In the Film 'Narvik' We Witness Hitler's First Defeat in World War II — Is It a True Story?

Netflix's film tells a lesser known Wold War II tale about an embattled town in neutral Norway where Hitler was first defeated. Is it a true story?

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Jan. 24 2023, Published 6:45 p.m. ET

Clement Attlee was a British politician who led the Labour Party for 20 years, six of which were occupied by World War II. The British were on hand during a critical battle in Norway, which had declared itself neutral. About this, Clement said: "In a life and death struggle, we cannot afford to leave our destinies in the hands of failures."

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Like war, the Netflix movie Narvik begins with violence and barely lets up until the end. It centers around a couple separated by a battle that would eventually end in Adolf Hitler's first defeat.

Filmmakers have gone to the World War II well numerous times, and yet this examination of a crushing blow to Hitler's plan has barely been explored. Is Narvik a true story? Here's what we know.

Carl Martin Eggesbø
Source: Netflix

Carl Martin Eggesbø in 'Narvik'

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Is 'Narvik' a true story? It certainly feels real.

In Narvik, a Norwegian soldier (Carl Martin Eggesbø) leaves his family to fight the German army which is occupying Norway while his wife (Kristine Hartgen) gets roped into translating for German Nazi soldiers because she speaks German, Norwegian, and English.

While that part of this movie is fictionalized, the actual battle that took place in Narvik the town is not.

According to Warfare History Network, Germany's interest in Narvik was its location between Sweden and Germany. The German army was looking to procure iron ore mined in Sweden and the easiest way to get it from Sweden to Germany was through Norway. Britain quickly realized that if it could stop Germany from obtaining the iron ore shipment, it would cause a significant dent in their war efforts. So, "early in 1940 both sides started to pressure Norway’s strict neutrality," per the outlet.

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By April 1940 both Britain and Germany understood that the best way to get what they wanted was to invade Norway, and specifically Narvik. The mistake that both these countries made was in believing the citizens of Narvik would continue to remain neutral while battles raged on around them. Initially the German army was able to breach the city on land which forced a surrender from Narvik, but that would not last.

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The British Royal Navy has always been a force to be reckoned with and they quickly took down several German ships as well as "most of the shipping in Narvik harbor," per the outlet. The railway that ran through Narvik aided in a victory for the small town. "The Norwegians blew a key bridge and were able to hold out at Bjornfell, the border post to Sweden, until April 16 when they were driven across the border and interned," the outlet further explains.

This is depicted in the film in a rather spectacular scene, and was just the beginning

Ultimately, three battles were fought in Narvik involving Norway, Germany, Britain, Poland, and France over the course of two months. They were fought on land and sea, with the design of the German ships being the root of many problems. Another hiccup was the weather. The Allied troops were not prepared to fight in the cold and snow whereas the Norwegians were equipped to do so. German troops retreated but were later able to gather themselves for future battles. Regardless, it was still Hitler's first loss.

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