Over the weekend, we were reminded of Noor Inayat Khan’s incredible story as we again watched the film Enemy of the Reich. It stands as a beautiful and important historical movie among the plethora of WWII films. Because this one is about a British Muslim heroine of World War II renowned for her service in the Special Operations Executive – and her eventual death at the hands of the Nazis.
If you’re not familiar with Khan, then allow us to recount her incredible life:
Born in Moscow but raised in Britain and France, Khan was a descendant of Indian royalty. In 1942, she became a radio operator in Nazi-occupied Paris, working as part of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive (SOE). The SOE worked with the French resistance fighters to sabotage industry and railroads in preparation for the D-Day invasions, after which they would co-ordinate attacks on the German army behind enemy lines, tying down troops and diverting the Germans from the invading Allied troops. From Paris, Noor Inayat Khan secretly transmitted critical information back to Britain.
Her work was a vital part of the British intelligence efforts, but it carried great risk. Khan managed to evade capture by the Nazis until 1944, when she was imprisoned, tortured and eventually shot by the German Gestapo at Dachau concentration camp in 1944.
Her final word, uttered as the German firing squad raised their weapons, was simple: “Liberte”.
Watch the trailer for Enemy of the Reich here:
The filmmakers note that Khan’s childhood was rich with inclusion and openness to all people, even as nationalism and ethnic genocide was on the rise across Europe. Motivated by her faith, Noor’s world view was based on a respect for all faiths against Hitler’s ideology of ethnic and religious extermination.
For her bravery, she was posthumously awarded the George Cross. In France, she was honoured with the Croix de Guerre. A memorial to her was unveiled in London by The Princess Royal in 2012.
Khan has come to embody both the spirit and bravery of individuals contributing to the British war effort and the millions of Muslims that have fought for Britain in many wars over the last century, including in WWI and WWII.
Last year, we made our own film to salute Noor Inayat Khan. She gave her life to help Britain secure victory against the Nazis. She despised religious hatred and intolerance and paid the ultimate price for a future free from persecution. Her legend lives on. Her legacy prevails.
Image © Matt Brown