Liane Berkowitz (7 August 1923 – 5 August 1943) was a German resistance fighter of the Red Orchestra organisation. Arrested and sentenced to death, she was executed shortly after she gave birth to a daughter in custody.
Liane Berkowitz was born in Berlin, the daughter of conductor Victor Vasilyev and his wife, the singing teacher Catherine Jewsienko. Shortly before her birth, her parents had fled from the Soviet Union. When Liane's father died, her mother Catherine secondly married Henry Berkowitz, who immediately adopted Liane in 1930. The family lived on Viktoria-Luise-Platz in the Schöneberg district.
Liane was fluent in German and Russian. Henry arranged for her education at the private Heilsche Abendschule gymnasium where she prepared for her Abitur qualification from 1941. There, she joined a circle of friends which coalesced around her schoolmate Eva Rittmeister and the latter's husband, the neurologist John Rittmeister. Ursula Goetze, Otto Gollnow, Fritz Thiel, and Friedrich Rehmer also belonged to the group. Under the guidance of John Rittmeister, the friends became a circle of Hitler's opponents, who later worked against the Nazi regime together with the left-leaning anti-fascist resistance movement that was led by the Luftwaffe officer Harro Schulze-Boysen. Liane became engaged to Friedrich Rehmer and was pregnant when she was arrested.
Together with Otto Gollnow, while her fiancé was severely wounded in the hospital, Berkowitz pasted about 100 posters saying 'Permanent Exhibition - The Nazi Paradise - War - Hunger - Lie - Gestapo - How long?" on the evening of 17 May 1942 in the busy area between Kurfürstendamm and Uhlandstrasse. This was intended as a protest against The Soviet Paradise exhibition organised by the Nazi Party Propaganda Office, currently taking place at the Berlin Lustgarten. They also wanted to show that anti-fascist resistance in Germany was still active. It is not certain whether during this action Berkowitz and Gollnow were discreetly accompanied and protected by Harro Schulze-Boysen.
In the context of breaking the Red Orchestra group, Liane Berkowitz was arrested and charged on 26 September 1942. Friedrich Rehmer was still in a Wehrmacht hospital in Britz, where he was recuperating from a serious war injury he had suffered on the Eastern Front. He was arrested in his hospital ward on 29 November. On 18 January 1943, the Second Senate of the Reichskriegsgericht court-martial convicted Berkowitz and Rehmer together with other friends involved in the adhesive label action "for aiding the preparation of high treason and aiding the enemy," and sentenced them to death.
Liane's and Friedrich's daughter Irina was born on 12 April 1943 in the women's prison on Barnimstraße. The grandmother took care of the child from July 1943. As the Reichskriegsgericht pronounced the sentence recommendation when checking against Adolf Hitler to dismiss the pregnant Liane Berkowitz from prison, he expressly rejected any reprieve. The death sentence was confirmed by Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and countersigned.
The young mother was executed in Plötzensee Prison on 5 August 1943, two days before her 19th birthday. Friedrich Rehmer had already been executed as early as on 13 May 1943. In 2013 it was revealed by the BBC that her body, like thousands of others, was delivered to anatomist Hermann Stieve to be dissected for research. Her final resting place is unknown. Her daughter Irina died on 16 October 1943 in hospital in Eberswalde under unclear circumstances.
Berkowitz was a member of the Russian Orthodox Church. Her letters from death row are marked by a deep faith. The Catholic prison chaplain Peter Buchholz enabled her to receive the Holy Communion on the day of her death.
- A memorial stele in the honour of Liane Berkowitz and other resistance fighters was erected in the courtyard of the Berlin Humboldt University on Unter den Linden in 1976
- A memorial plaque marks her former residence on Viktoria-Luise-Platz No. 1 in Berlin-Schöneberg
- On 18 January 2000, a square in the Berlin district of Friedenau was named Liane-Berkowitz-Platz.
- Claudia Gélieu: Women in prison prison Barnimstrasse. A story of justice. Elephant Press, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-88520-530-0, ( EP 530), (reprint: Espresso Publisher: ISBN 3-88520-530-0).
- Regina Griebel, Marlies Coburg, Heinrich Scheel: Captures? The Gestapo album for Red Orchestra. A photo-documentation. Audioscop, Hall 1992, ISBN 3-883-84044-0, 372 pp.
- Gert Rosiejka: The Red Chapel. , Treason 'as anti-fascist resistance. With an introduction by Henry Scheel. Results-Verlag, Hamburg 1986, ISBN 3-925622-16-0, (33 Results).
- Kurt Shields (eds): Eva-Maria and the book, Red Chapel '. Memory of the resistance against National Socialism. A copy of the Bruno and-Else-Voigt Foundation. Overall, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-925961-06-2, (In this volume, the prison letters and secret messages from Liane Berkowitz were printed).