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Review: War in the Arctic (2007)

Directed by: , | 100 minutes | , ,

“War in the Arctic” (original title “Krieg in der Arktis”) is a two-part documentary that the makers Ralf Daubitz and Jens Becker worked on for over two years. Daubitz and Becker have set themselves the goal of dealing with the hitherto relatively unexposed share of the Northern European countries Norway and Finland in the Second World War. They receive help from an impressive amount of historical material, both photos and recordings, but also written evidence, such as correspondence between Albert Speer (Hitler’s architect) and Josef Terboven. They also tracked down both German and Scandinavian eyewitnesses who were then given the floor at length – but not too much. Many of the footage comes from a German propaganda film entitled “Kampf um Norwegen” by Martin Rikli, which was deemed lost, but surfaced at an internet auction in 2005.

In the first part, “Storm in the North” (“Sturm im Norden”), we see how Hitler succeeds in 1940 to conquer Norway. Operation Weserübung is a fact. General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst was in charge of the field. It will start in Denmark, but that was hardly a challenge: the land fell within a day. Subsequently, the German army, led by Von Falkenhorst, focused on Norway. The small town of Narvik, one of the most northerly towns in the world, is taken as a starting point: this was an important strategic point because a lot of iron ore from Sweden was imported through this port. The Allies had also set their sights on Narvik, but the town fell into German hands, after which the invasion of other important strategic places like Trondheim followed.

In the second part, “Scorched Earth” (“Verbrannte Erde”), a striking number of female eyewitnesses report on their experiences. They are Finnish women, who caught the attention of German soldiers in the 1940s and often even married. As “Lottas”, the Finnish girls cared for the sick, provided food and clothing. The aim of the Germans is to conquer the Russian port city of Murmansk and the railway that connects the city with Leningrad. However, the German troops, led by General Dietl, remain stuck in the icy tundra and four months after the attack they had advanced only 15 miles. Also interesting is the story of Hans Robert Knöspel. Since the beginning of the war, Germany has no longer had access to weather forecasts in Europe. Without this important information, it was difficult to conduct certain military operations. Germany had therefore set its sights on managing its own weather station on Spitsbergen, and meteorologist Knöspel was appointed for that. He died there and was buried there, according to his express wish.

The recordings of contemporary Norway and Finland in combination with the unique archive footage and the engaging interviews makes “War in the Arctic” worthwhile. The documentary is very accessible, which is not to say that it is superficial, and never dull or monotonous. Definitely recommended for people interested in history and the Second World War.

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