Tenth Annual Mildred Fish-Harnack Human Rights and Democracy Lecture

The Division of International Studies is proud to present the tenth annual Mildred Fish-Harnack Human Rights and Democracy LectureYou are invited to be a part of an historic series honoring Wisconsin native and UW alum Mildred Fish-Harnack, on Friday, October 15 at 3:30 p.m. in the Pyle Center.

Continuing in the tradition of attentive scholarly promotion of human rights, Shareen Blair Brysac, will return to campus to read from her book, Resisting Hitler: Mildred Fish-Harnack and the Red Orchestra. Blair Brysac is an author, screenwriter, director, film producer, and the first to write a full account of Mildred Fish-Harnack’s struggle against the Nazi regime.

Accompanying Blair Brysac’s presentation, a number of WISc Scholars will read letters sent between Mildred and her husband Arvid, after their graduation from UW–Madison. The aptitude, courage, and perseverance shown by Mildred and Arvid demonstrate that, despite age and inexperience, they could significantly impact human rights and democracy on a global level.

About Mildred Fish-Harnack
A native of Milwaukee, Fish-Harnack earned her M.A. from the UW in English literature in 1925. She was an active member of the UW community, writing for the Wisconsin Literary Magazine and the Wisconsin State Journal. She married Arvid Harnack, a graduate student from Germany, and upon graduation, the young couple moved to Berlin, where she taught American literature and he worked at the American desk for the Ministry of Economics. Mildred’s time in Madison helped to cultivate her passion for democracy and freedom, which she and her husband mirrored in their heroic anti-Nazi resistance.

In response to Hitler’s rise to power, the Harnacks organized more than 130 men and women who helped arrange the escape of dissidents and Jews, and published an underground newsletter. After Germany invaded Russia, the group of resistors transmitted military intelligence to Moscow via radio “concerts.” The Gestapo eventually dubbed them the “Red Orchestra.” Arrested in 1942, Arvid was executed and Mildred was sentenced to six years hard labor. This ruling was later revoked and a retrial produced a death sentence for Mildred Fish-Harnack. She was guillotined on February 16, 1943, the only American civilian to be executed by Hitler as an underground conspirator.

About the Series
Each year, the Division of International Studies invites prominent individuals who have contributed to the cause of human rights through scholarship and leadership to share their knowledge and experiences with the UW–Madison community.

Past presenters include: former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson; Executive Director of Amnesty International USA Larry Cox; and Ambassador Max Kampelman, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Each lecture endorses greater understanding of human rights and democracy, and enhances international studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

By Flannery Geoghegan, Division of International Studies