Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand

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Arvid and Mildred Harnack
Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen

Arvid and Mildred Harnack

From 1933 on, the law scholar Arvid Harnack and his wife, the American literary scholar Mildred Harnack, were determined to fight the National Socialist regime from within. In the circle with Adam Kuckhoff, his wife Greta and other friends they discussed new literature, fundamental political questions and scholarly problems. Some of Mildred Harnack's students from Berlin Night School were also part of the circle.
Mildred and Arvid Harnack
Arvid Harnack wanted to prepare his friends for the reorganization of Germany after the end of National Socialism. After his second state examination in law he was employed in the Reich Ministry of Economics. He even joined the National Socialist Party (NSDAP) in 1937 to be able to work less conspicuously against the regime. He maintained some of his links to representatives from the American and Soviet embassies with whom he had previously been in contact. After 1939 Harnack, a cautious, sober ministerial official, intended to contribute most of all to ending the war quickly and securing the independent existence of Germany as a nation. To achieve this, he fought the regime from within not only with study courses and leaflets, but also by trying to establish contact with other resistance members and to shorten the war by passing on important military information to the Soviet Union.

Arvid Harnack

Born in Darmstadt on May 24, 1901, Arvid Harnack grew up in a liberal family. His father, Otto Harnack, a professor of literary history and aesthetics, taught in Darmstadt and later in Stuttgart. Arvid Harnack's uncle was the well-known theologian Adolf von Harnack. He was regarded as a leading scholar of the Empire and was co-founder of the renowned Kaiser Wilhelm Society for the Advancement of the Sciences. Arvid Harnack studied legal science in Jena, Graz and Hamburg, passed the state examination in law in 1923 and gained his doctorate a year later. He then studied political economy in Britain and the United States. He analyzed fundamental problems of political organization and economic policy and began writing a second thesis on the American labor movement. In 1931 he gained his doctorate in philosophy.
Arvid Harnack
A highly talented man, Arvid Harnack wanted to become a university teacher and consolidate his knowledge of political science by linking the disciplines of law and economics. However, his prospect of a university career was blocked by the economic problems towards the end of the Weimar Republic. After the National Socialists took power Arvid Harnack was unable to publish his major scholarly work, "The Marxist Workers' Movement in the United States." As early as 1933 he began organizing illegal study courses in a private circle. From 1935 on he worked in the Reich Ministry of Economics, and was promoted to senior executive officer in 1942. He was responsible for fundamental issues of trade policy and questions of trade with America. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the resistance groups that had formed around him and Harro Schulze-Boysen intensified their activities. They wanted to end the war as quickly as possible. On September 7, 1942 the Gestapo arrested Arvid and Mildred Harnack. The Reich Court Martial sentenced Arvid Harnack to death on December 19, 1942. He was murdered three days later in Berlin-Plötzensee.

Mildred Harnack-Fish

Mildred Fish was born on September 16, 1902 in Milwaukee/Wisconsin (USA). Her father was an American businessman. She taught literature at the University of Madison, where she met Arvid Harnack while he was studying in the United States. They married in 1926. Mildred followed her husband to Germany in 1929. She taught at Berlin University, Berlin City Night School and Greater Berlin Adult Education College. In 1941 she gained her doctorate in Gießen and worked as an instructor in the faculty of international studies at Berlin University. She participated with her husband in all the resistance activities.
Mildred Harnack-Fish
Mildred Harnack was regarded as a highly talented scholar and translator. She was arrested with her husband on September 7, 1942 and sentenced to six years in a penitentiary on December 19, 1942. In a retrial on January 16, 1943, the Reich Court Martial pronounced the death sentence on Hitler's orders. Mildred Harnack was murdered on February 16, 1943 in Berlin-Plötzensee. When she was arrested she had a book of Goethe's poems with her. She translated several of these poems in prison. The prison chaplain, Harald Poelchau, saved these translations that Mildred Harnack had worked on even during the last hours of her life. The Berlin journalist Margret Boveri gives a sensitive description of Mildred Harnack-Fish: "With her beautiful blonde hair tightly combed back and her clear eyes that concealed nothing, for me she was the epitome of the strict, puritanical American woman who lived by the motto . high thinking and plain living.. She belonged to the generation of educated women who believed in progress and a better world and wanted to contribute to this advance themselves in intellectual work. She was not without ambition, but not for herself personally. In America at the time when she was a student, the left was quite generally seen as the upholder of enlightened progress; the intellectuals were . pink,. if not . red,. which was not the same as being communist ... "

Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen

Libertas Haas-Heye met Harro Schulze-Boysen in April 1934. He had just found a post as assistant consultant in the Reich Aviation Ministry. They started living together in July 1935 and the following month they traveled to Switzerland, where they met German emigrants. After spending three months in Britain, Libertas Haas-Heye got engaged to Harro Schulze-Boysen at Easter 1936. On July 26, 1936 they married in Liebenberg near Berlin, where Libertas had spent part of her youth. Harro Schulze-Boysen was a resolute opponent of National Socialism even before 1933. At the same time he agreed with his political friends' criticism of the Weimar Republic and the German Communist Party (KPD). Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen, 1936
Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen, 1936
From 1938 on, Harro Schulze-Boysen anticipated the war and the consequent defeat of the "Third Reich". Adam and Greta Kuckhoff arranged the contact between the Schulze-Boysens and Arvid Harnack and his circle. In the spring of 1941, Schulze-Boysen and Harnack warned the Soviet Union of the imminent German invasion. From the summer of 1941, when they were no longer able to maintain contact with the Soviet Union, Schulze-Boysen inspired a variety of resistance actions. The circle of regime opponents was enlarged; leaflets and flyposted handbills gave information to the public. Schulze-Boysen and Harnack were not willing to sacrifice the independence of Germany, and hoped that their resistance against National Socialism would help to secure important preconditions for the survival of the German Reich.

Harro Schulze-Boysen

Harro Schulze-Boysen was born on September 2, 1909 in Kiel and grew up in a middle-class officer's family with nationalist sympathies. His paternal great-uncle was Fleet Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, his maternal great-uncle the philosopher and sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies. Politicized early on, Harro Schulze-Boysen wanted to overcome class barriers and fundamentally reform bourgeois society. After gaining his school-leaving certificate he studied law, but without graduating. At the end of 1931 he became the editor, in mid-1932 publisher of the journal "gegner" ("opponent"), which was banned in April 1933. During this time he met artists and journalists who reappeared later in his resistance group. Vergrösserung
Harro Schulze-Boysen
Immediately after the National Socialists took power, Harro Schulze-Boysen wrote an article criticizing the new government. Directly after the article was published, SA men searched the editorial offices of his journal. Harro Schulze-Boysen was taken away and maltreated. He owed his release from prison to his mother's intercession. Since the authorities demanded that he leave Berlin, he attended a training course at the commercial aviation school in Warnemünde. Because of his extraordinary talent for languages, in 1934 he was employed in the intelligence department of the new Reich Aviation Ministry. In 1938, under the impact of the Spanish Civil War, he was willing for the first time to pass on information obtained through his work to the Soviet Union. Harro Schulze-Boysen never betrayed his original thoughts and goals. After his wedding in 1936 he resolutely gathered a circle around himself where philosophical problems and fundamental political issues were discussed. The Gestapo later accused Harro Schulze-Boysen of having "skillfully exploited [these meetings] to politically influence the participants." In 1940 Adam and Greta Kuckhoff arranged for Harro Schulze-Boysen to meet Arvid Harnack, who had been in close contact since 1936 with a group around the communist John Sieg. In 1941-42 Harro Schulze-Boysen played a major role in many resistance activities. He wrote programmatic pamphlets as well as leaflets against the war and its dangerous consequences for Germany. He also acted as an armed guard for the flyposting action on the night of May 17-18, 1942. Harro Schulze-Boysen was sentenced to death with his wife Libertas by the Reich Court Martial on December 19, 1942 and murdered on December 22, 1942 in Berlin-Plötzensee.

Libertas Schulze-Boysen

Born in Paris on November 20, 1913, Libertas Haas-Heye grew up in a wealthy, cultivated family. Her father was director of the fashion department at the Berlin Handicrafts College at 8, Prinz-Albrecht-Straße; the building was later the headquarters of the Secret State Police Office (Gestapo). Libertas Haas-Heye was a press assistant for an American film company when she met Harro Schulze-Boysen in the spring of 1934. They married in 1936. In November 1941 Libertas Schulze-Boysen became dramatic adviser in the cultural film center in the Reich Propaganda Ministry. Vergrösserung
Libertas Schulze-Boysen
She and her husband were both involved in the struggle against the National Socialist regime. Libertas Schulze-Boysen was a woman full of the joy of life. She joined in the discussions in her circle of friends and skillfully used her position as dramatic adviser to make new contacts and gather information. Eventually she learned about the National Socialist crimes in the east, and began documenting them. Harro was arrested by the Gestapo on August 31, 1942, Libertas Schulze-Boysen on September 8, 1942. Her arrest threw her into a state of deep shock. The Gestapo exploited this, using a female Gestapo secretary to win her confidence. When Libertas Schulze-Boysen tried to get this informer to warn some friends who were still at large, the Gestapo arrested them. In her farewell letter to her mother on December 22, 1942, Libertas Schulze-Boysen wrote, "I had to face the bitter fact that a person I completely trusted, Gertrud Breiter, has betrayed me (and you). However: 'Now eat the fruit of your deeds, because he who betrays will be betrayed himself'. I, too, have betrayed friends out of egoism, I wanted to be free and come to you ... But believe me, I felt unspeakably burdened with guilt. Now everybody has forgiven me and we approach the end with a sense of solidarity that is only possible in the face of death. Without suffering, without bitterness. Now I also know about the last things of faith and I know you are strong in the knowledge of our eternal bonds, and 'happy' ..." Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen were sentenced to death by the Reich Court Martial on December 19, 1942, and murdered three days later in Berlin-Plötzensee.
Under interrogation, Harro Schulze-Boysen admitted what he had done without revealing information about his fellow conspirators and contacts. Finally he tried to delay the execution of the death sentence he expected for himself and his friends by pretending to have delivered incriminating documents about the German government to Sweden. Schulze-Boysen was hoping for the collapse of the German fronts and the end of National Socialist regime by the end of 1943. The Gestapo officers regarded Harro Schulze-Boysen as the real leader of the resistance group and focused their investigations on alleged espionage. At the same time the indictment for treason was drawn up. This was intended to reduce the activities of the organization around Harnack and Harro Schulze-Boysen to the passing on of military information to the Soviet Union. Farewell letter from Harro Schulze-Boysen
Farewell letter from Harro Schulze-Boysen
The prosecuting counsel was senior Court Martial councilor Manfred Roeder. He was truly devoted to the regime. The accused feared him because his cynicism and contempt for people were a deadly threat to them. The few who survived would never forget Roeder's "coldness and brutality." For them, he embodied the will of the National Socialist state to punish resistance as treason without consideration or mercy. Roeder did not indict the members of the resistance groups around Arvid Harnack and Harro Schulze-Boysen in a single big collective trial, but had smaller groups brought before the court in turn. He wanted to avoid the impression of a large resistance organization. The trial of the most important group - including Arvid and Mildred Harnack and Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen - began on December 15, 1942 before the Reich Court Martial in Berlin-Charlottenburg. The accused knew that they were to be sentenced to death. Before the trial, a gallows with eight hooks was erected in Plötzensee Prison in Berlin to ensure that the members of the Red Orchestra died in the most dishonorable way. On December 22, 1942, between 7 p.m. and 8.33 p.m., five men were murdered by hanging, three women and three men from the group were murdered by the guillotine. On May 13, 1943 the executioners carried out 13 further death sentences between 7 p.m. and 7.36 p.m. On August 8, 1943, between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., 19 more men and women from the group were murdered in Plötzensee.