resist. One thing I know: Mildred Harnack was one of the most selfless people I've ever heard about or seen and Arvid was right there with her. They could easily have left all this behind and led their livs elsewhere. They even could have led their lives comfortably in Germany while averting their eyes. It is heartening to know about all the people who formed resistance groups, not just the few we know about; and so many of Arvid's privileged family actively fought for and sought change, most losing their lives in the process. A Tale of Two Mildreds: SPOILER ALERT: If you don't want to know the fate of either Mildred Harnack or Mildred Gillars or the film American Traitor, do not read on. Soon after finishing this book, I saw the new film, American Traitor, about Axis Sally, or Mildred Gillars. The contrast between these two American women named Mildred living in Berlin in the 30s and 40s could not be more glaring. In the movie, you start by having no sympathy at all for Axis Sally but over time you realize that she was simply trying to survive. Nonetheless, she had other options. She could have done clandestine work for the resistance while posing as a Nazi, as Arvid did. But no, she simply saved her own skin. The wrong Mildred was executed.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gabriella Aratow

    I've just completed the audiobook of this extraordinary story. I always like it when the author is also the reader - that way you hear the book's rhythms, the emphasis of various words, a sense of emotional tenor, etc, just as the writer her/himself imagined them. Rebecca Donner does a wonderful job telling this story, one out of her very own family, as both a writer and a reader. She has a clear, calm voice. This tale is richly layered with several shocking twists. I thought I knew a lot about I've just completed the audiobook of this extraordinary story. I always like it when the author is also the reader - that way you hear the book's rhythms, the emphasis of various words, a sense of emotional tenor, etc, just as the writer her/himself imagined them. Rebecca Donner does a wonderful job telling this story, one out of her very own family, as both a writer and a reader. She has a clear, calm voice. This tale is richly layered with several shocking twists. I thought I knew a lot about WW2 history but I have learned so much more. It also isn't hard to relate much in this book to our political atmosphere today. Be prepared to be inspired and devastated. I listen to audiobooks as I hike and I know it's captivating when I want to keep climbing up just so I can listen some more. Brava!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    An American woman living in Germany as a lecturer at a German university through the 20s and 30s, becomes a member of the Resistance. In 1943, she was executed. Some information about her was released in 1947, and the more records were released in 2018. This is her story.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Abby Howell

    Extremely well-researched, well-written, emotional book about one American woman in the WWII German resistance. The book also gives a great deal of information about the German resistance in general. Scary how quickly German democracy in the 1930's turned into a dictatorship. I was glad the author spent some time in the beginning chronicling the years before the war, which gave me an even deeper understanding of what was happening in Germany during the war. Extremely well-researched, well-written, emotional book about one American woman in the WWII German resistance. The book also gives a great deal of information about the German resistance in general. Scary how quickly German democracy in the 1930's turned into a dictatorship. I was glad the author spent some time in the beginning chronicling the years before the war, which gave me an even deeper understanding of what was happening in Germany during the war.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Iris Kim

    Was fully sobbing by the time I got to Arvid's last letter he wrote to Mildred just before their execution. A meticulously researched biography of multiple characters in the German underground resistance during WWII. Rebecca Donner, Mildred Harnack's great-great niece, occupies the interiority of these brave agents with thorough research. Was fully sobbing by the time I got to Arvid's last letter he wrote to Mildred just before their execution. A meticulously researched biography of multiple characters in the German underground resistance during WWII. Rebecca Donner, Mildred Harnack's great-great niece, occupies the interiority of these brave agents with thorough research.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Dunn

    Every time I read a book about WW2 I am amazed at the bravery of the Resistance, whether in Germany or France or other countries in Europe.

  21. 4 out of 5

    M. Abrash

    I read an advance copy of Rebecca Donner's riveting new book, All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, and I predict that it is going to be wildly popular for its accessibility, its drama, and its compelling heroine. (Heads up, Hollywood!) That said, the impressive Index attests to its historical accuracy, and I believe that All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days should be required reading for any student of WWII History, the German Resistance movement, or Holocaust Studies. Grounding the reader in I read an advance copy of Rebecca Donner's riveting new book, All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, and I predict that it is going to be wildly popular for its accessibility, its drama, and its compelling heroine. (Heads up, Hollywood!) That said, the impressive Index attests to its historical accuracy, and I believe that All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days should be required reading for any student of WWII History, the German Resistance movement, or Holocaust Studies. Grounding the reader in those tumultous decades, the author reconstucts the adult years of Mildred Harnack, an American activist in the German Resistance and a figure whom I'd never heard of (but who is, I take it, well-known in Germany). Donner based her work not only on eyewitness accounts and historical records, but also on Harnack's personal correspondence and documents exclusive to the author, who is Harnack's grand-niece. Donner's fluid storytelling style was familiar to me (-I loved her earlier work, Sunset Terrace-), and ATFTOD doesn't disappoint and may even surpass, if only for the magnitude of its scope and subject. Donner moved me seamlessly between years and continents, among nations, families, and resistance cells. Amazingly, the author uses their words, their speeches, their whispered worries to bring these "characters" -- PEOPLE -- to life. I was gobsmacked by how much drama and suspense Donner created using documented data and facts. I hope that everyone will read Rebecca Donner's astounding book and that Mildred Harnack will receive the worldwide recognition she deserves.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    Thanks to Edelweiss and the Publisher for a digital ARC of this book. The author brings to life the families involved in the Antifascist cells of Nazi Germany. The only difficulty with this book is the constantly shifting verb tenses at what felt like random times. However, I still think it is a highly readable and very informative look at a time in history. The Western powers don't come off as complete "heroes" and the German-Russian espionage activities are described more completely than in an Thanks to Edelweiss and the Publisher for a digital ARC of this book. The author brings to life the families involved in the Antifascist cells of Nazi Germany. The only difficulty with this book is the constantly shifting verb tenses at what felt like random times. However, I still think it is a highly readable and very informative look at a time in history. The Western powers don't come off as complete "heroes" and the German-Russian espionage activities are described more completely than in any other book I've read on this topic.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Adrian

    Highly recommended to both sides of the pond and beyond. I am a Brit who grew up in the epicenter of the British Chain Home defense and played in their ruins. I thought I knew everything about the resistance to the Nazis, but Donner opened my eyes to a cluster of Berliners who risked their lives to fight Hitler. The depth, the research and detail went as deep as Hastings or Beevor but was colored with profoundly personal human details. Donner renders moments so intimate, so moving and tightly fr Highly recommended to both sides of the pond and beyond. I am a Brit who grew up in the epicenter of the British Chain Home defense and played in their ruins. I thought I knew everything about the resistance to the Nazis, but Donner opened my eyes to a cluster of Berliners who risked their lives to fight Hitler. The depth, the research and detail went as deep as Hastings or Beevor but was colored with profoundly personal human details. Donner renders moments so intimate, so moving and tightly framed, and so pivotal in the wide-screen history of shifting tectonic ideologies of Europe as power swung west to east and back. A hearty salute to Edelweiss and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shay Connelly

    I received an advanced copy of All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days and was riveted by it. Of all the biographies I've read, this one stands out as an extraordinary achievement. Donner's storytelling took me on an immersive journey into the life of an American woman caught in the sweep of history. The stakes could not have been higher for Mildred Harnack and the constellation of characters at the heart of the German resistance to Hitler's terrifying ascent. Reading this book was a thrill, and i I received an advanced copy of All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days and was riveted by it. Of all the biographies I've read, this one stands out as an extraordinary achievement. Donner's storytelling took me on an immersive journey into the life of an American woman caught in the sweep of history. The stakes could not have been higher for Mildred Harnack and the constellation of characters at the heart of the German resistance to Hitler's terrifying ascent. Reading this book was a thrill, and its relevance to our own current predicament made it vivid in its urgency. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sophia

    All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler by Rebecca Donner Published August 3, 2021 I will never comprehend the minds of hateful racists people. These people are barbaric, sadistic beasts. The brutality is mind blowing. Read at you own risk. The true story of the extraordinary life and brutal death of Mildred Harnack, the American leader of one of the largest underground resistance groups in Germany, who was execut All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler by Rebecca Donner Published August 3, 2021 I will never comprehend the minds of hateful racists people. These people are barbaric, sadistic beasts. The brutality is mind blowing. Read at you own risk. The true story of the extraordinary life and brutal death of Mildred Harnack, the American leader of one of the largest underground resistance groups in Germany, who was executed on Hitler's direct order—uncovered by her great-great-niece in this riveting, deeply researched account. 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's regime 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.Fusing elements of biography, political thriller, and scholarly detective story, Harnack's great-great-niece Rebecca Donner brilliantly interweaves letters, diary entries, notes smuggled out of a Berlin prison, testimony of survivors, and a trove of declassified intelligence documents into a powerful, enthralling story, reconstructing the moral courage of an enigmatic woman nearly erased by history.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Richard Scheiber

    This recent work by Rebecca Donner is a work of familial discovery as it details the life of her distant relative, Milwaukee-born Mildred Harnack, as well as that of her husband, Arvid. Largely unknown to an American audience, Mildred Harnack has been the subject of an earlier biography as well as being mentioned within studies of the German resistance movement against the Nazi regime. But for the author Rebecca Donner, this became a quest for revealing the story of this distant relative with th This recent work by Rebecca Donner is a work of familial discovery as it details the life of her distant relative, Milwaukee-born Mildred Harnack, as well as that of her husband, Arvid. Largely unknown to an American audience, Mildred Harnack has been the subject of an earlier biography as well as being mentioned within studies of the German resistance movement against the Nazi regime. But for the author Rebecca Donner, this became a quest for revealing the story of this distant relative with the aid of family documents and past memories. This scholarly work relies on a great array of archival sources, as well as remaining family documents and dogged research as in tracking down a child courier who aided Muriel Harnack in Nazi Berlin. In addition, Donner has familiarized herself with a vast display of the scholarly literature on German resistance movements during the Third Reich. The framework of this story is how an American academician became part of the anti-Nazi group known as the Red Orchestra. Donner’s work is exemplary for its fast pace, its novel use of present tense narrative as well as constructive chapters that enable the reader to move ahead in search of new revelations. Even for readers of earlier works on World War II resistance groups, this fine work very well captures the immediacy of living in Nazi Berlin. Readers familiar with Erik Larson’s history of the Dodd family in Berlin will acquaint themselves again with the exploits of Martha Dodd as now seen through her relationship with Mildred Harnack. This is a story of moral courage that has resurrected the story of Mildred Harnack in a compelling manner. At present, a school in Berlin is named after this American born martyr. Hopefully, this remarkable work will cause the memory of Mildred Harnack to be rekindled once again.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    The terrifying true story of Mildred Harnack, a Wisconsin woman who, after a robust education and enthusiastic work supporting lefty causes in America, moved to Berlin in the early 1030s to get her PhD. The timing was not great. Rebecca Donner (Harnack's great-great-niece) does an excellent job of portraying how to stunning rise of Hitler felt to Harnack, her beloved husband Arvid, and their circle of anti-Nazi friends and comrades. Donner uses present tense throughout, a shrewd move to convey i The terrifying true story of Mildred Harnack, a Wisconsin woman who, after a robust education and enthusiastic work supporting lefty causes in America, moved to Berlin in the early 1030s to get her PhD. The timing was not great. Rebecca Donner (Harnack's great-great-niece) does an excellent job of portraying how to stunning rise of Hitler felt to Harnack, her beloved husband Arvid, and their circle of anti-Nazi friends and comrades. Donner uses present tense throughout, a shrewd move to convey immediacy, and somehow pieces together a narrative from scant surviving first-hand accounts of Harnack's leadership role in the German resistance, the only American that we know of to be involved on the ground, as events unfolded. Harnack's courage and commitment is remarkable, but also kind of depressing because we know how the story ends. Risking death to leave leaflets in public phone booths did zero to change anything, and when Harnack finally decided to flee the country in 1942, she was captured by the Gestapo and, after a grim period in prison, beheaded. There are other memorable figures in the book, including a young boy used as a courier, and the lack of support from American and British allies is appalling; the Russians, at least, welcomed any intelligence from Mildred and Arvid, and apparently learned of Operation Barbarossa from them prior to Hitler's attack, though it's unclear if the intel had any effect of events. Anyway, Donner is a lively writer with a good sense of pacing and it's interesting to witness these extremely familiar times from a different perspective.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marco

    He spread propaganda, disinformation, word of an “enemy” corrupting elections, turned democracy into a dictatorship – all with the law. He turned neighbors against neighbors, religious institutions fell to his regime, women were sent back to the dark ages, political enemies destroyed. “All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days” by Rebecca Donner is achingly familiar. Donner tells of the beginning of the Nazi regime and its moral destroyer while also laying the counter groundwork to his damnation by t He spread propaganda, disinformation, word of an “enemy” corrupting elections, turned democracy into a dictatorship – all with the law. He turned neighbors against neighbors, religious institutions fell to his regime, women were sent back to the dark ages, political enemies destroyed. “All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days” by Rebecca Donner is achingly familiar. Donner tells of the beginning of the Nazi regime and its moral destroyer while also laying the counter groundwork to his damnation by two main stories: of Mildred Harnack, an American in Germany, an academic and spy - and Don, a young boy turned spy courier whose parents were U.S. embassy diplomats in Berlin. Both help an underground resistance to Nazi occupation in Germany. Told with matter-of-fact style broken into yearly sections, then into numbered sections of paragraphs, the book is more than accessible – it’s downright riveting; a rollercoaster of emotions and intrigue by the spy game Donner reveals for Mildred as the pages go on. Circles within circles of resisters who go from counteracting propaganda with the truth in leaflets, to more dangerous methods. The title is a line from a poem by Goethe that Mildred was translating before her fate is revealed. The idea of resistance as words is what drives the narrative – written testimony, poetry, art, letters, documents that kept the truth after all these years. A last act of rebellion against a two-faced regime. Barely over 80 years in history, this story proves that history needs to be presented in a personal narrative to understand the risks people took to not only survive, but to resist. But the toll it took. The lives it took. Donner gives respect to the heroes whose lives were given to protect, to more than sacrifice – to go to the very core of being human in inhumane circumstances. You must read this book; very well written, downright the best concise and personal written history of WWII out there today. Donner is granddaughter to Mildred’s niece, Jane Donner Sweeney. Thank you to Little Brown.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eavan Hooke

    My husband gave me this book to read. It is so well written and researched. The chapters are in chronological order. It goes through Hitlers progress through the years as he gained power and won control of the hearts and minds of the German people. In 1934 the nazis go on a killing spree, The night of the the long knives. What's so amazing is that it didn't alarm the whole of Europe or German people, but then again Hitler had been covering all his bases. All the violence, lies and deception is w My husband gave me this book to read. It is so well written and researched. The chapters are in chronological order. It goes through Hitlers progress through the years as he gained power and won control of the hearts and minds of the German people. In 1934 the nazis go on a killing spree, The night of the the long knives. What's so amazing is that it didn't alarm the whole of Europe or German people, but then again Hitler had been covering all his bases. All the violence, lies and deception is what concerns Mildred and Arvid Harnack. They form a resistance group and work to end Hitler's regime. I enjoyed reading about their work and dedication to uncover the brutality of the Nazis. I had to stop in parts at the end when The author goes into detail about beheadings. The description of life in Ravensbruck woman's prison gave me pause, Man's inhumanity. Reading about the camps, seeing the horrors of the camps, Hitlers rise to power, it's chilling. Arvid's last letter to his wife is beautiful. The courage of Mildred and Arvid is a story well told and one of the messages I derive is that, a Dictator and its monsters could happen here too.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    The true recounting of the German resistance during WWII including an American, Dr. Mildred Fish-Harned. She was working on her Ph.D. in Germany when the war began and became active in the resistance with her husband, Arvid. They were both convicted of treason in 1942. Arvid was hanged in 1942 and Mildred was beheaded in 1943 (the nazi's, through some crazy reasoning, felt beheading was more appropriate for women!). Very well researched and documented - included many declassified German and Sovi The true recounting of the German resistance during WWII including an American, Dr. Mildred Fish-Harned. She was working on her Ph.D. in Germany when the war began and became active in the resistance with her husband, Arvid. They were both convicted of treason in 1942. Arvid was hanged in 1942 and Mildred was beheaded in 1943 (the nazi's, through some crazy reasoning, felt beheading was more appropriate for women!). Very well researched and documented - included many declassified German and Soviet documents. I never knew that there had been so many Soviet agents in Germany, the U. K., and the U. S.! On a personal note, my cousin, keeper of our family tree, is looking to see if Mildred Harned nee Fish is a relative.

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