10. The Narrative That Hitler Had Deliberately Allowed the British to Escape From the Beaches of Dunkirk
The Battle of France in 1940 was a debacle for the Western Powers. In just six weeks, the Germans did what they had been unable to do in four years during World War I, routed the British and French armies, and forced France to surrender. By late May, the Germans had pushed the British army into an ever shrinking pocket surrounding the port of Dunkirk, and seemed about to annihilate them. Then seemingly inexplicably, with a decisive victory over the British in his grasp, Hitler ordered his panzers to halt, and left the task of reducing the surrounded forces to the Luftwaffe.
In late May, 1940, Hitler ordered his panzer formations, some of them just a few miles from the disorganized British milling about the beaches of Dunkirk, to halt for 48 hours in order to rest and refit. German generals loudly protested, but to no avail. The British took advantage of the breather, and organized a defense that eventually allowed them to evacuate about 338,000 Allied soldiers to safety. That seemingly miraculous reprieve led to a myth that Hitler, as a good will gesture to the British whom he admired, had deliberately allowed them to escape.