Who is the greatest traitor in history and why

Story of betrayal - Strictly public!

“The biggest rascal in the whole country, that is and remains the informer.” Hoffmann von Fallersleben made it clear with his famous quote what he thinks of people who deliver others to the knife. To this day, he is not alone with his anger: All the traitors, informers, renegades and collaborators who history and the present have to offer are viewed with disgust. And the traitor's child-like forerunner, the Sneak, never had a good standing before. Spy and agent are judged a little more benevolently, they exert at least a little fascination because of their supposedly exciting life with a lot of action and passion and shaken martini. Thanks to James Bond.

Only the whistleblower is in an extremely favorable light. Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, now Edward Snowden - they have all betrayed secrets, broken the law, violated loyalties and are nevertheless praised and celebrated by at least a majority of the audible world public for their deeds, even revered as heroes and saviors of democracy. The first very euphoric people have already called for Snowden to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Whistleblowers seem like the good guys among the traitors. But can there even be a “good betrayal”? When is treason forgivable and when is the traitor despicable?

We find betrayal in the earliest traditions. In Greek mythology, Prometheus reveals a secret to his half-brother Zeus, which leads to him replacing Kronos as supreme god. Prometheus later steals fire from the gods in an early form of corporate espionage and brings it to people.

The apostle Jude is considered to be the personification of betrayal. All four Gospels portray him as an unfaithful fellow who made the arrest of Jesus possible. So Jesus falls into the hands of the Romans and is crucified. The name Judas became a symbol of the greedy traitor, anti-Judasism and anti-Judaism converged in the course of history.

However, there is also a positive interpretation of the act of Judas Iscariot. This gives him a decisive role in the traditional image of Jesus. The Old Testament prophesies that the Messiah will be betrayed by a friend. Infidelity thus serves as one of the basic requirements for the Messiah to be accepted as Messiah at all. Judas goes to the dark side of power to make Jesus shine brighter. It can therefore be said that Judas first helped Jesus to his destiny with his deed. In that sense, there is something good about his betrayal.

World history is full of traitors and spies. Brutus delivers Caesar (from whom the beautiful sentence comes: “I love betrayal, but I hate the traitor”) to the knife. In addition to his penchant for beautiful women, Giacomo Casanova is said to have spied for the Republic of Venice. The farmer Franz Raffl betrays the Tyrolean freedom fighter Andreas Hofer to Napoleon's troops in 1810.

Experiencing a wedding denunciation, surveillance and collaboration in the 20th century. Probably the most famous spy, the beautiful dancer Mata Hari, was executed in 1917. The Dutchwoman is said to have worked as a double agent for Germany and France. Through his good contacts with the German embassy in Tokyo, the Soviet spy Richard Sorge learns of both the Germans' plans to attack the Soviet Union and the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and passes them on to Stalin. In 1951, the married couple Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were accused of nuclear espionage in the USA and sentenced to death. Because of the GDR spy Günter Guillaume, Willy Brandt had to resign in 1974.

The case of the men and women of the resistance in the “Third Reich” shows that betrayal is also a question of interpretation. They were defamed as disloyal and underhanded well into the 1950s. The assassins of July 20, 1944 were called "traitors clique". Today the view of Stauffenberg and his colleagues has changed. "Treason is a question of the date," said French Foreign Minister Talleyrand at the Congress of Vienna. But it is certainly also a question of historical judgment.

A betrayal almost always has a triadic structure, three elements are involved: a traitor, a betrayed and a beneficiary of the betrayal. Between the traitor and the betrayed there is some kind of bond of loyalty, the destruction of which is at the center of the act. An example of a classic betrayal: colleague A betrays colleague B to the boss. In doing so, he decides against horizontal loyalty to his employee of the same rank and in favor of vertical loyalty to his boss.

A triadic structure can also be seen in Edward Snowden. He was in a loyalty relationship to his (now former) employer Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii. He first disclosed the NSA internals, which he had stolen on four laptops, to the English newspaper “The Guardian”, and later to other media such as “Spiegel”. The beneficiaries of his betrayal of secrets are the emailing and surfing members of free Western societies, who now know that American and British intelligence can read along.

Traitors - as the examples show - are inevitably always people. This also includes legal entities such as associations and institutions. Not only people can be betrayed, but also beliefs, secrets and ideals. The possible beneficiaries of the betrayal are the most difficult to cast into a mold. Of course, people can also stand here, but also something as difficult to grasp as “the political public” or “the revolution”.

At the center of any betrayal is a secret. The Berlin cultural scientist Thomas Macho speaks of a difference between inside and outside: The idea of ​​betrayal is linked to the idea of ​​“having something 'inside' - a plan, a strategy, a secret intention - and translating this to the outside world can that the inside is covered ”. In other words: if you want to keep a secret, you have to have control over your facial features and your choice of words. If you don't succeed, you will give yourself away. Such an inner workings can be turned outward in various ways, for example through a voluntary confession or a confession provoked by torture. Whoever speaks expresses himself. The believer opens in confession. So it is not surprising that rulers and those in power liked to tap into priests as a source. Quite a few clergymen were miniature secret service employees for a long time.

The appearance of the whistleblower, who for a long time had a negative connotation, was often associated with an increasingly complex world. In structures that are almost invisible from the outside, corruption and cover-up can only be exposed from the inside. No outsider would have had a chance to prove the existence of such comprehensive control programs as Prism and Tempora. Most of them couldn't even imagine them on this scale.

The first famous whistleblower is Daniel Ellsberg, who made the "Pentagon Papers" public in 1971. These proved the deception of the Americans in the Vietnam War by the US government. But Ellsberg also has its predecessors. At the beginning of the century, the brave action of the British Edmund Dene Morel led to the end of the murder and torture in the Belgian Congo. As an employee of the Elder Dempster shipping company, Morel discovered that their ships almost exclusively brought weapons to the Congo Free State. He researched that “perhaps the most inhuman atrocities that the world had ever seen were committed in the state” (Philipp Blom). The locals were forced to labor to produce rubber, and around ten million died. Morel's indiscretions and his breach of loyalty ultimately brought the atrocities to an end. So the result is an objectively good one. In this respect, one can confidently speak of a good betrayal in this case.