Narvik is a movie released on Netflix in 2023. Directed by the Norwegian Erik Skjoldbjærg, the film represents the last installment of a long series of visions that open a more detailed knowledge about the milestones of World War II after successful releases like Dunkirk or Darkest Hour. The merit of this kind of movies is that they trigger a renewed interest in people about how WW2 evolved, discovering the true story of those years. This article will explain the truth behind the Narvik battle (defined by the movie as “Hitler’s first defeat”) and what happened in Norway during World War II.
You can watch the official trailer for Narvik here on Youtube.
Narvik: the true story of the WW2 battle & Norway position during the war
The events described in the Netflix movie Narvik are based on the true story of how World War II involved Norway. As the film explains, Norway did its best to maintain neutrality during the first months of the war, trying to reach a sort of agreement with Germany and Britain aimed to avoid acts of sabotage in commercial relationships. And Narvik was a strategic location for the transportation of iron ore, needed by German industry.
At the end of 1939, Great Britain and France were already sending aid to Finland, aiming to affect the iron ore provisioning to Germany. Winston Churchill, as a member of the British War Cabinet, had a specific plan (Operation Wilfred) to mine Norwegian waters to control ore transports and damage Germany’s iron acquisition. However, that plan found many resistances, and Germany acted before it took place: the Norwegian campaign of the Nazi expansion began in April 1940 with Operation Weserübung, with the explicit goal of controlling Norway and Denmark, preventing Britain and France from doing it.
Narvik was indeed one of the first strategic goals. And as the movie shows, the Norwegian military didn’t resist, allowing German troops to control the city on April 9, 1940, trying to make the invasion as peaceful as possible. However, Narvik rapidly became a symbol of the uncontrolled Nazi expansion, and the Allies quickly organized an organized response, intending to recapture the city.
The Battle of Narvik started already the day after, with the first attacks from the British Navy. The battle continued later on land, where French and Polish troops also did their part. The fight between the Allies (Britain, France, and Poland) and Germany in Narvik lasted until the end of May 1940, and it was actually a defeat for Nazi Germany, with heavy losses especially for their Navy. That’s why the movie defines it as Hitler’s first defeat.
Nevertheless, in June 1940, the main epicenter of World War 2 became France, which was attacked by Italy and Germany. Very quickly, the control of Narvik by Britain and France became much less critical strategically. The Allies evacuated from Narvik between 4 and 8 June without even informing the Norwegian government in advance. With the Allies out of the city, Germany retook Narvik on June 8, and the last Norwegian forces surrendered two days later.
The Battle of Narvik is a true symbolic story of how complex the dynamics of World War II were: each country had to find a compromise between the moral and political values that were supposed to guide their actions and the practical limitations of their means, which ultimately let them find the best solution for their own interest.
You can find the detailed story of the battle of Narvik on Wikipedia.