The Traitor: A Heart-Wrenching Saga of WWII Nazi-Resistance
Beginning with Kristallnacht in 1938 and taking the reader through to the destruction of the Third Reich in 1945, The Traitor is a view of the White Rose League’s resistance to Nazi tyranny through the eyes of Natalya, a fictional member of the group. The White Rose, composed of anti-Nazi Munich students, resisted non-violently; they printed and distributed anti-Nazi leaflets. In Hitler’s Reich, that was treason, and the penalty was death.
Natalya first seriously questions her politics the morning after Kristallnacht as she surveys the devastation of the Munich Jewish community. But what can a sixteen-year-old do? A few years later, as a nurse on the Russian Front, Natalya accidentally witnesses the S.S. machine-gunning down a group of Russians, including small children—an act that completes the growth of her hatred for the Nazis. Once back in Munich, in the university, she meets and gravitates toward the group of friends surrounding Hans and Sophie Scholl: the White Rose. Refusing to stand by passively, the White Rose members risk their lives to write, print, and distribute their leaflets, even as they know they can’t escape the Gestapo—and execution—forever.
I already knew about the White Rose League, and while I couldn’t resist the topic, I did wonder whether the novel would do them justice. I needn’t have worried. This is a gripping novel and makes a fine addition to any library of World War II fiction. Making the viewpoint character fictional, rather than historical, was an excellent choice, and the author handles characterizations well. Natalya’s growth as a human being seems reasonable and reasoned; the writing flows smoothly and carries the reader along with it, and the tension’s often almost palpable.