4 out of 4 stars
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Recounting the events before and during World War II, Jenz Ramsgrund narrates his experience with his best friend, Ezekiel Leven. Jenz and Ezekiel are two German boys with Jewish heritage growing up in Nazi Germany during the height of antisemitism and Adolf Hitler's reign.
Hitler's antisemitic agenda all over Germany is propagated by the Gestapo, the Wehrmacht, the Reich, and other corrupt, brutal forces. These forces hunt, torture, and kill Jews, Jew sympathizers, and anyone with contradictory views. Many of these victims are imprisoned in concentration camps (that became death camps during the war) and subjected to hard labor. Soon the explosion of antisemitism forces Jenz to join the Hitler Youth Camp at sixteen years old in 1936 and later accept recruitment by the Schutzstaffel, popularly known as the SS. He only does this to protect his and Ezekiel's family and keep their family heritage a secret.
In a bid to help the Levens evade imprisonment or worse, Jenz murders two Gestapo agents sent to Ezekiel's family. Jenz's and Ezekiel's lives consequently become more intense after that. While in the university, they secretly protect vulnerable Jews from the Gestapo. Their numerous and successful elimination of more than half a dozen Gestapo agents are staged to look like accidents. Ezekiel even takes up an Italian identity to circumvent Jewish restrictions to university education. They try as much as possible to keep their cover in college away from the government's radar while trying to sabotage the Gestapo right at their headquarters.
Traitors in the Gestapo by Jeffrey H. Ahlin is a historical war fiction based on World War II. The plot was set in the 1920s to 1940s and documented actual events in that period, giving the book an authentic feel. The inclusion of real German names, offices, organizations, and historical elements made this story relatable. It was easy to envision being present through these events. Ahlin employed narrative storytelling from the main character's point of view. The book pictured Jenz in his late nineties recounting his story as a boy, teenager, and young man. He did so at an easy going and smooth reading pace. This was what I loved most about this book. He also made use of footnotes to give additional information about particular places and people. This helped to provide further information on them and what became of them after the war. I found it quite useful.
I also appreciated Jenz's and Ezekiel's love for the Jewish community. This was evident from all the actions they took in protecting Jews throughout the book. They had an inbred sense of loyalty to their race and themselves. This was upheld by their strength of character, even amidst the betrayal of Jews by fellow Jews. Although Jenz was the more daring of the two, being the stronger partner, a huge part of their bravery was from the support they got from each other—a co-dependency of some sort. Despite Jenz's extraordinary strength, he was a big softie. I was amused at his constant embarrassment and vulnerability around Ilsa, a German damsel he met and fell in love with at the youth camp. He killed a Gestapo agent who blackmailed and attempted to rape Ilsa, further emphasizing his protective nature. He also had a sweet tooth for German delicacies specially prepared by the Leven's cook, Hilda.
The only thing I disliked about this story was the graphic scenes of violence and sex. While the violence was understandable given the story's era, the explicit sex scenes felt unnecessary. This is a personal view, though, as I believe to some, it might have added a splash of color to the gray background of a war-themed novel.
It was clear to me that the book was professionally edited. I can't say enough how delighted I was to find less than a handful of grammatical and typographical errors.
Overall, Traitors in the Gestapo was a good read. Owing to the intrigue, smooth pace, and professional editing, I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. My opinion on the sex scenes are subjective and didn't affect my enjoyment of the book. As such, it was not enough for me to deduct a star. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy intrigue and historical war fiction. I do not think it's suitable for minors due to its violent and sexual content.
"Traitors in the Gestapo"
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