Drawing on the true story of the White Rose—the resistance movement of young Germans against the Nazi regime—The Traitor tells of one woman who offers her life in the ultimate battle against tyranny, during one of history’s darkest hours.
In the summer of 1942, as war rages across Europe, a series of anonymous leaflets appears around the University of Munich, speaking out against escalating Nazi atrocities. The leaflets are hidden in public places, or mailed to addresses selected at random from the phone book. Natalya Petrovich, a student, knows who is behind the leaflets—a secret group called the White Rose, led by siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friends.
As a volunteer nurse on the Russian front, Natalya witnessed the horrors of war first-hand. She willingly enters the White Rose’s circle, where every hushed conversation, every small act of dissent could mean imprisonment or death at the hands of an infuriated Gestapo. Natalya risks everything alongside her friends, hoping the power of words will encourage others to resist. But even among those she trusts most, there is no guarantee of safety—and when danger strikes, she must take an extraordinary gamble in her own personal struggle to survive.
What a long, winding, and disturbingly wonderful read this turned out to be!
Natalya is a Russian-born German citizen trying to live her life, a meaningful life, amid the horrors of the second world war. As a volunteer nurse, Natalya has seen the worst Hitler and his regime have to offer. Men, women, and children killed for no reason other than their faith or heritage, young men torn apart on the battlefield, and a hateful and cruel occupying force hell-bent on converting all to their twisted version of right. For one so young, Natalya has seen a great deal and it is enough to convince her something must be done.
As a university student, Natalya has more freedom than many. She comes and goes to her classes, she studies hard, and she meets many new and wonderful friends. Among her new friends are Hans and Sophie, a brother and sister who have taken the “something must be done” to the next level. In the dead of night and with the utmost care for the safety, Hans and Sophie have become the ring leaders of the White Rose, a resistance movement largely comprised of young Germans. When Natalya and her best-friend, Lisa are recruited into the White Rose, neither has any idea of the truly dangerous path they have set out upon.
As a member of the White Rose, Natalya writes seditious literature and helps distribute it among the citizens of Munich. Her tasks and endeavors are considered treason under Hitler’s regime and getting caught is unthinkable. To that end, all members of the White Rose try to shield themselves, but in the middle point of the war, Hitler’s men are very good at their jobs and it isn’t long before Natalya and her friends are betrayed and arrested. While this generally means a certain death, Natalya alone is spared in exchange for her “service” to the Nazi party. All she has to do is root out traitors among her fellow prisoners and feed their names to the appropriate people.
What the Nazis’ don’t count on is Natalya resolve and her determination to stand by her beliefs and conviction no matter the cost. Though she would like to protect those she loves from harm, Natalya knows she can only truly do that if Hitler and his evil are defeated. Through two years of torturous time in prison, to a mental institution, to a POW camp, Natalya remains true to her beliefs at great personal cost. She is recruited, she is abused, she is psychologically tortured, and she is fiercely determined to survive. With few she can trust, Natalya does her best to navigate her circumstances and constantly contribute to the resistance efforts.
The Bottom Line: I can’t this is a wonderful book (the subject matter), but I can say it is wonderfully and beautifully written. The topic, to say the least, is horrifying yet is based on historical fact which makes it all the more horrifying. Natalya’s story is one that is based on that of real people, the youth of Germany who were outraged by Hitler’s words and actions and wanted to see him brought down even if it meant their own demise. The courage and the bravery of these young people can never be underestimated or undervalued. They were willing to bring to light, at great personal cost, the truth of their situation and to ignite a spirit of rebellion that would last, in some for or another, until the end of the war. Though there are some slower parts in this book, the last half really picks up the pace and races towards a heart-pounding ending. There is never a moment when you are sure of Natalya’s safety or what evil lurks around the next corner. Her story is compelling, it is real, it is devastating, and it is full of hope. For lovers of this genre, I am going to heartily recommend this book.