The British, during their Golden period had a policy: They never trusted a man who had betrayed his country even if the British had themselves coaxed him into committing the act. Since time immemorial humans have had the tendency to betray. Had it not been for betrayal then certain events in history would never have happened. Various mythologies and epics have long described the act of treachery by one or a group that resulted in the devastation of an empire or the death of a hero. The problem is— it is difficult to determine the exact meaning of treachery. We, at Topyaps, took great pains in bringing to you a list of the traitors whose acts were against their motherland, people and/or friends. We have not included the names of those who were held guilty of treason by the state (government) because an uprising against the government is revolution and not treason. Thus people like Guy Fawkes have been excluded along with religious and mythological characters.
We believe our readers must have seen, or at least heard of, the Hollywood movie 300. It tells the historical story of a band of 300 brave Spartans who unsuccessfully defended their kingdom from the much larger forces of the Persian king Xerxes. This movie, and the one made much earlier, well documents the ‘Battle of Thermopylae’ in 480 BC described by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. He writes that the battle was going in the favour of the Spartans due to the tactics used by the Spartan king Leonidas but all was lost due to the betrayal of Ephialtes, a Spartan. Thermopylae was an impassable terrain and Ephialtes showed the Persian forces a path around the Spartan position which led to the massacre of all the Spartans including Leonidas.
The two were German operatives during the Great War who betrayed their own men to the Americans in 1942. Nazi forces had trained a few men to carry out a sabotage mission codenamed ‘Operation Pastorius’. Eight English speaking Germans were sent to damage key economic establishments in the USA. However, Dash decided to back out and went straight to the FBI where he dumped his mission’s entire budget of $84,000 on the desk of Assistant Director D.M. Ladd. He gave away the names and details of his other accomplices which led to the arrest of all of them. It is believed that Burger, too, was involved in the betrayal. Those arrested included Herbert Haupt, Edward John Kerling, Richard Quirin, Heinrich Harm Heinck, Hermann Otto Neubauer, and Werner Thiel.
The American Revolution was a landmark event in the world history. Why shouldn’t it be? After all it gave birth to the USA we know. The American revolutionaries fought against Britain and won. The patriots were glorified but glory far eluded the most recognizable traitor of the revolution – Benedict Arnold. Arnold was an American general who served the cause of the revolution until he decided to join the British. Born in Connecticut in January 1741, he came from a troubled family background and rose to become a prominent figure in the military. He was hailed as a hero until he plotted to turn over the American fort at West Point, New York, to British forces. The plot was blown and he fled to Britain. However, the British did not treat him well as they suspected the man who would readily betray his own country. In 1801, he died a poor man in Canada.
The Deputy Commander of Scotland Yard during the end of the World War II, Reginald Spooner, described him as ‘The Worst Traitor of the War’ and not without reason. Cole (24 January 1906 – 8 January 1946), was a British soldier who betrayed at least 150 people of the French resistance by divulging the details of escape lines, which he himself had helped forming, to the Gestapo (Nazi elite intelligence). He also squeaked about the movements of leading resistance figures including Ian Garrow and Albert Guerisse. When the war ended both the British and the French forces were out hunting him. He was finally shot dead by the French police on January 8th, 1946.
The Mongols under Genghis Khan ravaged all the lands between the steppes of Mongolia and the cities of Hungary. They forged the largest empire by area in all of history. But this feat couldn’t have been achieved had the Mongols were defeated by their first major enemy – the Jin dynasty of China. Alas, that was not to be. Various historical details point out the betrayal by two Jin individuals that dealt a fatal blow to the whole dynasty itself. Ming-Tan was a messenger of the Jin commander who defected and told Genghis about the position of the Jin troops. The battle of Fox Hill as it is known was fought in 1211 in which the Mongols massacred the Jin army near the Badger pass. The role of Chenyu Liu is not very clear but various sources describe him as the Jin commander who defected with a whole army unit to join forces with the Mongols that led the latter complete the conquest of China.
The word ‘Quisling’ meaning ‘traitor’ came from this man’s surname. Perhaps his is the most infamous family name in recorded history. Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Jonssøn Quisling (July 18, 1887– October 24, 1945) was a Norwegian army officer and politician, who for a period served as Minister-President of Nazi occupied Norway. It was the Germans, and particularly Hitler, who gave him the position in return of the military information needed to occupy Norway. Quisling compromised the whole of Norwegian army and this led to the previous government officials to flee in order to live. After Germany surrendered, the people of Norway tried him for treason and the killing of 1000 Jews that led to his execution. Surprisingly, even the Nazis didn’t like him.
Redl is a case of suspected double crossing but he is known as one of the greatest traitors in documented history for causing the deaths of half-a-million of his countrymen. Alfred Redl (March 14, 1864 – May 25, 1913) was an Austrian officer who rose to head the counter-intelligence efforts of Austria-Hungary. He used innovative techniques to tarp foreign intelligence agents. Ironically, it was his own innovative techniques that led to his capture. Unbeknownst to the Austrian officials, Redl was Russia’s leading spy from 1903 to 1913. Before World War I he leaked out Austrian invasion plan for Serbia (Plan III) to the Russians. As a result, when the Austrians invaded Serbia, the Serbians were ready for it. He also supplied very incorrect estimations of Russian military strength to the Austrian military and exposed the names of Austrian agents in Russia. He shot himself dead when the Austrian police discovered his treachery.
Perhaps the name that immediately crosses one’s mind when we speak of traitors. What he did has been written, re-written and translated innumerable times by historians and authors including Shakespeare. He was a Roman politician who took part in the conspiracy to kill Julius Caesar. Caesar treated him as a trusted friend and it came as a shocking revelation to him when Brutus stabbed him. Thus came out the words, “Et tu Brute?” (You too Brutus).
Quisling may stand as a synonym for treachery. Redl may be regarded as one of the greatest traitors. But there is only one man in history whose condemnable act of betrayal forced a nation into a 190 year long slavery of the British. That man was Mir Jafar and that country is India. Jafar was a bakshi (head of army) of Siraj-ud-Daula, the loved Nawab of Bengal during the mid 18th century. Out of pure greed to usurp the throne of Bengal, Mir Jafar sided with the East India Company forces led by Robert Clive that led to the surrender and slaughter of the forces led by the Nawab. The decisive battle of Plassey in 1757, that laid the foundation of British rule in India, could have easily been won by the Nawab had it not been for Jafar. Out of hatred towards Mir Jafar, the Indians call him Gaddar-e-Abrar (The Traitor of Faith).
The greatest of all traitors that ever were, ever are and ever will be is no one but any man who is corrupt. Mark Twain once said, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosper, it will never bite you. This is the principle difference between a man and a dog.” How true he was! Indeed, it is man who betrays the hand that feeds him. Greed has made man worse than an animal. The world of today is full of people who are corrupt. They never back out from using unethical means to fulfill their personal, selfish desires. They are far too selfishly engrossed in their own world to sit back and think about the condition of the country. Every corrupt individual is thus a traitor to the motherland.