The Nazi Atrocity “Dunkirk” Overlooked

Aug. 14 2017

While praising the film Dunkirk’s depiction of the heroic British retreat from the French coast during the first year of World War II, Michael Coren argues that it should have included an important but oft-forgotten episode:

The general view is that while Nazism was, of course, inherently evil, it took time for its repugnance to become obviously manifest. It’s assumed that it wasn’t until the [systematic slaughter of the Jews began in the summer of 1941] that the authentic nature of National Socialism was revealed, and that on the battlefield it was the eastern front and the war against the Soviets that exposed the genocidal nature of Adolf Hitler’s creed. Not so. . . .

On May 28, 1940, in Wormhoudt, France, a brigade of the 48th South Midland Infantry Division successfully delayed a German advance until they had run out of ammunition. Many of them [were captured and] moved at gunpoint toward a barn. They were immediately shocked at the casual violence of their captors: unarmed soldiers were beaten and wounded men were simply shot dead. . . .

Around 100 exhausted, hungry and defenseless men were marched into a barn, thinking that perhaps they were there to rest and be fed. . . . The Germans then threw in a number of grenades.

Two sergeants, Stanley Moore and Augustus Jennings, gave their lives by throwing themselves on the grenades so as to save some of their men. At this point, the SS marched the rest of the prisoners out of the barn in fives and shot them. Concerned that the massacre was taking too long and providing the British with time to try to escape, the Germans then simply machine-gunned everybody in the barn. . . .

Do see Dunkirk. . . . But remember why that heroism and sacrifice were necessary and what those men were fighting for. The tragedy is that struggle never completely disappears.

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More about: Film, History & Ideas, Nazism, World War II

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey