I have recently seen three movies about WWII each from a different European country, Norway, Holland and Poland. Each of these tells a story about WWII that was hitherto not well-known and that in a way glorifies the role of these countries in the War.
The movie from Norway is entitled “The Twelth Man” and tells the true story of Jan Baalsrud who together with a group of 11 other British-trained Norwegian commandos attempts to infiltrate into occupied Norway to carry out sabotage against the Germans. Things go wrong from the start, their contact does not arrive and they are betrayed to the Germans, who ambush their boat. In order to prevent the Germans capturing their supplies they blow up the boat, and the rest are captured, but only Baalsrud escapes and although wounded in the leg manages to swim in freezing cold water across the fjord. He is found by a local couple who hide him and treat his wound and pass him on to the resistance, who arrange a series of contacts for him to cross the width of Norway to reach neutral Sweden. His men are tortured and executed by the Germans. But, the leading Nazi Gestapo officer in charge eventually realizes one has escaped, and the rest of the movie consists of the race between Baalsrud to reach Sweden and the SS officer’s attempt to prevent him. This becomes a national cause and many risk their lives to ensure that Baalsrud reaches Sweden. This is seen as a blow to the prestige and credibility of the German forces.
The movie from Holland is “The Resistance Banker.” and also tells a true story of Wally van Hall and his brother Gijsberg, who were both bankers, and in 1942 in German-occupied Amsterdam were asked to help find funds to support the resistance. They realize that the problem is greater than just funds and they initiate an underground banking system that parallels that of the official bank. Under the noses of the Germans and their Dutch collaborators, they pull off an amazing subterfuge, whereby they not only start a secret banking system, but keep accurate notes of all money transfers, fake the printing of millions of guilders of shares, support the railway men in their extended strike against the Germans and provide funds for the resistance to buy weapons. The Gestapo are of course after them and eventually through capturing some individuals they find out who is the mysterious individual who is somehow funding the resistance against them. This is an excellent movie, with real life suffering, suspense and heroes.
The story of the Polish pilots who flew for the RAF during WWII is told in the movie “Hurricanes,” being the name of the British fighter plane the pilots flew in their attacks on the invading Luftwaffe. At first, the British are perhaps understandably suspicious of these Polish pilots, who arrived from Europe after the Fall of Poland and France. It takes several stages of development before they realize that it is not merely bravado when they say they don’t need to be “trained” by the British. The Poles are in fact more experienced than the British pilots. Over time, the Poles amassed the highest score of German planes downed in the Battle of Britain by any squadron in the RAF. A majority of the Polish pilots who flew in the RAF were killed while fighting, and they helped thwart the invasion of Britain that Hitler had carefully planned. Their role was undervalued and under-appreciated. Unfortunately, many of the survivors were returned to Poland after the War in an agreement with Stalin, where most of them were imprisoned and murdered.