The Traitor is a compelling weave of fiction and imaginatively structured fact. A story that relives the harrowing days in Germany under Nazi rule, where young men and women espouse bravery, loyalty and fortitude in their opposition to the Nazi ideology. In 1942 several students at the University of Munich, led by brother and sister, Hans and Sophie Scholl, founded a non-violent, intellectual resistance group to the Nazi regime, called The White Rose (die Weiße Rose). The group conducted a leaflet and graffiti campaign to illustrate how Nazi power was destroying freedom and social values, killing millions of innocent people, and conducting an unjust war at the behest of a megalomaniac and his party.
The White Rose Group risked their lives to challenge Hitler’s regime and the leaders were finally caught after a caretaker at the University of Munich reported them to the Gestapo. Siblings Sophie and Hans, along with their friend Christoph Probst, were executed by guillotine on 22 February 1943. Not only were the three friends inspirational and brave conducting their opposition campaign but as they each went to their deaths, they remained committed to their cause, loyal to their colleagues, and resolute to the end. Hans Scholl’s last words were “Let Freedom Live”, and Sophie stood upright and determined at her trial constantly challenging the partisan judge. They were tried and executed the same day.
The true story struck me deeply, how young men and women can assume the selfless dedication and bravery at a time in history where cruel lurking horror was commonplace. This story is truly inspirational.
“When you see the world in all its enchanting beauty, you’re sometimes reluctant to concede that the other side of the coin exists. The antithesis exists here, as it does everywhere, if only you open your eyes to it. But here the antithesis is accentuated by war to such an extent that a weak person sometimes can’t endure it.”
The fictional aspects of the story place a young Russian-German woman Natalya Irenaovich Petrovich as a member of the White Rose Group. Natalya and her friend Lisa Kolbe undertook various ventures throughout the story, as they stray dangerously close to the authorities and exposure. V.S. Alexander writes a fictional novel through the eyes of Natalya and creates a wonderfully absorbing story with an authentic voice for the real activities of the White Rose Group. The use of the fictional characters enables a plot and dialogue to flow without compromising the true characters and paying them the highest respect by leaving their voices within legitimate historical material. The characters in the novel illustrate the pervasive fear existing in German society at the time and how they struggled to maintain secrecy and caution, with everyone that they encountered. The atmosphere of suspicion and the anxiety of what has become normal life is extremely well depicted. The ongoing harrowing experiences suffered by Natalya are vivid, ruthless and tragic.
What V.S. Alexander has achieved is the blending of factual moments in history with such a compelling fictional narrative that creates an outstanding novel. It is fitting that this book is released in February. I would highly recommend this book and I’d like to thank Harper Collins, One More Chapter and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC copy of the book in return for an honest review.