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All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days

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This is a very good non fiction about a young woman from Milwaukee WI, who played a big part in the German resistance against Hitler in WWII. Her brave & heroic story is told in easily managed short chapters, which sometimes seem like 'snippets' of information/documentation.......makes it all quickly readable. Considering that it's a serious nonfiction, I really read through it fast. It's very compelling, & written so that the reader can really sense the danger/fear/attitudes of that situation/time period. Even the 'Notes & References' at the end was interesting. There's a lot to see & learn here. Even as someone who considers herself 'well read & educated as to WWII history'.....I learned something by reading this. 5 stars for the readability & the history learned! I recommend this to everyone!
I received an e-ARC of this book for review purposes from publisher Little, Brown and Company via NetGalley & this is my own fair/honest review.
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Not many authors can write a history book that is also a family narrative that ALSO reads like a thriller.  The author's great-great aunt, Mildred Harnack, was an American scholar who went to Germany during the Weimar Republic to do a PhD and lecture in American literature.  She married a man who worked for the German government, and, horrified as the Nazi party came to power, they both felt compelled to organize resistance among like-minded people.  While living their "ordinary" lives, both did extraordinary work in saving people and undermining Hitler's regime as best they could.  The story's suspense increases steadily as the reader knows that this undertaking was likely to prove fatal. In fact, Harnack and her husband were found out, arrested, and executed by guillotine.
The book achieves much intimacy by the use of personal documents including diaries and letters.  The author has done a monumental job of research also using intelligence reports and working documents of the Third Reich.  I highly recommend this book.
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Rebecca Donner recreates the build up of terror within Nazi Germany over a 13 year period as she recounts the true, untold story of her great aunt Mildred Fish Harnack, an American who formed part of the Resistance to Hitler. Mildred is a professor of American literature lecturing in Berlin on contemporary American authors. She and her German husband Arvid are both communist sympathizers. Even so, Arvid who holds a high post in the Nazi Bureau of Economic Affairs  befriends American consular official Donald Heath and his wife Louise. He proceeds to pass on important secrets about Hitler's true plans for the invasion of Poland, Russia and domination of Europe. Donner recounts harrowing scenes where the two couples travel to rural areas outside of Berlin where the Heath's 12 year old son Don, Jr. acts as lookout and in some cases serves as courier between the families. After they are caught and tortured, Hitler demands their execution: Arvid is hanged and Mildred is guillotined in a horrific and tragic end to their heroic lives. In searing narrative nonfiction, part biography, part social history there is an eerie message for the contemporary reader. It details how easily a constitution can be challenged, the free press suppressed, and a democracy unraveled within a short few years. The audio edition is read by the author who deftly uses her intimate knowledge of the text to bring this riveting story to life.
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I am so glad I came across this book on Net Galley.  "Resistance Women" by Jennifer Chiaverini is my all time favorite WWII historical fiction novel, so when I saw the name Mildred Harnack in this book's blurb it caught my eye.  Upon reading the book description I was determined to read it.  If not through Net Galley, then I would buy it myself. (Still going to, it is one of those you want to keep on your shelf).  I was over excited to receive it from Net Galley and immediately forgot all my other TBR's and began reading.  I am happy to say I was not disappointed. 
Although this is a non-fiction account of Mildred Harnack's life and involvement in the German underground resistance, it reads as a novel.  This makes it easy to comprehend what is going on and the flow moves the story along swiftly.  The author Rebecca Donner, is the great-great-niece of Mildred.  She was faced with a daunting job in researching Mildred's history.  The resistance itself kept no records, out of self-preservation of course.  What documents were kept, whether coming from US sources, or Russian and German files were all classified as strictly top secret and only recently opened to the mainstream and even those were very short on facts about Mildred and her German husband Arvid.  Donner used letters, diaries, word of mouth from the very few living survivors of that time to paint a portrait of what it was like for Mildred, an American graduate student and English literature scholar to live in Germany and experience first hand Hitler's appalling rise to power.  She shows us the ultimate hero in Mildred, who courageously resisted the Nazi regime, carefully cultivating her circle of resistance fighters and steadfastly standing her ground.
Mildred's story is epic, she had to be one fiercely brave woman to stay in Germany and fight when most others in her position would flee home to America. 
This book is a must read for anyone interested in the true heroes of WWII, the resistance fighters of that war, and the background on Hitler's rise to power, how it all came about and why more didn't protest but seemed to let it happen. 
Mildred's story is both heart-breaking and uplifting.  I believe it will appeal to both readers of fiction and non-fiction alike.  Do not miss this, it should be required reading for everyone. 
Thank you to publishers at Little, Brown and Company and to Net Galley for the free ARC, I am leaving my honest review in return (and running out to buy a copy for my bookshelf).
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Faith Hudnell

Faith Hudnell's Reviews > All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler
All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days by Rebecca Donner
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 (Goodreads Author)
17430801
Faith Hudnell's reviewOct 08, 2021  ·  edit
it was amazing
bookshelves: audio, overdrive

In 1932, Mildred Harnack was an American graduate student in Berlin. She also taught American literature. Her husband Arvid was a German who eventually held an important position in the German government. But the couple had other lives. They were appalled by Hitler’s rise and they became active in the resistance movement - helping people escape from Germany, spying, creating leaflets to counter the Nazis. In 1942, they were arrested, tried for treason and executed. Their story was fascinating, but the author used it to tell the larger story of how Germany fell under the grip of fascism. One law lead to another and another until no freedom was left for anyone other than members of the Nazi party.

This book describes devastating events in a very intimate way because the political and military maneuvering was often described in the words (taken from diaries and letters) of the people who were actually experiencing those events. The resistance fighters had amazing courage. If they talked to the wrong person at any time, their lives could be over. When they tried to warn people about Hitler (as Arvid did on a trip to America) their concerns were dismissed. The parts of the book covering the imprisonment, executions and life in the work camps were very impactful. I thought this book was excellent and the author did a very good job narrating the audiobook.
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historical-figures, historical-places-events, historical-research, history-and-culture, biography, Wisconsin, Germany, politics, resistance-efforts, espionage, expats*****

This is not exactly an unbiased review because I have spent most of my life in Milwaukee and am a history geek.
However, this book of diligent research is flawlessly written and contains photos of people and more. There have been countless reviews written by others that are more detailed so there is no need for me to go over that ground again. It has to be read to truly appreciate both the biography and the intense effort taken to provide the information to be assembled into a book that truly lives up to the hype.
I requested and received a free temporary ebook from Little, Brown and Company via NetGalley. Thank you!
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Wonderful book. The history -  Hitler’s rise - is turf I know well (history major with a WWII focus, now historical novelist with a WWII focus), but so few people do, and it is so important for people to realize how quickly the world can change. Donner lays it out so beautifully, and personalizes it with the details of Mildred and Arvid and the Circle.

I will be in conversation with Donner at Book Passage - Ferry Building in early September, and am looking forward to it. I've tweeted about the book and event, and will put on facebook next week. Thanks for the early read.
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A brilliant read the true story of Mildred Harnack a young woman  who is a true hero a leader of the German resistance movement a herO .Her niece goes back in history in time to find the true story of this heroine.This book of history is so well written so involving it reads like a novel but is amazingly true.Perfect for book club discussion will be recommending and giving this special gift to friends who I know will-be  amazed by this true story.#netgalley#littlebrown.
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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.
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