What Happened to the Remains of Nazi Resister Mildred Harnack? Now We Know.

What Women Really Think
Nov. 7 2013 2:22 PM

What Happened to the Remains of Nazi Resister Mildred Harnack? Now We Know.

Mildred Harnack
Mildred Harnack

Courtesy of the German Resistance Memorial Center

In researching my recent Slate article on Nazi-era anatomy, I ran into a question I couldn’t answer: What happened to the remains of Mildred Harnack, the American woman executed by Hitler for her part in resisting the Nazis?

Hermann Stieve, the anatomist who conducted research using the bodies of women like Harnack who were executed, said after the war that he dissected her corpse but then returned her remains to her family. I couldn’t tell if that was true—some experts said he made up the story as cover.

Advertisement

Now I have the answer, in an email from Joel Waldinger, who produced an excellent documentary on Mildred Harnack for Wisconsin Public Television. He writes:

This past October when I was touring Germany with the documentary I got the answer. A member of the Harnack family informed me that Margarete von Zahn (a niece of Arvid Harnack, Mildred’s husband) was a medical student under Dr. Hermann Stieve. One day Stieve called Margarete into the lab and explained he had Mildred’s remains. Margarete carried them home with her that evening in a shopping bag. 

Waldinger also explains that Harnack is the only member of the Red Orchestra, as the Nazis called her circle of Berlin resisters, whose remains have been recovered. She is buried in Berlin’s Zehlendorf cemetery. And her birthday, Sept. 16, is a day of remembrance in the Wisconsin public schools. 

Update, Jan. 10, 2014: Shareen Brysac discusses Harnack's death and remains in her 2002 book, Resisting Hitler: Mildred Harnack and the Red Orchestra.

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 30 2014 2:36 PM This Court Erred The Supreme Court has almost always sided with the wealthy, the privileged, and the powerful, a new book argues.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Lexicon Valley
Sept. 30 2014 1:23 PM What Can Linguistics Tell Us About Writing Better? An Interview with Steven Pinker.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 6:44 PM Ebola Was Already Here How the United States contains deadly hemorrhagic fevers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.