THE TRAITOR’S EMBLEM begins in the Straits of Gibraltar in March, 1940. In the midst of a terrible storm, the crew of the Spanish naval vessel, Esperanza, rescues four German sailors from a life boat. The rescue could have cost Captain Manuel Gonzalez Pereira his life but he couldn’t leave the Germans to die. Agreeing to alter his course, Captain Gonzalez takes the Germans to a point near the coast of Portugal. As a token of his gratitude, the German officer, a man with one eye, leading the group gives Gonzalez a gift, a medal made of solid gold. The German puts his finger on his chest and says “verrat” – treachery . Then he puts his finger on Gonzalez’s chest and says “rettung” – salvation. Then he and his three compatriots disappear.
Gonzalez retires from the sea and when he can spare time from his bookstore, he researches the medal he was given in 1940. “It was a double-headed eagle set on an iron cross. The eagle was holding a sword, and there was a number 32 above its head and an enormous diamond encrusted in its chest.” Gonzalez learns that it is a German Masonic emblem but the Germans did not use “noble” metals such as gold, silver, or platinum so its origins are mysterious.
When Gonzalez died, his son, Juan-Carlos, inherited the shop and the mysterious medal. In 2002, an old man came to the shop to give a talk about his book on Freemasonry. No one came and to make his guest more comfortable, Juan-Carlos showed the man the picture of the medal. The old man began to haunt the shop and Juan-Carlos. He offered to buy it, he begged and pleaded. Juan-Carlos agreed but only after the old man told him the story of the strange Traitor’s Emblem.
From 2002, the story goes back to 1919 and the terrible years between the end of World War I and the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. Set primarily in Munich, it is the story of Paul Reiner, his hunt for the true story behind the death of his father, his relationship with his cousin, Jurgen, and his interest and membership in the Masonic Society.
The story deserves to be read and enjoyed on its own merits; to tell more is to tell too much. What can be said without intruding on the story is that the author creates an atmosphere in the book that engulfs the reader as it does the characters in the story. Paul Reiner is a sympathetic character. His cousin, Jurgen, becomes a willing participant in the nascent SA, a bully who wants to damage and corrupt. Jurgen’s internal corruption is such that he is part of the inner circle of Reinhard Heydrich and Adolph Eichmann. When asked to infiltrate Masonic Lodges to uncover yet another Jewish conspiracy, Jurgen is more than willing. He knows Paul is a member of the Masons. Paul isn’t Jewish but Jurgen is not unwilling to use whatever he can to get rid of the cousin he hates.
Until researching some of the information in the book, I did not know that the Masons had been another victim of Nazi paranoia. As a secret society, it could not continue to exist in Germany. Members who had achieved high degrees in the society were suspected of being Jews or hiding Jews. The author provides a great deal of information about Masonic rituals and the handshakes. I do not know if this is material from the Masons or the fruit of the author’s imagination. I prefer not to know; either way is intriguing.
In the Author’s Notes, Gomez-Jurado provides this information – “The Masons were the object of persecution during the Nazi dictatorship in Germany: more than eighty thousand of them died in the concentration camps. An ancient Masonic legend claims that the fall of all the lodges was the fault of one single Mason who sold all the others out to the Nazis.”
Children reported their parents for listening to the BBC. Neighbors turned neighbors into the Gestapo for infractions that would have been impossible to prove but led to the deaths of the accused anyway. If the Masons were destroyed by one person, it would not have been unusual in that time and in that place.
I reviewed Gomez-Jurado’s THE MOSES EXPEDITION. That book and THE TRAITOR’S EMBLEM do not seem to have been written by the same person. Two absolutely different stories written in two absolutely different voices is an accomplishment that can only be achieved by a very talented author.