click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Tzav
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Dunkirk: We Are Still Fighting on the Beaches
Moral of the Story

Dunkirk: We Are Still Fighting on the Beaches

77 Years on, the message of Dunkirk still resonates today.


May 1940. The Nazis were steamrolling through Europe. They had already swallowed up Poland and Czechoslovakia before invading Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands. The Nazis had the Allies on the run. They were massively outgunned and now pinned down in Dunkirk, France. The Allies could not move forward, and the British Navy was all but crippled by the German Luftwaffe (air force). 400,000 British troops were stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk. They were sitting ducks and the Germans took advantage of it.

There can be no peace with evil

Not only did German planes go on bombing raids over the soldiers lying on the beaches waiting to be rescued and destroy the rescue ships, but they dialed up their propaganda campaign, dropping leaflets in which they told British troops that they were surrounded and had no hope and should surrender. The war was both physical and psychological. Indeed, some Allied nations did surrender to the Nazi menace. But not Great Britain. Led by their indefatigable wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, they recognized that you can’t negotiate with evil. The only thing you can do is try to defeat it. This is the historical backdrop behind Christopher Nolan’s new summer film Dunkirk.

The movie itself has been praised for its accurate portrayal of the war, using actual planes and boats used in the battle in scenes that contain little dialogue, but instead allow viewers to experience the war through the perspectives of those fighting it in air, land and sea. The story highlights the heroism of ordinary Britons who chartered their private boats across the English Channel to aid in the evacuation of the British troops from Dunkirk. While it wasn’t a military victory, it was a certainly a moral victory for the British and gave them the resolve to continue to fight the long war that awaited them.

Some 77 years after the Battle of Dunkirk, why has this film resonated so deeply? Germany certainly no longer threatens its neighbors; on the contrary, at times it is called upon to prop them up as the anchor of the European Union. Instead, perhaps it is because today the world faces a new threat as ideologically menacing as Nazism once was: Islamic Fascism.

While they don’t have the same weapons of war at their disposal as the Nazis had, since September 11th, 2001, Islamic fundamentalists have launched a reign of terror around the world and their objective is no different than that of Hitler’s: a new world order. There are some nations that think that we should negotiate with these terrorists. Give them what they want. We are occupiers in their lands anyway. It’s a tempting narrative, just ask Neville Chamberlain.

But there are others who see things more clearly. They know that whether it is Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas, or Hezbollah, there is only one option and that is to fight.

Those who recognize this can still gain resolve from Churchill’s famous speech after the Battle of Dunkirk:

“We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be.

“… we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

So too with our homeland, our beloved Israel. With each passing terror attack, the terrorists hope that they will demoralize us. And indeed there are those who seek to blame the Jews. We are the colonialists. We are the interlopers. We have no history in this Land. Just give them what they want. Make “peace.” But alas, as the lessons of history have shown us, there can be no peace with evil. To quote Churchill, there can only be “Victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be.”

If Sir Winston were alive today, perhaps he would update his famous words to the following:

“We shall defend our Land of Israel, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches of the Mediterranean, we shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields of the Galilee and in the streets of Jerusalem, we shall fight in the hills of Judea, we shall never surrender.

July 29, 2017

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 11

(7) Herbert Abrams, August 3, 2017 9:02 PM

Correction to Michael Silver's comment

I would like to point out to Michael Silver, regarding his comment on the Film "Dunkirk". One reason the word Nazi is not mentioned in the film because this was a World one War in 1918 while the Nazi party was nor led to leadership until Hitler in 1933..

chava, August 4, 2017 9:41 AM

Dunkirk was in 1940, WWII

I'm pretty sure this happened in 1940, under Churchill, and the fight was against the nazis.

(6) Kenneth H Ryesky, August 3, 2017 5:44 PM

British were not supportive of Jews

The British do not have clean hands as far as their friendship towards Israel goes. Can you say "White Paper?"

(5) Tova Saul, August 3, 2017 3:08 PM

Such an interesting and informative article

Thank you.

(4) Bernard, July 31, 2017 8:01 PM

History Without the History

Do we really need to be reminded of the heroism of soldiers in battle? We are reminded of that every day by the sacrifice and performance of our brave soldiers in the U.S. armed forces and Israel's IDF. WWII was clearly a war of good vs. evil. Dunkirk is a great story but to not identify the enemy in this film, for whatever reason, was a mistake by the director.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment