April 27, 2022

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

Publication Date: August 3, 2021

Print Length: 576 pages

A New York Times Notable Book of 2021
A New York Times Book Review Critics’ Top Book of 2021
A Wall Street Journal Best Book of 2021
A Time Magazine Must-Read Book of 2021

Previous Author Publications:

Sunset Terrace (2003)

Burnout (2008)

SYNOPSIS

Curious to understand the role her great-great-aunt, Mildred Harnack, played as a member of the Nazi resistance during World War II, Rebecca Donner recovered family letters and Harnack’s diary. She also obtained records that detail Harnack’s trial in Nazi Germany where her great-great-aunt was sentenced to death at the age of 41. The historical account Donner compiled reveals the bravery and doomed determination of Harnack and her accomplices as they fought against Hitler and his Nazi regime.

REVIEWS AND AUTHOR INFORMATION

Schwartz, Madeleine, “The American Resistance Leader Executed on Hitler’s Orders.” The New York Times, Best Books of 2021. August 6, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/06/books/review/all-the-frequent-troubles-of-our-days-rebecca-donner.html

Keith, Tamara, “Rebecca Donner Tells the Story of Her Great-Great-aunt, Executed for Nazi Resistance.” NPR Author Interviews, August 22, 2021. https://www.npr.org/2021/08/22/1027830968/rebecca-donner-tells-the-story-of-her-great-great-aunt

COMPANION READING

Erik Larson, In the Garden of Beasts, Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, 2011. A non-fiction account of the experiences of Ambassador Dodd and his family during the Hitler’s rise to power.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • What events inspired Mildred Harnack to recruit a resistance network to fight against Hitler’s control over Germany?

  • What does Donner’s narrative reveal about the scope of the resistance movement in Germany and the courage of those who were determined to resist the Nazi regime?

  • Donner writes that her aunt’s aim was “self-erasure.” Despite the challenges, how well has Donner described Harnack’s relationships with her husband, with her family, and with her fellow conspirators?

  • The last words Harnack wrote in her jail cell came from a poem by Goethe, “In all the frequent troubles of our days/ A God gave compensation – more his praise/ In looking sky and heavenward as duty/ in sunshine and in virtue and in beauty.” What does this poem reveal about Harnack how she viewed the challenges she faced?

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