Friday, 4 August 2017



The war movie Dunkirk is a kinetic mega feast, rooted in history. The rescuing of 338.226 Allied soldiers trapped between the victorious Third Reich forces and the French coast. A miracle. But director Christopher Nolan lacked the guts to acknowledge the chief miracle worker, whose terrible name is forever mud: Adolf Hitler.

Don’t believe the poor priest? Peruse, please, B.H. Liddell Hart’s classic History of the Second World War. On page 96 the renowned English military historian writes: ‘The escape of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940 was largely due to Hitler’s personal intervention. After his tanks had overrun the North of France and cut off the British Army from its base, Hitler held them up just as they were about to sweep into Dunkirk.’ Moral: Hitler, not Churchill, was the saviour of the British Army at Dunkirk. But why?

Visually, Dunkirk at first suggests the unbearable whiteness of being. Male being, actually, as females hardly figure. The sea of young men’s anxious faces massing on the beaches and boats includes no streaks of black or brown. Paleness rules OK because Britain then was almost another country. Also, the faces are inevitably too well-fed and contemporary. The bad teeth and scrawny features of pre-war England’s proletariat are nowhere in sight. That’s why pretty boys like One Direction’s smarmy pop star Harry Styles – he with the glossy mane - jar a bit. Merciful that, given the film’s sparse dialogue, often submerged by thunderous music, the viewer is spared Harry’s implausible acting. It is debutant lad Fionn Whitehead who steals the show. Along with Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden as the gutsy Spitfire pilots. Forget sexy young things like Emma Watson and Florence Pugh: this is definitely a lads' movie!

Dunkirk is about ‘the idea of home’, declared Nolan. I wonder whether the terrified and exhausted British boys who made it back home really looked forward to more years of bombs, blood and war or rather to a negotiated peace. Which was Adolf’s stated intention. After Dunkirk, the warlord Fuhrer made a peace offer to Churchill. Details of which are still concealed under the Official Secrets Act. Why have historians and the public been barred from seeing the documents? Who is afraid of Germany’s peace proposals, 76 years on? Naturally, Hitler’s record of aggressions and word-breaking made him less than trustworthy. Nonetheless, why are the related documents still secret? What do they show that necessitates such concealment?

The French have complained that this very British movie unfairly doctors them out of the action – apart from the English rhetorical flourish of Navy Commander Kenneth Branagh towards the end nobly avowing that he would not leave behind stranded French troops. (Shades of Brexit? Or Remain?) Actually, a few thousands were abandoned and that, as Liddell Hart admits, caused ‘sore feelings in France’. I advise you to look out for the old, excellent French film, Weekend at Dunkirk, starring stalwart actor Jean Paul Belmondo and actress Catherine Spaak. Based on an anti-war novel by Robert Merle. Belmondo as the virile protagonist stands head and shoulders above any of his stiff Anglo-Saxon counterparts. Vive la Patrie!

Maybe there were military, strategic reasons for halting the German attack on Dunkirk.  The job was ‘to be left to the Luftwaffe’ to finish off. Words of General Von Kleist reported by General Guderian. He wondered whether obese Luftwaffe Chief Goering swayed Hitler’s decision, exaggerating his Air Force capabilities. Yet, Liddell Hart asks whether there was ‘a political motive behind Hitler’s military reasons’. What could that have been? Absurdly simple: the Fuhrer was Britain’s greatest fan! General Blumentritt relates that Hitler, at the time of victory, astounded his audience by praising the British Empire, its worldwide role and its necessity. He affirmed his desire to make peace with Britain in any way compatible with her honour. Halting the onslaught on the retreating Brit force at Dunkirk was instrumental to that end. Had Allied soldiers been massacred or taken prisoners, British honour would have demanded that the slight be avenged. Letting them escape across the
Channel was to open the way to reconciliation.

Hitler’s perverse and ultimately self-harming Anglophilia is documented in Mein Kampf, his Table Talks and other texts. It was partly politics and partly  ideology but really about racial theory. The myth of the Aryan people. The Master Race. The woeful doctrine that led Adolf to annihilate millions of innocent Jews, seeking to enslave the Slavs and planning to settle the East with German colonists. Actually, the myth proved disastrous for Hitler. Aryan nations like the Dutch, the Danes and the Norwegians, instead of welcoming their fellow Ubermenschen scorned them, resisted and fought back Nazi occupation. Paradoxically, non-Aryans like the Japanese, Hungarians, Croats and Finns were better and more loyal partners. As for putatively Aryan countries like America and Britain…enough said.

Not just the French, the Nazis are also absent in Dunkirk. Pity. They are about the only bogeys left and a good action movie needs baddies. The Jean Paul Belmondo French version has an unforgettable, iconic scene. A German Messerschmitt warplane is shot down and the pilot parachutes himself unto the beach below, thick with the Allied troops he had been strafing. As he glides down, the soldiers raise their rifles and riddle him with bullets. Unchivalrous? Yes but…a la guerre comme a la guerre!

Still, one Nazi you can’t edit out of Dunkirk’s history, never mind how infuriating to the Brits that may be. It’s Dunkirk’s true saviour: the German Fuhrer.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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