Lesson Plan

The Circle

Learn the story of Mildred Fish Harnack, a Milwaukee-born woman famous for her role in the underground resistance in Germany. Mildred was the only American civilian killed on the direct order of Hitler.

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Enduring Understanding

Some people risked their lives to speak out against Nazi ideology.

Essential Questions

  • 1How does one combat harmful ideology?
  • 2In what way can education encourage people to become free thinkers?


10 Min

Begin by asking your students, how far would you go to stand up for what you believe in?


20 Min
Teacher's Note
Mildred Harnack was executed for her role in the resistance as well as for her political views. Mildred and her husband were both communists. You may want to take time in this lesson to discuss the reasons why other groups were targeted by the Nazis.

Read through this resource on Mildred Fish Harnack as a class.

Explain that neither Mildred nor Arvid were Jewish or deemed “undesirable” by Hitler’s standards. To the contrary, Arvid was employed by the government and was considered to fit the mold of the ideal Aryan. Despite not being affected by discriminatory policies imposed by the Third Reich, Mildred and Arvid went to great lengths to oppose Nazi ideology.


15 Min

In pairs or small groups, have the class answer the following questions:

  1. Why do you think Mildred wasn’t swayed by Nazi propaganda
  2. Why do you think Mildred risked her life to denounce Hitler and Nazi ideology?
  3. How can education help combat hateful propaganda?
  4. What is your biggest takeaway from learning about Mildred Harnack?

Wisconsin Academic Standards

This lessons meets the following Academic Standards required by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Teacher Primer

Know Before You Go

Before you teach, use our teacher primer to freshen up on your content knowledge.