Cultural Watch

Dunkirk True Story: What Happened to WWII Troops Left Behind |

(TIME.COM) July 26, 2017 — The 1940 evacuation at Dunkirk — the subject of Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed new film — remains one of World War II’s most striking episodes. However, for many troops, Dunkirk was only the beginning. The following is an excerpt from TIME-LIFE’s new special edition, World War II: Dunkirk, available on Amazon.

After the last rescue boats left Dunkirk harbor on June 4, 1940, the Germans captured some 40,000 French troops who’d been left behind as well as at least 40,000 British soldiers in the Dunkirk vicinity. Theirs is a story that is often overlooked, but for the next five years, until the war’s end, large numbers of these POWs would be mistreated and abused in violation of Geneva Convention rules governing the sick, wounded, prisoners of war and civilians. As described in Dunkirk: The Men They Left Behind, by Sean Longden, some were summarily executed. The POWs were denied food and medical treatment. The wounded were jeered at. To lower officer morale, the Nazis told British officers that they would lose their rank and be sent to the salt mines to work. They were forced to drink ditch water and eat putrid food. As noted by Longden: “These dreadful days were never forgotten by those who endured them. They had fought the battles to ensure the successful evacuation of over 300,000 fellow soldiers. Their sacrifice had brought the salvation of the British nation. Yet they had been forgotten while those who escaped and made their way back home were hailed as heroes.”

Source: Dunkirk True Story: What Happened to WWII Troops Left Behind |