“The Traitors”, is the third book, which Camilla Lagerqvist has written, about three youths growing up in Sweden during World War Two. And this is my third post, about the books, so if you have not read the two previous books or posts, perhaps you ought to read them first, before proceeding with this one. The first book being “The Assignment” and the second one, “The Ice Children”.
It is about a year since Swedish Maja lost her best friend, when the friend moved to another place, in order for her father to find a job. The small village Gullfors in the province of Värmland, by the Swedish-Norwegian border, is not offering too many job
opportunities. But the summer holidays of 1943 brought two new friends and a big, dangerous adventure. The first friend being Swedish-Norwegian Benjamin, who had to flee to Sweden from Oslo, since his father is Jewish and all Jews were being arrested by the German occupation force, to be killed in concentration camps. His mother Greta, is an old friend of Maja’s mother, so the two youths very quickly become close. But not as close as Maja would have liked. She fell hopelessly in love with him as soon as she met him. It is not easy to be 13, is it. The second friend is Norwegian Hilde, whose mother is in a relationship with a German soldier, named Kurt Behm, and when it was discovered she was pregnant, the persecution got so bad, that they had to cross the border in to Sweden, just the way Greta and Benjamin had had to do. Hilde can not keep her eyes off Ben either, as he likes to be called, so this is an underlying tension, throughout the books, both girls competing for his attention.
But for the most part, we are spared all that teenage stuff, and it is the dangerous things, these youths get in to, which play the major role. In the first book they had to get a message to the resistance fighter, called the Black Rose, that she was in extreme danger. They crossed the border and managed to get the message sent to her, via a resistance group, which Ben’s father Harald belongs to. In book two, the Black Rose aka Elin Björnsson, has become their teacher and it is December 1943. Elin ending up in the hospital after an accident, is out of commission, to take on the dangerous job of getting the ice children out of Norway, before they get arrested and killed. So once again, the Black Roses, as the three youths now call themselves, cross the border in to occupied Norway, to do Elin’s job. The danger they get in to is indescribable, but they get back to Sweden with Sara Eisenman and her two children. Elin tells them that Sara’s brother David, needs to be found though. He went missing in Norway but somehow he has arrived to Sweden, but noone knows where to.
As this book starts, it is June, again, in 1944. Things have been pretty calm, but a new adventure is about to start, when Maja gets home one day and her mother tells her that Ben has been there looking for her. He has been to Hilde’s as well. And now he can not be found. He has been staying with his mother’s cousin, since his mother once again has had to go to Stockholm. The cousin is worried sick. Maja and Hilde go to see if they can find clues in Ben’s room, as to where he has disappeared to. All they find is an empty envelope, under a chest of drawers, having arrived from a place called Furudal. The person who sent it, is called Sven, but that is all they can read from a very sloppily written name and return address. They go to ask about Furudal and find out that it is situated in the province of Dalarna, close to Rättvik.
Greta having arrived home, gets a concerned look on her face when she finds out Ben is missing and when the girls mention Furudal. But she doesn’t tell them anything. Instead they concoct a plan. Hilde’s mother Aase, baby brother Olaf and Hilde, are supposed to go visit a cousin of Aase’s, outside Rättvik. Maja convinces her own mother to let her go with, even though her dad is coming home on furlough. The money and ration coupons are scraped together and the party of four, set off on the train, already the next day. They don’t arrive until late at night and the four of them
to walk out into nowhere, trying to find where this cousin of Aase’s live. Maja makes the reflection that Aase is a very insecure, nervous woman and wonders if all the harassment in Norway, after it was discovered she was a collaborator, made her that way.
Eventually a big, tall man comes for them, and it turns out to be cousin Reidun’s husband Helge. They live on a farm and in her mind, Maja once again wonder, what she and Hilde will do for five days, if Ben is not in Furudal. She could have stayed home to see her dad, who is with the Swedish Army, protecting Sweden against an invasion.
The next morning, they set out for Furudal, by bus, but bringing bicycles, which Helge has loaned them. He was also the one who made them some food to bring along and asked no questions, when they said that they really wanted to see the old “bruk”. (Bruk is translated as factory in google translate, but that is not really a good translation for what this was. A bruk was usually connected to richer landowners’ mansions. They usually produced something, most often metal works, so a smithy was present. A big such, with lots of workers in it. And the estate was usually located close to some nature source, like a river or waterfall, which would provide transport as well as power. But it was still on a very small-scale and more like a farm atmosphere, than a factory one. ) He understands that they want to see all the beauty around Furudal and “it is a good thing what they are doing up there!”. A cryptical thing to say and when the girls arrive, they do find a strange thing behind the mansion in Furudal. Norwegians chopping wood, Norwegians doing excercises and shootings going on in the forest.
The girls have not heard about such a camp and they are completely bewildered when they see the Swedish females in uniform, called “lottor” (equivalent of WAAFs, ATS and WRENs), making pea soup (Standard military food in Sweden, even sold on cans to the public now). Two females motion for them to come closer and ask them if they are volunteers. Hilde answers “yes”, so they are told to get aprons. Inside the barracks, they find even more women in uniform and they get the aprons. When they get back outside, a high-ranking officer walks up to them and wonder what they are doing there, but the two “lottor” quickly answer for them and say that they are volunteers from the village.
The two girls help Lisbeth and Elsa, dishing out soup for all the men who have now gathered from all over and then the girls get to sit down and eat themselves. Since Lisbeth seems so helpful, they sit down beside her and ask her if she has met someone called Ben. She can not recall that she has, but when they ask for Sven and show her the envelope, she is able to see that it says Lauritsen after Sven and points the young man out to them. Sven admits to having written the letter to Benjamin Rosenbaum and finally trusts them enough to say that they are friends and that he wrote, because he though that his commanding officer in the camp, Harald Rosenbaum, might be in danger. Maja suddenly recalls a conversation with Ben a week earlier, when he had said that his dad was in safety and that there are several ways to fight the Germans in Norway. This as an answer to Maja’s question, if Harald was not in the resistance anymore. From Sven they find out that a Norwegian army is being trained in Sweden, in several places actually, to liberate Norway and that Furudal is such a place. But that Harald has gone missing. And when Ben arrived, he went missing as well.
They don’t get to finish the conversation until hours later, when the girls have peeled potatoes all afternoon. They are on their way to the bus, but needs to find Sven, to get more information. He doesn’t trust anyone, so he walks with them to a place where noone can hear them. There he tells them about two inspectors having arrived at the camp. While inspecting the camp, one of them could not keep his eyes off Harald. He had walked off with the other inspector, to discuss things first in Norwegian and then switching over in to German. Sven had heard that they were going to take Harald to a cottage, where he would meet the Captain. The next morning Harald was missing and noone believed Sven, when he told them that Harald had been kidnapped. When Ben had found out, he set out to find the cottage, but never returned, when he had said he would.
The girls decide to go back the next day and tell Aase and Reidun, that they have promised people in Furudal, to help out at the health camp there, for Norwegian refugees. Helge helps them out, when the women object, and shows the girls that he knows perfectly well, what sort of camp it is. The girls head for the camp, but make sure they are not observed this time. To not be seen, they head out in the forest, to discuss how to find Sven again. That is when they hear voices and from their hiding place, they jump out gleefully, when they see Ben’s face. He got lost, trying to find the cottage, which is called the Bear Cottage. They all decide to help out, trying to find the cottage, but they have to wait till evening, since Sven is not allowed to leave the camp. You get kicked out if you do.
Ben says that all Norwegian men fleeing their country, ends up in these camps, training to be a police army and that his father trains them. (This is a true miss by the author, saying that Harald was a policeman before the war, since she in the first book claimed that Harald Rosenbaum had a music shop in Oslo, but had to close it down, after the Germans wrecked it and smashed all windows. Noone was shopping there anymore. I really do hate when authors think they can get away with things like this, assuming us less intelligent or having dementia.) While Maja starts thinking about Norway becoming a free country and Ben and Hilde perhaps moving back there, Ben moves on to say that the Black Rose aka their teacher Elin Björnsson, visited his mum, before she left on an assignment. She spoke about his dad being in real danger, since the Germans have put a prize on his head. Ben had listened in and was horrified to hear the sum of 20 000 Norwegian kronor and that his father will be taken to the Gestapo headquarters in Oslo, if caught. Harald is wanted because he and his men have dug tunnels under a lot of important buildings in Norway and then putting mines all over the place. The other men had already been killed, according to Elin .
Waiting for evening to come around, the girls write a letter to Aase, saying they must stay and do dishes, so they will not be able to catch the bus home. The letter will go with the bus driver and be dropped by the farm of Helge’s. An hour too late, Sven joins them with a road description and the four set out through the forest, towards the Bear Cottage. But when they get there, it looks like noone has been there for ages. Till Sven finds cigarette butts outside and Hilde finds a newspaper from the day before, under a chair. A piece has been ripped off and Maja notices that somethings has been written on the part ripped off and making dents on the next page in the paper. She gets a pencil from Hilde and colours the spot grey till she can see letters appearing in white: 20/6 Karlstad C 08.35 to Oslo S. Someone is taking the train the next day to Oslo! They run out to tell the boys, but they find them standing on what looks like a newly dug grave. Ben digs like a madman, while Hilde runs inside, since she can no stand to stay and watch. Maja stands totally paralyzed, till she hears from Ben, that it is not his dad. Sven recognises the man in the grave, as the inspector, who said they had to abduct Harald. The inspector has been shot.
While Sven covers over the body again, Maja remembers the newspaper and shows it to Ben. He recognises his dad’s handwriting and they decide that they must stop the men from taking that train. They need to get back to the camp quickly. While Sven bikes back to the camp, the youths bike to the village of Furudal, to phone Ben’s mother Greta. She has ways to contact the resistance. They might know how to stop the men, from taking Harald to Norway. Unfortunately Greta is not home, so Ben decides that they must stop the men, on the train, themselves.
Standing as close as he can, their bicycles linked in each other and his nose almost touching Maja’s, she hopes he will kiss her, but as usual Hilde comes and spoils it all. She calls out, asking what they are doing, and both tumble to the ground entangled in the bicycles. Ben will not stop looking at Maja, but they need to hurry. So off they go to the camp, to see what they can do in way of help. When they arrive, Sven waits for them, since he has found them some beds, where they can sleep.
Ben’s plan is for them to take the train from Orsa in Dalarna, to Karlstad in Värmland. Sven says that there is no way he can ask anyone in the camp for help. He trusts noone, after some people spread out that Harald had left to go visit someone, indicating a pleasure trip. When he told the officers that Harald had been kidnapped, noone believed him thanks to that “rumour”. The problem is that they do not know when the train leaves. Ben says that his dead uncle used to know all train schedules in his head, which makes Maja suddenly ask if his cousins looked like him. He answers that Jakob did. Sven wonders what happened to them and Ben has to tell him how his uncle, aunt and two children were killed in Auschwitz. He gets so upset that he runs out and Sven goes out after him. Hilde suddenly realises, that it is way too dangerous for Ben to get on that train going to Oslo, that he must stay behind. He objects when he gets back inside, but Maja points out, that on their previous assignments, they never knew how dangerous things would get and that she is sure Harald does not want his Jewish son, to put himself in such a danger. If the Germans catch him, he will be killed like all the other Jews. Sadly enough, Sven can not be helpful either, since he has signed a contract and to go awol from the camp, means the same punishment, as in the army.
While Hilde sits quiet, biting her nails, Ben and Maja make the plans. They will take the train to Orsa, change for a train to Karlstad and then get on the same train as Harald and his captors, at 08.35, heading for Oslo. They will find the same carriage as the men and sit down with them. At one point Maja will say to Harald in the Yiddish, which Ben has taught her, “Tell them you need to use the loo. We will pull the emergency brake in a moment. Then you can escape.” It has to happen before the Norwegian border, so that Harald can escape through the loo window and not be caught by the Gestapo.
The first stage of the trip is to get on to a freight train unseen. Ben keeps the staff at the train station busy, while the girls almost get killed, trying to get in to one of the wagons, as the train speeds up. As they arrive in Orsa, they get discovered, but that turns out to be in their favour. They run as fast as they can and Maja falls badly, when they jump up on the platform, in front of the train station. When they find a door, they burst in through it, and find train personnel. Hilde quickly says that Maja is hurt and the conductor washes the injury and put plaster on it. Then he says he has to leave, to send off the Karlstad train. The girls get panicked and ask when it leaves and he answers “in three minutes”. When they tell him they have to get on it and have not bought tickets yet, he tells them to climb aboard and he will get them the tickets. He does and he charges them nothing for them, which solves the problem, they had worried about, of them not having enough money for the return journey.
When they arrive in Karlstad, they barely have the time to go to the loo and then get on the train. They are forced to buy the tickets on the train and they have not seen anything of Harald and his kidnappers. When the tickets are bought, their search starts. They basically walk through all the carriages looking for the men and not until the last carriage, at the back of the train, do they find them in a smoking compartment. They walk in and sit down, even though the men give them obvious looks, saying that they are not welcome. One of the cold looking men in a suit, even tells them to find another place to sit, but the girls point out that they are getting off soon. The man is very curious as to where they are going and Hilde gladly tells them about her grandmother and all the fun things they will do at her place. Maja is not prepared for Hilde suddenly saying “what is that verse you are going to say to grandmother?”. Maja suddenly remembers the note in her pocket and the yiddish sentences she has learned.
But the words refuse to come out. She starts “Zog az du” but she suffers acute memory loss. If you plan on reading this book, this might be a good point, to halt in this post and jump down to the eighth paragraph, from the bottom. If you do not read Swedish, please go ahead and “enjoy”!
Harald stirs though at the three words, but keeps staring out the window, which he has been doing, since they entered. For some reason, the men assumed that the girls were getting off in Ottenbol, the last place before the border, and right then, the train passes through it and the men wonder how the girls could have bought tickets to Ottenbol, when it doesn’t stop there. But Hilde is fast. She tells them that she never said they were getting off there, only that her grandmother lives there. That they are getting off in Charlottenberg. Right then Maja remembers all the words and spit them out. The men scream and chase the girls out. The conductor is right outside, so the men sit back down, but the girls go to sit close to the loo.
Harald soon comes walking through the carriage with the Gestapo looking men. First one man enters the loo, to check it for weapons, assumes Maja. Then Harald enters and the girls head for a carriage with an emergency brake. They pull it and fall over each other. When they get up on their feet, they run back to the loo and see the two men looking inside it, it being empty. They hope that Harald has found a good place to hide, since there are no trees nearby, only open fields. One of the men jumps off, running to find Harald. The girls sit down and decide to get off in Charlottenberg, which is before the border (I know. The author said Ottenbol was the last stop, earlier on!) As they discuss this, they suddenly feel hands on their necks and the cold-faced man from the compartment, tells them there is a punishment for stopping a train, like they did. He also points out that he has a gun aimed at them, with a silencer, under the seat. He takes them back to the compartment and noone of the passengers see, how Maja tries to signal to them, that she and Hilde are having a gun pointed at their backs and are held captive. When they get to the compartment, the man in there, called Heinz, handcuffs them and then he asks “The Danger”, who is the cold-faced Norwegian, what they are going to do with the girls. The Danger grabs Maja’s arm hard and pulls it backwards. He tells both girls that they are too young to be resistance and that Harald is a very great danger to the security of Norway. Maja wants to scream at him, that he and his traitors, are the real threats.
The Danger gets cigarettes out and threatens to burn the girls in their faces, if they do not tell him where Harald has got to. But how can they say anything. They do not know where he is. Then the Danger forces Maja’s face out the window, so she gets hit in the face by every branch and twig, which the train passes. He is just about to stick Hilde the beauty’s face out, when the train comes to a sudden stop. The Danger sticks his hands in the air and Maja hears a familiar voice tell someone to take his gun. It is Elin or the Black Rose. She and her men take the two men off the train and she is just about to get the girls out, when she notices they are still handcuffed to the seat. Just as she is about to try to unlock the handcuffs, with a hairpin, the train starts rolling towards Norway again, where Elin is wanted and facing a certain death.
Elin manages to get Maja loose, but it takes a while to try to liberate Hilde. She tells them that she had no idea they were on the train, but that she and her group had been told by an informer, that Harald was on the train. They were to liberate him in Charlottenberg, but there were too many collaborators there, so they had to wait and now she wonders where Harald is. The girls tell her the entire story, from the beginning when Ben went missing in Gullfors, to the end. And Hilde is still handcuffed. She asks Elin if she has been able to see her parents in Oslo, since she joined the resistance and Elin answers that their relationship is not the best and the reason why she joined the resistance, in the first place. Because her parents stood by and did nothing. She grew up living next-door to a Jewish family. The mothers had coffee with each other and Elin played with their son, Saul. And then when she was 19 and Saul 17, her father came home one day, upset, and brought his wife in to a room where they discussed what had upset him. Elin had eavesdropped, but had just been able to make out the words Germans, Jews and internment. The next day the Germans arrived and arrested their neighbours and Elin could hear the family screaming. But her parents stood in the flat doing nothing and they had done nothing the day before, when they could have warned Saul and his parents. Elin decided then, to join the resistance, because one can always do something, if one chooses to do so.
Right then Hilde comes loose from the handcuffs and they pull in to Magnor, in Norway. Maja stands up and thinks they are getting off, but Elin says that they are going on to Skotterud, where she has friends, who will help them. Right then, men from Sipo, the security police, enter the train and one of them opens the door to their compartment. He wants to know where they are going. Elin shows him her papers and says that the girls are her sisters and minors, so they need no papers. He thinks it is very strange that they do not look alike, but Elin says that Hilde looks like their dad and she and Maja look like their mother. The Sipo tells Hilde, that she is a perfect specimen of an Aryan and that makes Maja nauseous. She rushes to the loo. But as she closes the door to it, the roof caves in. And Harald stands in front of her.
He shows Maja how he hid himself in a space between the inside ceiling and the roof of the train. A trap door led up to it and it is frankly beyond me, how the other men did not see it? Anyway, he has not got off the train, since there has only been open fields and no trees, but he is getting off in the same place as Elin and the girls, and he tells Maja to tell Elin that they will meet at the Gammeltofts. Then he ushers her out the door, even though she really needed to go. As she gets back and the train arrives in Skotterud, she tells Elin that she has met Harald and the message he sent her.
They are watched by the Gestapo-man, as the author now calls him, and Elin walks up to a heavy-set woman with a small boy. She hugs the surprised woman and whispers something in the woman’s ear, which makes the woman hug Elin back. Maja catches on and tells Hilde to bend down and talk to the boy, so that it looks like they know each other. Right then there are screams and the border police and Germans start shooting, after a running man. Maja is terrified that Harald is getting killed in front of their eyes. She and Elin, run up to see if it was Harald. But it was not. The woman whom Elin hugged, tells them that they must hurry to the Gammeltofts, since the man, was someone who used to help them. The girls walk off with Elin and she tells them that no, she did not know the heavy-set woman, but she saw a pin with the Norwegian flag, pinned on the woman’s chest and this means that she supports the resistance. Elin had whispered to her that she felt threatened by the border police and it was pure luck that the woman hugged her back.
After a while, they hear cows and up a hill they see a bunch of lodges. This woman called Turid Gammeltoft is outside, making goat cheese and inside the biggest lodge, they find Harald together with Turid’s husband Eskil, and two other men. A lumberjack named Atli, will take them over the border at once, but Swedish resistance needs to meet them on the other side, since Harald hurt his foot, when he jumped off the train. Eskil gets a telegraph out from a hiding spot and Elin contacts the Swedish side, after which they are off. But when they are outside, they hear motors approaching. They hurry as much as they can, down the hill towards Atli’s horse and wagon and off they go towards the Swedish border. Elin wants to know what happened in Furudal. Harald tells her that he was not paying attention too well and trusted people he should not have. “These men arrived to observe how we train our men. They told me that Sipo was going to do razzias along the border and that I could be useful, helping to warn refugees, trying to cross the border. They knew everything about me and my work.” Too late he understood who they were. Maja asks him what happened at the Bear Cottage and he tells her that he managed to escape for a while, but that the Danger shot at him. He missed though and hit his own colleague instead.
At this point they arrive to the end of the road and Atli and his horse Sampe can not take them further. But he tells them that his colleague will help them. He is further in to the forest, chopping down trees. It has by now started to rain and thunder and the noise is added on to by the sound of motorcycles getting closer and closer. They walk on till they hear an axe and Elin walks up to the man using it, asking him if he is Morsken. He asks who is asking and she answers the Black Rose. With admiration in his eyes, he promises to take such a famous lady across the border, as well as the others, but they have to go another way than the usual, since the forest is full of refugees and collaborators. The chief of police and his men, have just walked by him, saying they are out hunting, even though they have no guns with them.
They walk on small little paths only visible to Morsken and then suddenly they hear voices, just when Morsken has pointed out a hunting tower and saying that the Swedish border is just behind that structure. He tells them to hide and then he walks up to the men, who are the chief of police standing arguing with his men. The chief of police is suspicious and asks what Morsken is doing there, when he just told them that he was supposed to be out chopping down trees and that in a totally different place. Morsken says that he thought he heard a cry for help, but that it must have been them arguing. The police man draws a pistol from his belt but Morsken gets him to put it away and stop accusing him of smuggling refugees across the border. He starts walking with the men right towards where the group is hiding, but walks by them talking about finding the perfect tree for the chief of police’s wife’s new table. The group has to try to find their own way to safety. They walk on, till they finally run in to the three men Elin telegraphed to come and meet them, on the Swedish side. They get a lift in a lorry back to the camp in Furudal.
Ben runs to embrace his father and then he gives Hilde and Maja a group hug, disappointing Maja of course, who would have liked to have been hugged first and receiving a personal hug. Then Sven comes out of the shadows and Elin asks “David, what are you doing here?”. Maja is confused. That is Sven Lauritsen, why is Elin calling him David? Elin looks at them and tells them that they perfectly well know who David is, them having saved his sister Sara and her children. The vanished David. Now I get as confused as Maja, because the author says earlier in the book, that Sven and Ben were old friends. Then he would have known him as David!
It gets even more incredible. When the youths rescued Sara Eisenman, she told the youths that her brother David disappeared two days before all Jews were arrested. She also said that David was 13 years old. Just the same age as Maja, Hilde and Ben. Now David is suddenly two years older than them, otherwise he would have been WAY too young to be in the police army in Furudal. Not fitting in to the storyline in other words. Maja asks him how he could get in when he is not 18, the youngest they accept, and he tells them his story. Which doesn’t fit with the previous book’s. The Germans came to his school, to arrest all Jewish boys and since he knew what that meant, he took his bicycle and biked out in to the country and hid in a barn. The farmer discovered him but he did not like the Germans, so he hid him for a while, till they heard that women and children had been taken to Auschwitz and had been gassed to death. Then David thought his entire family was dead and the farmer knew a resistance man, who helped David get over to Sweden. Since he did not know what Swedes thought of Jews, he stole a dead neighbour’s name and social number. (How on earth did he know that number? I have no idea what my neighbours numbers are, I don’t even know all my children’s by heart. It is the birth year, month and day, but then we all have four numbers unique to our person.) When he tried to enlist in the Swedish army, the people there asked him if he wanted to fight for a free Norway and he said yes, so they sent him to Furudal.
Hilde has to stay with her mum, at the farm with Reidun and her family, as punishment for having taken off without permission. But all the others returned to Gullfors, including David, who got fired from the police army, since he was too young to be part of them. Once again Maja fools her parents and tell them a lie, that she ran in to Ben in Furudal and wanted to come home early, from her trip to Dalarna. Her mum thinks it sounds strange but… A week later, the day before Hilde is due home, Elin takes David, Ben and Maja to Karlstad, so that David can be re-united with his sister. They walk in to the house and up the stairs and ring the door bell, but Ben pretends he lost something at the entrance door of the house, and asks Maja to go help him search for it. When she gets down there, he pulls her in under the stairs and says “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time” and kisses her. Finally. Both Maja and I as a reader, has waited for this and have wondered, since Hilde is the beauty. Nice to find out that not all good-looking boys/men are vain and want a matching beauty for their own looks.
As usual the author ends the book with some background information. This time about how dangerous it was to cross the border but also about the police army having existed. They were never needed during the liberation, but became the police force after the Germans had left Norway in 1945. 13 000 young refugee Norwegians were trained, just like Sven/David and it was all secret, since Sweden was supposedly neutral.
How would I rate this book? Not as good as the two previous ones. Not at all. Sorry, but the plot line was way too weak and not at all believable. It was not as exciting since the majority of the book took place in Sweden, where the youths were not really in any danger. It never gets you worked up.
One of the worse things about this book, is the fact that the author seems to suffer from dementia, since she has forgotten what she has said in her previous books, about the characters that appear in this book. I do not like to be treated like a less intelligent person! One of these big mistakes are the fact that Benjamin tells the girls in the first book, that his dad had a music shop in Oslo. A very believable fact, since most Jews, in Scandinavia at least, have been shopkeepers, physicians and lawyers in the past. I am sorry but it is not believable at all, that a Norwegian Jew would be a police officer in 1939! And police officers did not own music shops! So a great mistake made there. Another thing is how quickly Maja thinks up solutions in previous books and suddenly in this book, she is the wet noodle and doesn’t know what to do, while Hilde is the one who is the quick problem solver.
If one wants to be picky, one could ask, how does Sven find out the train times in the middle of the night at the camp? No telephone available. Not trusting anyone, so he could not wake anyone up to ask them if they knew. And how many people know when freight trains leave a train station, in a foreign country, all the people at the camp being Norwegian refugees. In other words, it was impossible for the girls to catch that train, unless they just camped out at the station, till one arrived.
Another impossible thing was David. Being 13 years old in December 1943 and 16 in July 1944. Wow! And if Ben had been such an old friend of his, like David said he was, why did not Ben know that Sven was the David, they were all searching for? And why did he not know Sara Eisenman, when they met in book two? After all, David did live with her, so Ben would have known his friend’s family. And even more ridiculous was this thing about the social security number he stole from a neighbour. As I explained above, social security numbers are so personal that it is not something you know. I know mine, my husband’s, because I have had to make phone calls on his behalf, him not being a native Swedish speaker, and my oldest son’s, because I learned that one, before I started to have more children. I know my youngest son’s, since he has spent so much time at the hospital, which means having to say it over and over to personnel there. And I have learned “Cookie’s” lately, because I make all library reservations in her name, in order to avoid fees for books. So, in a family of nine, I know five social security numbers. Most people only know their own.
But the MOST horrible mistake that the author did, is not knowing a thing about Jews and still writing about them. ( I want to clarify that I am not Jewish, BUT I have studied the Jewish people and Judaism for years on end!) She is teaching youths the wrong things. In book one and two she serves them pig meat! Which a Jew will not go within ten miles of. Whether they are orthodox or just being a member of the Jewish people. In this book, she really does it, as one says. And this time I just want to scream. Why? Norwegian Jews did NOT SPEAK YIDDISH! The only Jews speaking yiddish, are eastern European Jews. Yes, Eastern European Jews did move to Scandinavia in the early part of the century. But they assimilated, because there was no room for orthodox Jews in our society. And by the 1930s, most Jews had married Christians and were more or less secularised. Even the ones who stuck to marrying like-minded Jews, were secularised enough, to not use yiddish. That language would have died out with the first immigrant generation. And did so.
If we take a close look at the Rosenbaum’s in this book, we can draw the following conclusions: Harald Rosenbaum is not a Polish immigrant, nor is he an immigrant at all. He has a Norwegian first name. Nor is he likely to have close ancestors from Eastern Europe. I am guessing that they are German. In Germany, Jews were forced to take on a surname, like all Germans had. Jews often not having surnames during mediaeval times and before. Jews had to buy their surnames and if you were poor, you would get a horrible name like Schwarzkopf (black head) but if you were rich, you could buy a nice name like Gold, Silber (silver), Silberstein (silver stone). Rosenbaum means Rose tree, so Harald does not stem from paupers, from Eastern European shtetls. He is more likely to stem from the German business class.
Harald has also alienated himself from the Judaic faith, enough so to marry a Gentile. Greta is Swedish and not one bit Jewish. Since she was never in any danger in Norway, it means that she has not converted. Technically, according to the Jewish faith, Benjamin is not even Jewish, since he has a Gentile mother. Membership of the Jewish people, is inherited via the mother. But of course the Nazis had other ideas about that. But this is very telling. Harald is not religious or he would not have married Greta. He would not have been so rude as to speak a language she doesn’t understand, at home. Had he even known Yiddish. If he was going to teach his son anything about his Jewish background, it would be some words in Hebrew, enough for Ben to pass his Bar Mitzvah.
When I trained as a journalist, I was taught, that if a writer/author is going to succeed at all, he or she must write about what she knows. Camilla Lagerqvist obviously do not know a thing about Jews, but is just grabbing at things, which she knows nothing about, and THAT is embarrassing. You can’t just make up things like the above, just because you need it to fit the story. By making Swedish youths think that all Jews speak Yiddish, you teach them that Jews do not fit in and did not fit in. That they are their own little entity, in the population. And that is exactly what the Nazis made people think. That is what anti-Semitism has taught for centuries, that they are not one of us. While the three books have been exciting, albeit book three much less so than the others, I can not accept this, I think unintentional anti-Semitism. She needs to be more careful in the future, if she is going to include Jews in her stories. It is a very touchy subject in today’s society, especially with all the neo-Nazi groups gaining votes and power in all European countries and the prevailing anti-Israel feelings as well. Things need to be correctly described, even if it means that you can’t make deadline.