Hitler's war was a catastrophe of such magnitude that it is commonplace to use the adjective “unimaginable”. We cannot imagine the sheer scale of industrialised murder that Hitler unleashed on Europe. It is beyond comprehension. But also – and more disquieting – is our sheer inability to comprehend the inner selves of the millions of Germans who seem to have followed blithely to Götterdämmerung. What were they thinking? Were there no dissenters?
We know, of course, that there were. Not nearly enough, but there were some. And they were not, as Churchill and sundry editorialists liked to believe, a handful of opportunists who turned against Hitler when the Allies were at the Berlin gates. Their courageous and audacious opposition to the Nazis dated from before 1939; it was just their misfortune that every attempt to assassinate Hitler came to nought. Being reminded again of Hitler's remarkable good fortune is enough to shake anyone's belief in a beneficent God.
TREASON is both the story of the July 1944 failed assassination plot and also the preceding events, going back many years and involving high ranking officers in the military and intelligence. Even before the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938 German dissenters, willing to risk their own lives, reached out to the British seeking cooperation in averting the coming calamity.
These high level contacts continued right through the war, always rebuffed by Churchill, Eden and then the Americans, obsessed with the pursuit of unconditional surrender.
Brian Walters has chosen the ideal medium for retelling this story that culminates in the failed Claus von Stauffenberg plot of July 1944. The TREASON iBook combines the characteristics of a book, where readers absorb the text at normal reading pace, with the special features of a video documentary. On every page the gripping story is made even more involving with images, videos and audio clips accessed with a touch.
The account of the trial of the July conspirators is made even more chilling with video footage in which we can see and hear the monstrous judge, Roland Freisler. The photographs of the defendants, dressed in shabby civilian clothes and not their military uniforms, show us the decent and brave human beings, without the accoutrements of rank, defiant in the face of certain death.
There are no “what ifs” in history, but TREASON will make readers ask themselves: What if Hitler had not been so unbelievably lucky? And: What if Chamberlain, Churchill and others had not been so obdurate, refusing to give support and encouragement to the anti-Nazi plotters in 1938? It is a truly heart-breaking what if.