The Traitor (novel)
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The Traitor is a World War II spy novel written by Guy Walters in 2002 (ISBN 978-0743270151), based on the life of Erin Nelson. It follows the story of Captain John Lockhart, an MI6 agent who is captured by the Nazis in Crete and forced to join the Waffen SS with several British Fascists in order to save the life of his wife who is also a prisoner. Parts of the story also follow the lives of one of the British traitors and of John's daughter Amy Lockhart, an Oxford Historian who attempts to clear his father's name, who was branded a traitor after the war.
The story opens in 1986 when Amy Lockhart opens a letter from the British government about her father. Then there is a flashback to 1936 to the life a member of the British Union of Fascists, an organization of British men following Sir Oswald Mosley inciting a pogrom in a Jewish Ghetto in London. There are many other flashbacks about this person leaving the reader to guess whether it is really John Lockhart or someone else in the SS.
The story of John Lockhart then opens in late 1943 off the coast of Crete. John Lockhart, an MI6 agent is about to infiltrate the island to join up with the Greek Resistance and one of its leaders Manoli Petaris. His mission is to help them create havoc for the Nazi occupation in Crete After reaching their hiding place, they plan an attack on an ammunition dump. The attack fails however and Lockhart and several other Andartes are captured and taken to a prison. There, the commandant of the prison Lockhart is held, an oberst named Dietrich interrogates him. Lockhart pretends to be a Greek and resists interrogation but fails and is discovered to be a spy. He later agrees to help the Nazis in exchange for news of his wife Anna who had been captured during the invasion of the Netherlands.
Later it is discovered that Anna is alive in another concentration camp. Dietrich offers his life and the life of his wife in exchange for helping the Nazis infiltrate the Greek resistance. He reluctantly agrees and is dropped off somewhere near the original hiding place.
During this time there are flash backs to When Lockhart was an Oxford student working as an archaeologist in Crete. It is here that he meets Anna and it goes about to tell of their courtship and his friendship with Manoli and some of his classmates there. Unfortunately Lockhart discovers much of Crete has changed from the war. He comes across a village he remembered staying at in ruins, destroyed as retribution for killing an SS officer early on in the story.
Lockhart Returns to the Andartes hiding place where he explains to Manoli how he plans to allow suspected collaborators to be captured in exchange for keeping himself and his wife alive while satisfying Dietrich. Unfortunately the camp is raided by Nazis and everyone except Lockhart is killed. Manoli chastises Lockhart as a traitor before dying.
The book then goes to Berlin and follows the life of An SS Hauptsturmführer named Carl Strasser, a veteran of the Russian Front who now holds a desk job and is given orders to form an SS brigade made up of British Soldiers called the British Free Corps (BFC) to fight the Russians in the east. Strasser also is involved with a prostitute who is working undercover as an SD agent named Leni Steiner. We later learn that Leni is the daughter of a German woman and a Jewish Father who must work undercover for the SD in order to protect her family. Strasser reviews the soldiers that already joined The BFC, some of whom did so to escape punishment others because they were sympathetic to the Nazi cause, many of whom were BUF members before the war. One of them is Pugh, a BUF spokesmen with a port wine stain on his face who we soon learn is the character in the flashbacks from the BUF. Lockhart is to be the leader of this brigade.
Lockhart initially refuses to join but while imprisoned in Berlin, he meets a Russian spy who was captured who learned about a plan by the Nazis to use sarin nerve gas to win the war. He tries to give the name of its location but is taken away to be executed. All Lockhart knows is that the name starts with MITT. Fearing that the Nazis could deploy the gas and fearing for the life of his wife he agrees to join. He later finds out that Andrew Worstead, a former classmate of his From Oxford and the Crete digs is one of the members of the BFC. He claims that he was an officer who was demoted to private for impregnating his CO's daughter and was captured at Dunkirk. Lockhart has orders to recruit POWs to join the BFC.
Lockhart uses this opportunity to send a secret message to MI6 disguised as a POW letter to family members to warn the Allies of sarin and the BFC. He does this with the help of corporal Strafford who is forced to join as punishment for attacking Lockhart. The recruitment drive comes to a halt after he is stabbed by a prisoner in another camp, but because of his recruiting he is discovered and is denounced as a traitor. Because of this and unknown to everyone in the unit, his letter is ignored back home and sarin disregarded as a false rumour.
Under Strasser and Lockhart BFC is slowly taking shape. Lockhart sees letters from his wife that are typed but does not believe they are real. He tries to make a deal with Strasser to see his wife but agrees only if the BFC meets training requirements for the Russian front. A deal he says he can break or change at any time. Meanwhile, Lockhart presses Andrew Worstead about his joining the BFC and about whether or not Anna's letters are real or if she is dead or alive. Worstead claims that he joined the BFC to infiltrate and destroy the unit in order to become a hero back home. He also says that he suspects Pugh is collaborating with Strasser to forge the letters from Anna and keep an eye on the unit.
Lockhart meets up with members of the SS and other Nazi party officials to try to learn the truth about sarin. He learns that the gas might be a project in the Ahnenerbe a German think tank that deals with race theory. With the help of Strafford (who had been a burglar before the war) Lockhart infiltrates an office in the Ahnenerbe and discovers a file of the A4 project.
Later at a bar in Berlin he meets Pugh with Leni Steiner. Pugh reveals that he is no longer a fascist but is a Russian spy with Leni. He tells him that the story of Worstead being demoted and voluntarily joining is not true. In reality Worstead was a homosexual who's orientation was discovered in POW camp. He was shunned and later forced to join the BFC or be sent to a concentration camp. Worstead's orientation was later discovered by Pugh who blackmailed him. Worstead it turns out is the real spy for Strasser and that he was the one writing the letters from Anna. Lockhart confronts him and Worstead confirms most what Pugh had said but claims the letters were written by a British Nazi who is the son of the organist at John and Anna's wedding and that Anna was dead. He later kills himself. Lockhart is accused of murdering him and is arrested.
Strasser initially refuses to release Lockhart saying that it was nearly impossible. But When dating Leni at a hotel, he is forced at gunpoint to release Lockhart. Leni reveals herself as a spy for the SD and tells him he must obey Lockhart and give him what he wants or she will inform the SD that Strasser is a traitor and have him beheaded. To make things worse, Lockhart claims that he knows that Anna is dead (which is not really true) which means Strasser has no way of blackmailing him.
Meanwhile, The Allied Forces have invaded Europe in the D-Day operation and Lockhart fears that Germany will be desperate to use the nerve gas. The BFC is also demoralised by Germany's losses. Leni and Pugh grudgingly agree to help Lockhart destroy the factory where the gas is kept but they have doubts it can be done. Leni takes part by luring one of the Ahnenerbe's officials into her apartment to interrogate him. Lockhart forces him to reveal information about A4 which is in fact a rocket program. Gas was to be loaded on the V-2 rockets and launched at London in order to force the Allies to surrender. Before the location is given out however he dies of a heart-attack. To make things worse, the SD has been following him and bursts into the apartment to arrest Lockhart and Leni. Lockhart however manages to disarm and kill them. An air raid follows destroying the apartment and evidence of Leni's involvement. This gives them time to plan the attack on the factory.
With the help of Russian Intelligence (GRU), Leni changes her identity and the two hide out in another apartment. There they are contacted by the Russians with information on the factory's location which is in Mittelbau and ordered to destroy it. The plans are held by another agent. Lockhart learns more about the location of Mittelbau and is shocked to learn that the adjoining camp used for slave labour in building the rockets is the same camp that his wife Anna is held in and that she is still alive.
They collect the plans and then Lockhart forces Strasser to provide weaponry for the mission. By this time The BFC is completely demoralised and according to Pugh many want to return to POW camp. Lockhart uses this opportunity to convince them to join him in his mission which they all agree. Even Strasser who fears losing the war agrees to join. Lockhart goes to a POW camp to meet a former classmate about getting information about how to destroy the gas. He informs them to use a small drum or still to do so.
The BFC with Strasser and Leni then go to Mittelbau underground factory to destroy the gas. With the help of Strasser they manage to get weapons, equipment and forged documents and get as far as the gate where they run into trouble. After the gate opens for a passing truck, they decide to Attack the guards and manage to drive into the factory where the gas is kept. They barely manage to seal the gas inside the still and blow it up with dynamite but not without taking heavy losses. John Lockhart and Leni try to make their escape when John sees Anna in the compound. He runs to her but is killed. Leni is the only one who escapes.
Back in 1986, Amy is showing her mother the letter. Thanks to new openness in the USSR from perestroika, new information including Leni's testimony is released from the Russians. Captain John Lockhart's name is cleared and he is awarded a medal along with the other members of the BFC. Leni unfortunately was betrayed and taken to a concentration camp where she was executed. Anna then shows Amy the pine-cones John gave her before being shot in Mittelbau.
Reality and fiction
The British Free Corps consisted of actual members of the British military who were sympathetic to fascism and who wanted to join the Germans. Some were persuaded however through punishment. There were no officers who joined and those captured received light punishment ranging from life sentences to small fines. The British Union of Fascists was outlawed and its leader Oswald Mosley and most of its followers were detained. The A4 project was a real project concerning V-2 rockets which were launched at London. Sarin gas however, was already invented a decade earlier. Adolf Hitler is said to had never intended to use it on the Allies. Some say this had to do with his personal experience with gas warfare during World War I while others contend that it is possible he would have had no qualms over using the gas.
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