Now, it is June 1945, the war is over and the reunited sisters, Krystia, now 16, and Maria, now 14, have just arrived, exhausted, at an American refugee camp in Karlsfeld, Germany and are feeling somewhat safe and hopeful for the first time in years. The girls are hoping to be able to travel to Toronto, Canada to live with their mother's sister Auntie Stefa and her husband Uncle George.
But Krystia and Maria's initial feelings of safety are short lived when Sophie Huber arrives in their barracks using the name of Maria's friend Blanka Holata, who had done slave labor with Maria on the Huber farm. Sophie was a Hitler girl, and rather a staunch, cold-hearted believer in Hitler and his Reich. And, yes, when Russian soldiers show up at their barracks, kidnaping anyone they believe had betrayed the Soviet Union during the war, Sophie can't denounce Krystia and Maria as Nazi collaborators quickly enough in an attempt to save herself. An attempt that doesn't work - the Soviets know who she is and suspect her of being a Werewolf, part of an underground network of Hitler youth working to bring the Nazis back to power.
Krystia and Maria find themselves in the back of a truck with a man, Elias, and his son Finn, a woman named Olga and her baby Piotr, as well as Sophie. Along the way, they learn that Elias and Finn are Volksdeutsche or ethnic Germans who originally lived in the Ukraine but were moved from their home by the Nazis in order to Germanize Poland early in their occupation of that country. Olga has British papers, but was arrested became her father had joined the White Army during the Russian Revolution, to fight the communist takeover, but Olga's husband had fought with the Nazis to defeat the Soviets (be sure to read the author's notes at the end for more historical information).
Eventually, the truck arrives at an interrogation house in Soviet occupied Germany. And it doesn't take long for the Soviets to begin their interrogations, torture, and even stage a fake execution of Maria to get Krystia to sign a fake confession. When she continues to refuse to sign their confession, the Soviet soldiers finally let Maria go but tell her to report to the train station where she will be taken to a Soviet labor camp. Maria is taken in by Birgit, who lives in the basement of a bombed building. Birgit has been bringing food to the Soviets at the interrogation house hoping to eventually be able to rescue her grandson, Mychailo, being held prisoner there, too. With two prisoners released (Elias is also free, but not Finn), and four still being held and tortured, can a rescue attempt possible be successful in such a heavily guarded, locked and barb wired building?
Traitors Among Us is a fascinating story and a great conclusion the the trilogy about Krystia and Maria. As she always does, Skrypuch brings a lot of history into her narrative that unravels so seamlessly while, at the same time, she weaves together a story that is readable, believable and so realistic. My only complaint is the same as Ms. Yingling's - it all ended to abruptly and I wanted to know more. But isn't that often a problem when great stories end?
There are some graphic depictions in this novel, but only to the extent to give readers a real sense of what was happening at the time, yet not to such an extent that middle graders would be freaked out by it. I did like that in the middle of trying to save their lives and escape, Maria feels resentment at being treated like a helpless younger sister, and Krystia's constant need to protect her. Sibling resentments added an almost normal touch to their otherwise treacherous situation. I also loved how Maria used her sewing skills to make two pairs of underpants out of a Nazi flag - sort of like poetic justice.
Just as the second book in this trilogy, Trapped in Hitler's Web, worked as a stand alone novel, thanks to Skrypuch's including just enough background information from the first book, Don't Tell the Nazis, Traitors Among Us also works as a stand alone novel, with just enough information from books 1 and 2, though I recommend reading all of them. They are just that good. I started Traitors Among Us one evening and sat up until about 3:30 AM reading to the end, because I couldn't put it down and needed to know what Krystia and Maria's fate was going to be.
Traitors Among Us will be available September 7th, 2021, giving readers just enough time to read books 1 and 2 before then, if they haven't already.
I imagine that I've bookmarked these, but I still haven't read the first one. Thanks for sharing number three. I know so little about what the Soviets did during that time, except in the labor camps. Thanks, Alex!ReplyDelete
Thanks for the great review, Alex!!ReplyDelete
This book sounds fantastic! That's wonderful that it was so good that it kept you awake until 3:30 AM—although I hope you had a chance to get some sleep after that! I'm sorry that it felt like it ended a little abruptly, but I can understand that it might have just been the sadness of a great book series ending. Thanks so much for the great review!ReplyDelete