ATG Quirkies: A Day in the Life of an 11-Year-Old Spy in 1939 Berlin

by | Aug 9, 2021 | 0 comments

A Day in the Life of an 11-Year-Old Spy in 1939 Berlin is by Rebecca Donner and focuses on her new book All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days. The article appears on the Literary Hub website.

“My book All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days is about an American graduate student who was a central figure in Berlin’s underground resistance during the Nazi regime. I conceived of the book as part biography, part espionage thriller, part scholarly detective story—a genre-straddling work of narrative nonfiction about an enigmatic woman who was nearly erased by history. Her name—Mildred Harnack—is obscure to many. My book draws on a spectrum of archival documents including declassified US intelligence files released under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act, the letters she wrote between 1929 and 1942, and the letters, datebooks, diaries, memoirs, and testimonials that her friends and coconspirators left behind. When the Second World War broke out Mildred Harnack deepened her involvement in espionage, hoping to help the Allies defeat Hitler. In this excerpt, readers are introduced to her eleven-year-old courier, Don Heath Jr, the son of an American diplomat at the US Embassy in Berlin.

“Snow. Fear. Light. One morning in December 1939, an eleven-year-old boy bursts out of the arched front door of an apartment building in Berlin, wondering whether he’ll get caught. On his back he carries a blue knapsack. Before him, the wide expanse of Schöneberg Park is blanketed in white. He shivers. He wears a wool coat, a black cap. The cap makes him look like a German boy.

“Four steps and he’s down the stairs; four more and he’s crossing the street. The boy heads for the U-Bahn station. He’s not traveling far. A ten-minute ride to Nollendorfplatz, a short walk to Woyrschstrasse 16. His father showed him how. His father said: Pay attention. And: Talk to no one...”

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