World War I
First Battle of the Argonne
First Battle of the Argonne (1915)
Masivul Lesului and Oituz Campaigns (1916–1917)
Battle of Caporetto
Battle of Caporetto (1917)
World War II
Invasion of Poland
Fall of France
North African Campaign
Operation Sonnenblume (1941)
Siege of Tobruk
Siege of Tobruk (1941)
Operation Brevity (1941)
Operation Battleaxe (1941)
Operation Crusader (1941)
Battle of Gazala
Battle of Gazala (1942)
Battle of Bir Hakeim
Battle of Bir Hakeim (1942)
First Battle of El Alamein
First Battle of El Alamein (1942)
Battle of Alam Halfa
Battle of Alam Halfa (1942)
Second Battle of El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein (1942)
Battle of El Agheila
Battle of El Agheila (1942)
Battle of the Kasserine Pass
Battle of the Kasserine Pass (1943)
Battle of Medenine
Battle of Medenine (1943)
Iron Cross, First Class
Pour le Mérite
Knight's Cross of the
Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
Lucia Maria Mollin (m. 1916)
Manfred Rommel (1928–2013), son
Gertrud Stemmer (1913–2000), daughter
Rommel (15 November 1891 – 14 October 1944) was a German
general and military theorist. Popularly known as the Desert Fox, he
served as field marshal in the
Nazi Germany during World
Rommel was a highly decorated officer in
World War I
World War I and was awarded
Pour le Mérite
Pour le Mérite for his actions on the Italian Front. In 1937 he
published his classic book on military tactics, Infantry Attacks,
drawing on his experiences from World War I. In World War II, he
distinguished himself as the commander of the 7th Panzer Division
during the 1940 invasion of France. His leadership of German and
Italian forces in the
North African Campaign
North African Campaign established his
reputation as one of the most able tank commanders of the war, and
earned him the nickname der Wüstenfuchs, "the Desert Fox". Among his
British adversaries he earned a strong reputation for chivalry, and
the North African campaign has often been called a "war without
hate". He later commanded the German forces opposing the Allied
cross-channel invasion of
Normandy in June 1944.
Rommel supported the
Nazi seizure of power
Nazi seizure of power and Adolf Hitler, although
his reluctant stance towards antisemitism,
Nazi ideology and level of
The Holocaust remain a matter of debate among
scholars. In 1944,
Rommel was implicated in the 20 July
plot to assassinate Hitler. Due to Rommel's status as a national hero,
Hitler desired to eliminate him quietly instead of immediately
executing him, as many other plotters were.
Rommel was given a choice
between committing suicide, in return for assurances that his
reputation would remain intact and that his family would not be
persecuted following his death, or facing a trial that would result in
his disgrace and execution; he chose the former and committed suicide
using a cyanide pill.
Rommel was given a state funeral, and it was
announced that he had succumbed to his injuries from the strafing of
his staff car in Normandy.
Rommel has become a larger-than-life figure in both Allied and Nazi
propaganda, and in postwar popular culture, with numerous authors
considering him an apolitical, brilliant commander and a victim of the
Third Reich although this assessment is contested by other authors as
Rommel myth. Rommel's reputation for conducting a clean war was
used in the interest of the West German rearmament and reconciliation
between the former enemies – the
United Kingdom and the United
States on one side and the new
Federal Republic of Germany
Federal Republic of Germany on the
other. Several of Rommel's former subordinates, notably his chief of
staff Hans Speidel, played key roles in German rearmament and
NATO in the postwar era. The German Army's largest
military base, the
Rommel Barracks, Augustdorf, is named
in his honour.
1 Early life and career
2 World War I
3 Between the wars
4 World War II
4.1 Poland 1939
4.2.1 Panzer Division commander
4.2.2 Invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium and France
4.2.3 Battle of Arras
4.2.4 Drive for the Channel
4.2.5 Execution of prisoners in France
4.3 North Africa 1941–1943
4.3.1 First Axis offensive
Siege of Tobruk
4.3.3 Operation Crusader
Battle of Gazala
Battle of Gazala and capture of Tobruk
4.3.5 El Alamein
220.127.116.11 First Battle of El Alamein
18.104.22.168 Battle of Alam El Halfa
22.214.171.124 Second Battle of El Alamein
4.3.6 End of Africa campaign
126.96.36.199 Retreat across Africa
4.4 Italy 1943
Atlantic Wall 1944
4.6 Plot against Hitler
5 Rommel's style as military commander
5.1 Relations with Italian forces
5.2 Views on the conduct of war
6 In Nazi and Allied propaganda
6.1 Successes in North Africa
6.2 Military reverses
6.3 Rommel's views on propaganda
7 Relationship with National Socialism
8.1 Foundational works
8.2 Elements of the myth
8.3 Contradictions and ambiguities
9 Reputation as military commander
10 Family life
12 Posthumous honours
14 External links
Early life and career
Rommel was born on 15 November 1891 in
Southern Germany at Heidenheim,
45 kilometres (28 mi) from Ulm, in the Kingdom of Württemberg,
then part of the German Empire. He was the third of five children of
Rommel Senior (1860–1913), a teacher and school administrator,
and his wife Helene von Lutz, whose father
Karl von Luz headed the
local government council. As a young man Rommel's father had been a
lieutenant in the artillery.
Rommel had one older sister, an art
teacher who was his favorite sibling, one older brother named Manfred
who died in infancy and two younger brothers, of whom one became a
successful dentist and the other an opera singer.
At age 18
Rommel joined the local 124th Württemberg Infantry Regiment
Fähnrich (ensign), in 1910, studying at the Officer Cadet School
in Danzig. He graduated in November 1911 and was commissioned as a
lieutenant in January 1912 and was assigned to the 124th Infantry in
Weingarten. He was posted to
Ulm in March 1914 to the 46th Field
Artillery Regiment, XIII (Royal Württemberg) Corps, as a battery
commander. He returned to the 124th when war was declared. While
at Cadet School,
Rommel met his future wife, 17-year-old Lucia (Lucie)
Maria Mollin (1894–1971), of Polish and Italian descent.
World War I
Rommel in Italy, 1917.
During World War I,
Rommel fought in
France as well as in the Romanian
and Italian Campaigns. He successfully employed the tactics of
penetrating enemy lines with heavy covering fire coupled with rapid
advances, as well as moving forward rapidly to a flanking position to
arrive at the rear of hostile positions, to achieve tactical
surprise. His first combat experience was on 22 August 1914 as a
platoon commander near Verdun, when – catching a French garrison
Rommel and three men opened fire on them without
ordering the rest of his platoon forward. The armies continued to
skirmish in open engagements throughout September, as the static
trench warfare typical of the First World War was still in the
future. For his actions in September 1914 and January 1915, Rommel
was awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class.
Rommel was promoted to
Oberleutnant (first lieutenant) and transferred to the newly created
Royal Wurttemberg Mountain Battalion of the Alpenkorps in September
1915, as a company commander. In November 1916 in Danzig, Rommel
and Lucia married.
In August 1917, his unit was involved in the battle for Mount Cosna, a
heavily fortified objective on the border between Hungary and Romania,
which they took after two weeks of difficult uphill fighting. The
Mountain Battalion was next assigned to the Isonzo front, in a
mountainous area in Italy. The offensive, known as the Battle of
Caporetto, began on 24 October 1917. Rommel's battalion,
consisting of three rifle companies and a machine gun unit, was part
of an attempt to take enemy positions on three mountains: Kolovrat,
Matajur, and Stol. In two and a half days, from 25 to 27 October,
Rommel and his 150 men captured 81 guns and 9,000 men (including 150
officers), at the loss of six dead and 30 wounded.
this remarkable success by taking advantage of the terrain to outflank
the Italian forces, attacking from unexpected directions or behind
enemy lines, and taking the initiative to attack when he had orders to
the contrary. In one instance, the Italian forces, taken by surprise
and believing that their lines had collapsed, surrendered after a
brief firefight. In this battle,
Rommel helped pioneer
infiltration tactics, a new form of maneuver warfare just being
adopted by German armies, and later by foreign armies, and
described by some as Blitzkrieg without tanks. He ironically
played no role in the early adoption of Blitzkrieg in World War II
though. Acting as advance guard in the capture of
Longarone on 9
Rommel again decided to attack with a much smaller force.
Convinced that they were surrounded by an entire German division, the
1st Italian Infantry Division – 10,000 men – surrendered to
Rommel. For this and his actions at Matajur, he received the order of
Pour le Mérite.
In January 1918,
Rommel was promoted to
Hauptmann (captain) and
assigned to a staff position with XLIV Army Corps, where he served for
the remainder of the war.
Between the wars
Rommel remained with the 124th Regiment until 1 October 1920, when he
was named a company commander in the 13th Infantry Regiment in
Stuttgart, a post he held with the rank of captain for the next nine
years. His regiment was involved in quelling riots and civil
disturbances that were occurring throughout Germany at this time.
Wherever possible, he avoided the use of force in these
confrontations. He decided against storming the city of Lindau,
which had been taken by revolutionary communists. Instead, Rommel
negotiated with the city council and managed to return it to the
legitimate government through diplomatic means. This was
followed by another bloodless defence of Schwäbisch Gmünd.
Historian Raffael Scheck praises
Rommel for being a coolheaded and
moderate mind, exceptional among the massive violence caused by
takeovers of many revolutionary cities by regular and irregular
units. After that, he was posted to the Ruhr where a red army was
responsible for fomenting unrest. This episode left an indelible
impression on Rommel's mind, and also that of Hitler (like Rommel, he
had also experienced the solidarity of trench warfare) who
participated in the suppression of the First and Second Bavarian
Soviet Republics by the Reichswehr, that, according to Reuth,
"Everyone in this Republic was fighting each other", and that there
were people trying to convert Germany into a socialist republic on the
Soviet lines. The need for national unity thus became a decisive
legacy of the first World War.
Adolf Hitler in Goslar, 1934
He was assigned as an instructor at the
Dresden Infantry School from
1929 to 1933, and was promoted to major in April 1932. While
at Dresden, he wrote a manual on infantry training, published in 1934.
Rommel was promoted to
Oberstleutnant (lieutenant colonel) in October
1933, and given his next command, the 3rd Jäger Battalion, 17th
Infantry Regiment, stationed at Goslar. Here he first met Hitler,
who inspected his troops on 30 September 1934. In September 1935
Rommel was moved to the War Academy at Potsdam as an instructor, a
post he held for the next three years. His book Infanterie Greift
An (Infantry Attacks), a description of his wartime experiences along
with his analysis, was published in 1937. It became a bestseller,
which, according to Scheck, later "enormously influenced" many armies
of the world;
Adolf Hitler was one of many people who owned a
Hearing of Rommel's reputation as an outstanding military instructor,
in February 1937 Hitler assigned him as the War Ministry liaison
officer to the Hitler Youth, in charge of military training. Here he
clashed with Baldur von Schirach, the
Hitler Youth leader, over the
training that the boys should receive. Trying to
fulfill a mission assigned to him by the Ministry of War, Rommel
had proposed a plan (twice) that would have effectively subordinated
Hitler Youth to the army, removing it from the NSDAP control. That
went against Schirach's express wishes, who appealed directly to
Rommel was quietly removed from the project in
1938. He was promoted to
Oberst (colonel) on 1 August 1937, and in
Rommel was appointed commandant of the Theresian Military
Academy War Academy at Wiener Neustadt. In October 1938 Hitler
specially requested that
Rommel be seconded to command the
Führerbegleitbatallion (his escort battalion). This unit
accompanied him whenever he traveled outside of Germany. During
this period he indulged his interest in engineering and mechanics by
learning about the inner workings and maintenance of internal
combustion engines and heavy machine guns. He memorized logarithm
tables in his spare time, and enjoyed skiing and other outdoor
World War II
Hitler in Poland (September 1939).
Rommel is on his left and Martin
Bormann on his right.
Rommel was promoted to
Generalmajor on 23 August 1939 and assigned as
commander of the Führerbegleitbatallion, tasked with guarding Hitler
and his field headquarters during the invasion of Poland, which began
on 1 September. Hitler took a personal interest in the campaign,
often moving close to the front in the
Rommel attended Hitler's daily war briefings and
accompanied him everywhere, making use of the opportunity to observe
first-hand the use of tanks and other motorized units. On 26
Rommel returned to Berlin to set up a new headquarters for
his unit in the Reich Chancellery.
Rommel returned briefly to
Warsaw on 5 October to organise the German victory parade. He
described the devastated Warsaw in a letter to his wife, concluding
with: "There has been no water, no power, no gas, no food for two
days. They have erected numerous barricades which blocked civilian
movement and exposed people to bombardments from which they could not
escape. The mayor estimated the number of the dead and injured to be
40,000 ... The inhabitants probably drew a breath of relief that
we have arrived and rescued them".
Panzer Division commander
Rommel and his staff observe troops of the 7th Panzer
Division practicing a river crossing at the Moselle River in
Following the campaign in Poland,
Rommel began lobbying for command of
one of Germany's panzer divisions, of which there were then only
ten. Rommel's successes in
World War I
World War I were based on surprise and
maneuver, two elements for which the new panzer units were ideally
Rommel received a promotion to a general's rank from
Hitler ahead of more senior officers.
Rommel obtained the command he
aspired to, despite having been earlier turned down by the army's
personnel office, which had offered him command of a mountain division
instead. According to Caddick-Adams, he was backed by Hitler, the
influential Fourteenth Army commander
Wilhelm List (a fellow
Württemberger middle-class "military outsider") and likely Guderian
Going against military protocol, this promotion added to Rommel's
growing reputation as one of Hitler's favoured commanders,
although his later outstanding leadership in
France quelled complaints
about his self-promotion and political scheming. The 7th Panzer
Division had recently been converted to an armoured division
consisting of 218 tanks in three battalions (thus, one tank regiment,
instead of the two assigned to a standard panzer division), with
two rifle regiments, a motorcycle battalion, an engineer battalion,
and an anti-tank battalion. Upon taking command on 10 February
Rommel quickly set his unit to practicing the maneuvers they
would need in the upcoming campaign.
Invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium and France
The invasion began on 10 May 1940 with the bombardment of Rotterdam.
By the third day
Rommel and the advance elements of his division,
together with a detachment of the 5th Panzer Division under Colonel
Hermann Werner, had reached the River Meuse, where they found the
bridges had already been destroyed (Guderian and Reinhardt reached the
river on the same day).
Rommel was active in the forward
areas, directing the efforts to make a crossing, which were initially
unsuccessful due to suppressive fire by the French on the other side
of the river.
Rommel brought up tanks and flak units to provide
counter-fire and had nearby houses set on fire to create a
smokescreen. He sent infantry across in rubber boats, appropriated the
bridging tackle of the 5th Panzer Division, personally grabbed a light
machine gun to fight off a French counterattack supported by tanks,
and went into the water himself, encouraging the sappers and helping
lash together the pontoons. By 16 May
Rommel reached Avesnes,
and contravening all orders and doctrine, he pressed on to Cateau.
That night, the French II Army Corps was shattered and on 17 May,
Rommel's forces took 10,000 prisoners, losing 36 men in the process.
He was surprised to find out only his vanguard had followed his
tempestuous surge. The High Command and Hitler had been extremely
nervous about his disappearance, although they awarded him the
Knight's Cross. Rommel's (and Guderian's) successes and the new
possibilities offered by the new tank arm were welcomed by a small
number of generals, but worried and paralysed the rest.
Battle of Arras
Main article: Battle of
Rommel and staff during the Battle for France, June 1940
On 20 May
Rommel reached Arras. General
Hermann Hoth received
orders that the town should be bypassed and its British garrison thus
isolated. He ordered the 5th Panzer Division to move to the west and
7th Panzer Division to the east, flanked by the SS Division
Totenkopf. The following day the British launched a counterattack,
meeting the SS Totenkopf with two infantry battalions supported by
Matilda Mk I
Matilda Mk I and
Matilda II tanks in the Battle of
Arras. The German 37 mm anti-tank gun proved ineffective against
the heavily armoured Matildas. The 25th Panzer Regiment and a battery
of 88 mm (3.5 in) anti-aircraft guns were called in to
support, and the British withdrew.
On 24 May,
Field Marshal von Rundstedt and
Field Marshal von Kluge
issued a halt order, which Hitler approved. The reason for this
decision is still a matter of debate. The halt order was
lifted on 26 May. 7th Panzer continued its advance, reaching Lille
on 27 May. For the assault, Hoth placed the 5th Panzer Division's
Panzer Brigade under Rommel's command. The
Siege of Lille
continued until 31 May, when the French garrison of 40,000 men
surrendered. 7th Panzer was given six days leave, during which Rommel
was summoned to Berlin to meet with Hitler. He was the only divisional
commander present at the planning session for
Fall Rot (Case Red), the
second phase of the invasion of France. By this time the evacuation of
the BEF was complete; over 338,000 Allied troops had been evacuated
across the Channel, though they had to leave behind all their heavy
equipment and vehicles.
Drive for the Channel
Rommel, resuming his advance on 5 June, drove for the
River Seine to
secure the bridges near Rouen. Advancing 100 kilometres (62 mi)
in two days, the division reached
Rouen to find the bridges destroyed.
On 10 June,
Rommel reached the coast near Dieppe, sending Hoth the
laconic message "Bin an der Küste" or "Am on the coast". On 17
June, 7th Panzer was ordered to advance on Cherbourg, where additional
British evacuations were underway. The division advanced 240
kilometres (150 mi) in 24 hours, and after two days of shelling,
the French garrison surrendered on 19 June. The speed and surprise
it was consistently able to achieve, to the point where both the enemy
Oberkommando des Heeres
Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH; German High Command) at times
lost track of its whereabouts, earned the 7th Panzers the nickname
Gespensterdivision (Ghost Division).
After the armistice with the French was signed on 22 June, the
division was placed in reserve, being sent first to the Somme and then
to Bordeaux to re-equip and prepare for Unternehmen Seelöwe
(Operation Sea Lion), the planned invasion of Britain. This
invasion was later cancelled as Germany was not able to acquire the
air superiority needed for a successful outcome, while the
Kriegsmarine was massively outnumbered by the Royal Navy.
Execution of prisoners in France
Rommel ordered the execution of one French officer who
refused three times to cooperate when being taken prisoner; there are
disputes as to whether this execution was justified. Bewley
remarks that the shooting of a prisoner who does not behave as a
prisoner is a legal option; however, this act was brutal because the
officer did not have a gun, while Richard Weston, veteran at Tobruk,
argues that it was not only legal but also made sense considering
Rommel's situation. Caddick-Adams comments that this would
Rommel a war criminal condemned by his own hand, and that other
authors overlook this episode. French historian Petitfrère
Rommel was in a hurry and had no time for useless
palavers, although this act was still debatable. Telp remarks
that, "For all his craftiness,
Rommel was chivalrous by nature and not
prone to order or condone acts of needless violence ... He
treated prisoners of war with consideration. On one occasion, he was
forced to order the shooting of a French lieutenant-colonel for
refusing to obey his captors." Scheck says, "Although there is no
Rommel himself, his unit did fight in areas
where German massacres of black French prisoners of war were extremely
common in June 1940."
According to some authors, during the fighting in France, Rommel's 7th
Panzer Division, alongside troops from 5th Panzer Division, committed
numerous atrocities against French troops including the murder of 50
surrendering officers and men at Quesnoy and the nearby Airaines[N
1][N 2] After the war a memorial was erected to the
commanding French officer
Charles N'Tchoréré allegedly executed by
soldiers under Rommel's command. The division is considered by Scheck
to have been "likely" responsible for the execution of PoW's in
Hangest-sur-Somme,[N 3] while Scheck believes they were too far away
to have been involved in the massacres at Airaines and nearby
villages. French historian Dominique Lormier states the number of
victims of 7th Panzer Division in Airaines at 109 mostly
French-African soldiers from Senegal. Historian Daniel Butler
agrees that it was possible the massacre at Le Quesnoy happened given
the existence of Nazis like Hanke in Rommel's division, while stating
that in comparison with other German units, few sources regarding such
actions of the men of the 7th Panzer exist (Butler believes that "it's
almost impossible to imagine"
Rommel authorizing or countenancing such
actions, in either case). Showalter claims there was no massacre
at Le Quesnoy. Claus Telp comments that Airaines was not in the
sector of the 7th, but at Hangest and Martainville elements of the 7th
might have shot some prisoners and used British Colonel Broomhall as a
human shield (although Telp is of the opinion that it was unlikely
Rommel approved or even knew about these two incidents).
North Africa 1941–1943
Western Desert battle area
On 6 February 1941,
Rommel was appointed commander of the newly
Afrika Korps (DAK), consisting of the 5th Light
Division (later redesignated 21st Panzer Division) and of the 15th
Panzer Division. He was promoted to the rank of Generalleutnant
three days later and flew to
Tripoli on 12 February. The DAK had
been sent to
Libya in Operation Sonnenblume, to support Italian troops
that had been severely defeated by British Commonwealth forces in
Operation Compass. His efforts in the Western Desert Campaign
Rommel the nickname the "Desert Fox" from British
journalists. Allied troops in Africa were commanded by General
Archibald Wavell, Commander-in-Chief
Middle East Command.
First Axis offensive
Rommel and his troops were technically subordinate to Italian
commander-in-chief General Italo Gariboldi. Disagreeing with the
Wehrmacht (OKW)'s orders to assume a defensive
posture along the front line at Sirte,
Rommel resorted to subterfuge
and insubordination to take the war to the British. According to
Remy, the General Staff tried to slow him down, but Hitler encouraged
him to advance—an expression of the conflict which had existed
between Hitler and the army leadership since the invasion of
Poland. He decided to launch a limited offensive on 24 March with
5th Light Division, supported by two Italian divisions. This
thrust was not anticipated by the British, who had
Rommel had orders to remain on the defense until at least
May, when the 15th Panzers were due to arrive.
Sd.Kfz. 6/1 with 88mm gun in tow, April 1941
Western Desert Force had meanwhile been weakened by the
transfer in mid-February of three divisions to help defend
Greece. They fell back to
Mersa El Brega
Mersa El Brega and started constructing
Rommel continued his attack against these
positions to prevent the British from building up their
fortifications. After a day of fierce fighting on 31 March, the
Germans captured Mersa El Brega. Splitting his force into three
Rommel resumed the advance on 3 April.
Benghazi fell that
night as the British pulled out of the city. Gariboldi, who
Rommel to stay in Mersa El Brega, was furious.
equally forceful in his response, telling Gariboldi: "One cannot
permit unique opportunities to slip by for the sake of trifles."
At that point a signal arrived from General
Franz Halder reminding
Rommel that he was to halt in Mersa El Brega. Knowing Gariboldi could
not speak German,
Rommel told him the message gave him complete
freedom of action. Gariboldi backed down.
On 4 April
Rommel was advised by his supply officers that fuel was
running short, which could result in a delay of up to four days. The
problem was ultimately Rommel's fault, as he had not advised his
supply officers of his intentions, and no fuel dumps had been set up.
Rommel ordered the
5th Light Division
5th Light Division to unload all their lorries and
El Agheila to collect fuel and ammunition. Driving through
the night, they were able to reduce the halt to a single day. Fuel
supply was problematic throughout the campaign, as no petrol was
available locally; it had to be brought from Europe via tanker and
then carried by road to where it was needed. Food and fresh
water were also in short supply, and it was difficult to move tanks
and other equipment off-road through the sand. In spite of these
problems, Cyrenaica was captured by 8 April, except for the port city
of Tobruk, which was surrounded on the landward sides on 11
Siege of Tobruk
Siege of Tobruk
Panzer III advances past a vehicle burning in the desert,
The siege of
Tobruk was not technically a siege, as the defenders were
still able to move supplies and reinforcements into the city via the
Rommel knew that by capturing the port he could greatly
reduce the length of his supply lines and increase his overall port
capacity, which was insufficient even for day-to-day operations and
only half that needed for offensive operations. The city, which
had been heavily fortified by the Italians during their 30-year
occupation, was garrisoned by the 18th Infantry Brigade of the
Australian 7th Division, the Australian 9th Division, HQ 3rd Armoured
Brigade, several thousand British infantrymen, and one regiment of
Indian infantry, for a total of 36,000 men. The commanding
officer was Australian
Lieutenant General Leslie Morshead. Hoping
to catch the defenders off-guard,
Rommel launched a failed attack on
Halfaya Pass and surrounding area
Rommel requested reinforcements, but the OKW, then completing
preparations for Operation Barbarossa, refused. General Friedrich
Paulus, head of the Operations Branch of OKH, arrived on 25 April to
review the situation. He was present for a second failed attack
on the city on 30 April. On 4 May Paulus ordered that no further
attempts should be made to take
Tobruk via a direct assault. This
order was not open to interpretation, and
Rommel had no choice but to
comply. Aware of this order from intelligence reports, Churchill
urged Wavell to seize the initiative. While awaiting further
reinforcements and a shipment of 300 tanks that were already on their
way, Wavell launched a limited offensive code named Operation Brevity
on 15 May. The British briefly seized Sollum, Fort Capuzzo, and the
important Halfaya Pass, a bottleneck along the coast near the border
Libya and Egypt.
Rommel soon forced them to
withdraw. On 15 June Wavell launched Operation Battleaxe.
The attack was defeated in a four-day battle at
Sollum and Halfaya
Pass, resulting in the loss of 98 British tanks. The Germans lost 12
tanks, while capturing and seriously damaging over 20 British
tanks. The defeat resulted in Churchill replacing Wavell with
Claude Auchinleck as theatre commander.
Heinrich Kirchheim as commander of
5th Light Division
5th Light Division on 16 May,
became displeased and replaced him with
Johann von Ravenstein
Johann von Ravenstein on 30
Rommel was appointed commander of the newly created Panzer
Group Africa, with
Fritz Bayerlein as his chief of staff. The
Afrika Korps, comprising the 15th Panzer Division and the 5th Light
Division, now reinforced and redesignated 21st Panzer Division, was
put under command of
Generalleutnant Ludwig Crüwell. In addition to
the Afrika Korps, Rommel's Panzer Group had the 90th Light Division
and four Italian divisions, three infantry divisions investing Tobruk,
and one holding Bardia. The two Italian armoured divisions, Ariete and
Trieste, were still under Italian control. They formed the Italian XX
Motorized Corps under the command of General Gastone Gambara. Two
months later Hitler decided he must have German officers in better
control of the Mediterranean theatre, and appointed Field Marshal
Albert Kesselring as Commander in Chief, South. Kesselring was ordered
to get control of the air and sea between Africa and Italy.
Main article: Operation Crusader
8.8 cm (3 in)
Flak 18 guns fire upon British armour
Following his success in Battleaxe,
Rommel returned his attention to
the capture of Tobruk. He made preparations for a new offensive, to be
launched between 15 and 20 November. Meanwhile, Auchinleck
reorganised Allied forces and strengthened them to two corps, XXX and
XIII, which formed the British Eighth Army, which was placed under the
command of Alan Cunningham. Auchinleck had 770 tanks and double the
number of Axis aircraft.
Rommel opposed him with the 15th and
21st Panzer Divisions with a total of 260 tanks, the 90th Light
Infantry division, five Italian infantry divisions, and one Italian
armoured division of 278 tanks.
Auchinleck launched Operation Crusader, a major offensive to relieve
Tobruk, on 18 November 1941. The XIII Corps on the right were assigned
to attack Sidi Omar, Capuzzo, Sollum, and Bardia; the XXX Corps (which
included most of the armour) were to move on the left southern flank
to a position about 30 miles (48 km) south of Tobruk, with the
Rommel would find this move so threatening that he
would move his armour there in response. Once Rommel's tanks were
written down, the British 70th Infantry Division would break out of
Tobruk to link up with XXX Corps.
Rommel reluctantly decided
on 20 November to call off his planned attack on Tobruk.
Rommel conversing with his staff near El Agheila, 12 January 1942
Some elements of the 7th Armoured Division were stopped on the 19th by
the Italian Ariete Armoured Division at Bir el Gobi, but they also
managed to capture the airfields at Sidi Rezegh, 10 miles (16 km)
from Tobruk. Engaging the Allied tanks located there became
Rommel's primary objective. Noting that the British armour was
separated into three groups incapable of mutual support, he
concentrated his Panzers so as to gain local superiority. The
expected breakout from Tobruk, which took place on 20 November, was
stopped by the Italians. The airfield at Sidi Rezegh was retaken by
21st Panzer on 22 November. In four days of fighting, the Eighth Army
lost 530 tanks and
Rommel only 100. The German forces near
Halfaya Pass were cut off on 23 November.
Wanting to exploit the British halt and their apparent
disorganisation, on 24 November
Rommel counterattacked near the
Egyptian border in an operation that became known as the "dash to the
wire". Unknown to Rommel, his troops passed within 6 kilometres
(4 mi) of a major British supply dump. Cunningham asked
Auchinleck for permission to withdraw into Egypt, but Auchinleck
refused, and soon replaced Cunningham as commander of Eighth Army with
Major General Neil Ritchie. The German counterattack stalled
as it outran its supplies and met stiffening resistance, and was
criticised by the German High Command and some of Rommel's staff
Rommel drove into Egypt, the remaining Commonwealth forces east
Tobruk threatened the weak Axis lines there. Unable to reach Rommel
for several days,[N 4] Rommel's Chief of Staff, Siegfried Westphal,
ordered the 21st Panzer Division withdrawn to support the siege of
Tobruk. On 27 November the British attack on
Tobruk linked up with the
defenders, and Rommel, having suffered losses that could not easily be
replaced, had to concentrate on regrouping the divisions that had
attacked into Egypt. By 7 December
Rommel fell back to a defensive
line at Gazala, just west of Tobruk, all the while under heavy attack
from the Desert Air Force. The Bardia garrison surrendered on 2
January and Halfaya on 17 January 1942. The Allies kept up the
Rommel was forced to retreat all the way back to the
starting positions he had held in March, reaching
El Agheila in
December 1941. The British had retaken almost all of Cyrenaica,
but Rommel's retreat dramatically shortened his supply lines.
Battle of Gazala
Battle of Gazala and capture of Tobruk
Main article: Battle of Gazala
Rommel in a Sd.Kfz. 250/3
On 5 January 1942 the
Afrika Korps received 55 tanks and new supplies
Rommel started planning a counterattack. On 21 January, Rommel
launched the attack. Caught by surprise by the Afrika Korps,
the Allies lost over 110 tanks and other heavy equipment. The Axis
Benghazi on 29 January and
Timimi on 3 February, with
the Allies pulling back to a defensive line just before the Tobruk
area south of the coastal town of Gazala.
Rommel placed a thin screen
of mobile forces before them, and held the main force of the
Panzerarmee well back near Antela and Mersa Brega. Between
December 1941 and June 1942,
Rommel had excellent information about
the disposition and intentions of the Commonwealth forces. Bonner
Fellers, the US diplomat in Egypt, was sending detailed reports to the
US State Department
US State Department using a compromised code.
Following Kesselring's successes in creating local air superiority
around the British naval and air bases at
Malta in April 1942, an
increased flow of supplies reached the Axis forces in Africa.
With his forces strengthened,
Rommel contemplated a major offensive
operation for the end of May. He knew the British were planning
offensive operations as well, and he hoped to pre-empt them. While out
on reconnaissance on 6 April, he was severely bruised in the abdomen
when his vehicle was the target of artillery fire. The British
had 900 tanks in the area, 200 of which were new Grant tanks. Unlike
the British, the Axis forces had no armoured reserve; all operable
equipment was put into immediate service. Rommel's Panzer Army Africa
had a force of 320 German tanks; 50 of these were the light Panzer II
model. In addition, 240 Italian tanks were in service, but these were
also under-gunned and poorly armoured.
Situation in "the Cauldron", 27 May 1942
Early in the afternoon of 26 May 1942,
Rommel attacked first and the
Battle of Gazala
Battle of Gazala commenced. Italian infantry supplemented with small
numbers of armoured forces assaulted the centre of the Gazala
fortifications. To give the impression that this was the main assault,
spare aircraft engines mounted on trucks were used to create huge
clouds of dust. Ritchie was not convinced by this display, and left
the 4th and 22nd Armoured Brigades in position at the south end of the
Commonwealth position. Under the cover of darkness, the bulk of
Rommel's motorized and armoured forces (15th and 21st Panzers, 90th
Light Division, and the Italian Ariete and Trieste Divisions) drove
south to skirt the left flank of the British, coming up behind them
and attacking to the north the following morning. Throughout the
day a running armour battle occurred, where both sides took heavy
losses. The Grant tanks proved to be impossible to knock out except at
Renewing the attack on the morning of 28 May,
Rommel concentrated on
encircling and destroying separate units of the British armour.
Repeated British counterattacks threatened to cut off and destroy the
Afrika Korps. Running low on fuel,
Rommel assumed a defensive posture,
forming "the Cauldron". He made use of the extensive British
minefields to shield his western flank. Meanwhile, Italian infantry
cleared a path through the mines to provide supplies. On 30 May Rommel
resumed the offensive, attacking westwards to link with elements of
Italian X Corps, which had cleared a path through the Allied
minefields to establish a supply line. On 1 June,
the surrender of some 3,000 soldiers of the 150th Brigade. On 6
June, 90th Light Division and the Trieste Division assaulted the Free
French strongpoint in the Battle of Bir Hakeim, but the defenders
continued to thwart the attack until finally evacuating on 10
June. With his communications and the southern strongpoint of the
British line thus secured,
Rommel shifted his attack north again,
relying on the British minefields of the Gazala lines to protect his
left flank. Threatened with being completely cut off, the British
began a retreat eastward toward
Egypt on 14 June, the so-called
Afrika Korps enters Tobruk.
On 15 June Axis forces reached the coast, cutting off the escape for
the Commonwealth forces still occupying the Gazala positions. With
this task completed,
Rommel struck for
Tobruk while the enemy was
still confused and disorganised. Tobruk's defenders were at this
point the 2nd South African Infantry Division, 4th Antiaircraft
Brigade, 11th Indian Infantry, 32nd Army Tank, and 201st Guards
Brigades, all under command of
Generalmajor Hendrik Klopper. The
Tobruk began at dawn on 20 June, and Klopper surrendered at
dawn the following day. With Tobruk,
Rommel achieved the capture
of 32,000 defenders, the port, and huge quantities of supplies.
Only at the fall of Singapore, earlier that year, had more British
Commonwealth troops been captured at one time. On 22 June, Hitler
Generalfeldmarschall for this victory.[N 5]
Rommel in 1942
Following his success at Gazala and Tobruk,
Rommel wanted to seize the
moment and not allow 8th Army a chance to regroup. He strongly
argued that the Panzerarmee should advance into
Egypt and drive on to
Alexandria and the Suez Canal, as this would place almost all
Mediterranean coastline in Axis hands, ease conditions on the Eastern
Front, and potentially lead to the capture from the south of the oil
fields in the
Caucasus and Middle East. Indeed, Allied
strategists feared that if
Rommel captured Egypt, he would next
Middle East before possibly linking up with the forces
besieging the Caucasus. However, Hitler viewed the North African
campaign primarily as a way to assist his Italian allies, not as an
objective in and of itself. He would not consider sending
reinforcements and supplies he needed to take and hold Egypt, as this
would have required diverting men and supplies from his primary focus:
the Eastern Front.
Rommel's success at
Tobruk worked against him, as Hitler no longer
felt it was necessary to proceed with Operation Herkules, the proposed
attack on Malta. Auchinleck relieved Ritchie of command of the
Eighth Army on 25 June, and temporarily took command himself.
Rommel knew that delay would only benefit the British, who continued
to receive supplies at a faster rate than
Rommel could hope to
achieve. He pressed an attack on the heavily fortified town of Mersa
Matruh, which Auchinleck had designated as the fall-back position,
surrounding it on 28 June. The
2nd New Zealand Division and 50th
(Northumbrian) Infantry Division were almost caught, with 50th
Division fleeing on the 27th and 2nd Division escaping after a short
engagement during the pre-dawn hours of 28 June. The four divisions of
X Corps were caught in the encirclement, and were ordered by
Auchinleck to attempt a breakout. The
29th Indian Infantry Brigade was
nearly destroyed, losing 6,000 troops and 40 tanks. The fortress
fell on 29 June. In addition to stockpiles of fuel and other supplies,
the British abandoned hundreds of tanks and trucks. Those that were
functional were put into service by the Panzerarmee.
First Battle of El Alamein
Main article: First Battle of El Alamein
El Alamein and surrounding area
Rommel continued his pursuit of the Eighth Army, which had fallen back
to heavily prepared defensive positions at El Alamein. This region is
a natural choke point, where the
Qattara Depression creates a
relatively short line to defend that could not be outflanked to the
south because of the steep escarpment. On 1 July the First Battle of
El Alamein began.
Rommel had around 100 available tanks. The Allies
were able to achieve local air superiority, with heavy bombers
attacking the 15th and 21st Panzers, who had also been delayed by a
sandstorm. The 90th Light Division veered off course and were pinned
down by South African artillery fire.
Rommel continued to attempt to
advance for two more days, but repeated sorties by the RAF meant he
could make no progress. On 3 July, he wrote in his diary that his
strength had "faded away". Attacks by 21st Panzer on 13 and 14
July were repulsed, and an Australian attack on 16–17 July was held
off with difficulty. Throughout the first half of July,
Auchinleck concentrated attacks on the Italian 60th Infantry Division
Sabratha at Tel el Eisa. The ridge was captured by the 26th Australian
Brigade on 16 July. Both sides suffered similar losses throughout
the month, but the Axis supply situation remained less favourable.
Rommel realised that the tide was turning. A break in the action
took place at the end of July as both sides rested and regrouped.
Preparing for a renewed drive, the British replaced Auchinleck with
Harold Alexander on 8 August.
Bernard Montgomery was made the
new commander of Eighth Army that same day. The Eighth Army had
initially been assigned to General William Gott, but he was killed
when his plane was shot down on 7 August.
Rommel knew that a
British convoy carrying over 100,000 tons of supplies was due to
arrive in September. He decided to launch an attack at the end of
August with the 15th and 21st Panzer Division, 90th Light Division,
Italian XX Motorized Corps
Italian XX Motorized Corps in a drive through the southern
flank of the
El Alamein lines. Expecting an attack sooner rather
than later, Montgomery fortified the Alam el Halfa ridge with the 44th
Division, and positioned the 7th Armoured Division about 15 miles
(24 km) to the south.
Battle of Alam El Halfa
30 August - 5 September 1942
Main article: Battle of Alam el Halfa
Rommel in a Sd.Kfz. 250/3
Battle of Alam el Halfa
Battle of Alam el Halfa was launched on 30 August. The terrain
Rommel with no choice but to follow a similar tactic as he had at
previous battles: the bulk of the forces attempted to sweep around
from the south while secondary attacks were launched on the remainder
of the front. It took much longer than anticipated to get through the
minefields in the southern sector, and the tanks got bogged down in
unexpected patches of quicksand (Montgomery had arranged for
acquire a falsified map of the terrain). Under heavy fire
from British artillery and aircraft, and in the face of well prepared
Rommel could not hope to outflank due to lack of fuel,
the attack stalled. By 2 September,
Rommel realized the battle was
unwinnable, and decided to withdraw.
Montgomery had made preparations to cut the Germans off in their
retreat, but in the afternoon of 2 September he visited Corps
Brian Horrocks and gave orders to allow the Germans to
retire. This was to preserve his own strength intact for the main
battle which was to come. On the night of 3 September the 2nd New
Zealand Division and 7th Armoured Division positioned to the north
engaged in an assault, but they were repelled in a fierce rearguard
action by the 90th Light Division. Montgomery called off further
action to preserve his strength and allow for further desert training
for his forces. In the attack
Rommel had suffered 2,940
casualties and lost 50 tanks, a similar number of guns, and 400
lorries, vital for supplies and movement. The British losses, except
tank losses of 68, were much less, further adding to the numerical
inferiority of Panzer Army Afrika. The
Desert Air Force
Desert Air Force inflicted the
highest proportions of damage on Rommel's forces. He now realized the
war in Africa could not be won. Physically exhausted and
suffering from a liver infection and low blood pressure,
home to Germany to recover his health. General Georg Stumme
was left in command in Rommel's absence.
Second Battle of El Alamein
23 October–11 November 1942
Main article: Second Battle of El Alamein
Destroyed Panzer IIIs at Tel el Eisa, near
El Alamein (1942)
Second Battle of El Alamein. Situation on 28 October 1942
Improved decoding by British intelligence (see Ultra) meant that the
Allies had advance knowledge of virtually every Mediterranean convoy,
and only 30 per cent of shipments were getting through. In
addition, Mussolini diverted supplies intended for the front to his
garrison at Tripoli, and refused to release any additional troops to
Rommel. The increasing Allied air superiority and lack of fuel
Rommel was forced to take a more defensive posture than he would
have liked for the second Battle of El Alamein. The German
defences to the west of the town included a minefield 5 miles
(8.0 km) deep with the main defensive line – itself several
thousand yards deep – to its west. This,
Rommel hoped, would
allow his infantry to hold the line at any point until motorized and
armoured units in reserve could move up and counterattack any Allied
breaches. The British offensive began on 23 October. Stumme, in
command in Rommel's absence, died of an apparent heart attack while
examining the front on 24 October, and
Rommel was ordered to return
from his medical leave, arriving on the 25th. Montgomery's
intention was to clear a narrow path through the minefield at the
northern part of the defenses, at the area called Kidney Ridge, with a
feint to the south. By the end of 25 October, 15th Panzers, the
defenders in this sector, had only 31 serviceable tanks remaining of
their initial force of 119.
Rommel brought north the 21st Panzer
and Ariete Divisions on 26 October to bolster the sector. On the 28th,
Montgomery shifted his focus to the coast, ordering his 1st and 10th
Armoured Divisions to attempt to swing around and cut off Rommel's
line of retreat. Meanwhile,
Rommel concentrated his attack on the
Allied salient at Kidney Ridge, inflicting heavy losses. However,
Rommel had only 150 operational tanks remaining, and Montgomery had
800, many of them Shermans.
Montgomery, seeing his armoured brigades losing tanks at an alarming
rate, stopped major attacks until the early hours of 2 November, when
he opened "Operation Supercharge" with a massive artillery
barrage. This was followed by penetration at the salient by two
armoured and two infantry divisions. Rommel's counterattack at
11:00 inflicted severe casualties on the Commonwealth troops, but by
20:00, with only 35 tanks remaining, he ordered his forces to
disengage and begin to withdraw. At midnight, he informed the OKW
of his decision, and received a reply directly from Hitler the
following afternoon: he ordered
Rommel and his troops to hold their
position to the last man. Rommel, who believed that the lives of his
soldiers should never be squandered needlessly, was stunned.
While he (like all members of the Wehrmacht) had pledged an oath of
absolute obedience to Hitler, he thought this order was pointless,
even madness, and had to be disobeyed.
Rommel initially complied
with the order, but after discussions with Kesselring and others, he
issued orders for a retreat on 4 November. The delay proved
costly in terms of his ability to get his forces out of Egypt. He
later said the decision to delay was what he most regretted from his
time in Africa. Meanwhile, the British 1st and 7th Armoured
Division had broken through the German defences and were preparing to
swing north and surround the Axis forces. On the evening of the
Rommel finally received word from Hitler authorizing the
withdrawal. By this time it was impossible for
Rommel to save his
End of Africa campaign
Retreat across Africa
Rommel attempted to withdraw his forces before the British could
cut off his retreat, he fought a series of delaying actions. Heavy
rains slowed movements and grounded the Desert Air Force, which aided
the withdrawal. Those parts of Panzerarmee Africa that were motorized
slipped away from El Alamein, but were under pressure from the
pursuing Eighth Army. A series of short delaying actions were fought
over the coastal highway, but no line could be held for any length of
Rommel lacked the armour and fuel to defend his open southern
Rommel continued to retreat west, abandoning Halfaya Pass,
Sollum, Mersa Brega and El Agheila. The line
Rommel was aiming
for was 'Gabes gap' in Tunisia.
Luftwaffe Field Marshal
Kesselring strongly criticized Rommel's decision to retreat all the
way to Tunisia, as each airfield the Germans abandoned extended the
range of the Allied bombers and fighters.
Rommel defended his
decision, pointing out that if he tried to assume a defensive position
the Allies would destroy his forces and take the airfields anyway; the
retreat saved the lives of his remaining men and shortened his supply
lines. By now, Rommel's remaining forces fought in reduced strength
combat groups, whereas the Allied forces had great numerical
superiority and control of the air. Upon his arrival in Tunisia,
Rommel noted with some bitterness the reinforcements, including the
10th Panzer Division, arriving in
Tunisia following the Allied
invasion of Morocco.
Rommel speaks with troops who are using a captured American M3
Having reached Tunisia,
Rommel launched an attack against the U.S. II
Corps which was threatening to cut his lines of supply north to Tunis.
Rommel inflicted a sharp defeat on the American forces at the
Kasserine Pass in February, his last battlefield victory of the war,
and his first engagement against the
United States Army.
Rommel immediately turned back against the British forces, occupying
Mareth Line (old French defences on the Libyan border). While
Rommel was at Kasserine at the end of January 1943, the Italian
Giovanni Messe was appointed commander of Panzer Army Africa,
renamed the Italo-German Panzer Army in recognition of the fact that
it consisted of one German and three Italian corps. Though Messe
replaced Rommel, he diplomatically deferred to him, and the two
coexisted in what was theoretically the same command. On 23 February
Armeegruppe Afrika was created with
Rommel in command. It included the
Italo-German Panzer Army under Messe (renamed 1st Italian Army) and
the German 5th Panzer Army in the north of
Tunisia under General
Hans-Jürgen von Arnim.
Rommel offensive in North Africa was on 6 March 1943, when he
attacked Eighth Army at the Battle of Medenine. The attack was
made with 10th, 15th, and 21st Panzer Divisions. Alerted by Ultra
intercepts, Montgomery deployed large numbers of anti-tank guns in the
path of the offensive. After losing 52 tanks,
Rommel called off the
assault. On 9 March he returned to Germany. Command was
handed over to General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim.
Rommel never returned
to Africa. The fighting there continued on for another two
months, until 13 May 1943, when General Messe surrendered the
Armeegruppe Afrika to the Allies.
On 23 July 1943
Rommel was moved to
Greece as commander of Army Group
E to counter a possible British invasion of the Greek coast. He
Greece on 25 July but was recalled to Berlin the same date
due to the overthrow of Mussolini.
Rommel was to be posted to Italy as
commander of the newly formed Army Group B. On 16 August 1943 Rommel's
headquarters moved to
Lake Garda in northern Italy and formally
assumed command of the army group, which consisted of the 44th
Infantry Division, the
26th Panzer Division
26th Panzer Division and the 1st SS Panzer
Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler. When Italy announced armistice
with the Allies on 8 September, his forces took part in Operation
Achse, disarming the Italian forces.
Hitler met with
Rommel and Kesselring to discuss future operations in
Italy on 30 September 1943.
Rommel insisted on a defensive line north
of Rome, while Kesselring was more optimistic and advocated holding a
line south of Rome. Hitler preferred Kesselring's appreciation and
therefore revoked his prior decision for a subsequent subordination of
Kesselring's forces to Rommel's army group. On 19 October Hitler
decided that Kesselring would be the overall commander of the forces
in Italy, sidelining Rommel.
Rommel had wrongly predicted that the collapse of the German line in
Italy would be fast. On 21 November Hitler gave Kesselring overall
command of the Italian theater, moving
Army Group B to
France with responsibility for defending the French coast
against the long anticipated Allied invasion.
Atlantic Wall 1944
Rommel observes the fall of shot at Riva-Bella, just north of Caen in
the area that would become
Sword Beach in Normandy.
There was broad disagreement in the German High Command as to how best
to meet the expected allied invasion of Northern France. The
Commander-in-Chief West, Gerd von Rundstedt, believed there was no way
to stop the invasion near the beaches due to the firepower possessed
by the Allied navies, as had been experienced at Salerno. He
argued that the German armour should be held in reserve well inland
Paris where they could be used to counter-attack in force in a
more traditional military doctrine. The allies could be allowed to
extend themselves deep into
France where a battle for control would be
fought, allowing the Germans to envelop the allied forces in a pincer
movement, cutting off their avenue of retreat. He feared the piecemeal
commitment of their armoured forces would cause them to become caught
in a battle of attrition which they could not hope to win.
A sketch by Rommel. His words on the picture: "Patterns for
anti-airlanding obstacles. Now to be spaced irregularly instead of
regularly". The House of Local History of
Baden-Württemberg now keeps
several of these, some hand-coloured by
The notion of holding the armour inland to use as a mobile reserve
force from which they could mount a powerful counterattack applied the
classic use of armoured formations as seen in
France 1940. These
tactics were still effective on the Eastern Front, where control of
the air was important but did not dominate the action. Rommel's own
experiences at the end of the North African campaign revealed to him
that the Germans would not be allowed to preserve their armour from
air attack for this type of massed assault.
Rommel believed their
only opportunity would be to oppose the landings directly at the
beaches, and to counterattack there before the invaders could become
well established. Though there had been some defensive positions
established and gun emplacements made, the
Atlantic Wall was a token
defensive line. Rundstedt had confided to
Rommel that it was for
propaganda purposes only.
Upon arriving in Northern
Rommel was dismayed by the lack of
completed works. According to Ruge,
Rommel was in a staff position and
could not issue orders, but he took every effort to explain his plan
to commanders down to the platoon level, who took up his words
eagerly, but "more or less open" opposition from the above slowed down
the process. Finally, Rundstedt, who only respected Rommel
grudgingly (he called him
Field Marshal Cub), intervened and
supported Rommel's request for being made a commander. It was
granted in January or February 1944, when "much valuable time had been
lost." He set out to improve the fortifications along the
Atlantic Wall with great energy and engineering skill.[N 6][N 7][N
8][N 9]. He had millions of mines laid and thousands of tank traps and
obstacles set up on the beaches and throughout the countryside,
including in fields suitable for glider aircraft landings, the
so-called Rommel's asparagus.(The Allies would later counter
these with Hobart's Funnies) In April 1944
Rommel promised Hitler
that the preparations would be complete by 1 May, but by the time of
the Allied invasion the preparations were far from finished. The
quality of some of the troops manning them was poor and many bunkers
lacked sufficient stocks of ammunition.
Rundstedt expected the Allies to invade in the
it was the shortest crossing point from Britain, its port facilities
were essential to supplying a large invasion force, and the distance
from Calais to Germany was relatively short.
Rommel and Hitler's
views on the matter is a matter of debate between authors, with both
seeming to change their positions.
Inspecting 21st Panzer Division troops and a mule track carrier of the
Hitler vacillated between the two strategies. In late April, he
I SS Panzer Corps
I SS Panzer Corps placed near Paris, far enough inland to
be useless to Rommel, but not far enough for Rundstedt.
those armoured formations under his command as far forward as
possible, ordering General Erich Marcks, commanding the 84th Corps
Normandy section, to move his reserves into the
Rommel was the dominating personality in Normandy
with Rundstedt willing to delegate most of the responsibilities to him
(the central reserve was Rundstedt's idea but he did not oppose to
some form of coastal defense, and gradually came under the influence
of Rommel's thinking), Rommel's strategy of an armor-supported coastal
defense line was opposed by some officers, most notably Leo Geyr von
Schweppenburg, who was supported by
Guderian. Hitler compromised and gave
Rommel three divisions (the 2nd, the 21st and the 116th Panzer), let
Rundstedt retain four and turned the other three to Army Group G,
pleasing no one.
The Allies staged elaborate deceptions for
D-Day (see Operation
Fortitude), giving the impression that the landings would be at
Calais. Although Hitler himself expected a
Normandy invasion for a
Rommel and most Army commanders in
France believed there would
be two invasions, with the main invasion coming at the Pas-de-Calais.
Rommel drove defensive preparations all along the coast of Northern
France, particularly concentrating fortification building in the River
Somme estuary. By
D-Day on 6 June 1944 nearly all the German staff
officers, including Hitler's staff, believed that
going to be the main invasion site, and continued to believe so even
after the landings in
Normandy had occurred.
Gerd von Rundstedt
Gerd von Rundstedt and Erwin
Rommel meeting in
The 5 June storm in the channel seemed to make a landing very
unlikely, and a number of the senior officers were away from their
units for training exercises and various other efforts. On 4 June the
chief meteorologist of the 3 Air Fleet reported that weather in the
channel was so poor there could be no landing attempted for two weeks.
On 5 June
France and on 6 June he was at home celebrating
his wife's birthday. He was recalled and returned to his
headquarters at 10 pm. Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Rundstedt
had requested the reserves be transferred to his command. At
10 am Keitel advised that Hitler declined to release the reserves
but that Rundstedt could move the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend
closer to the coast, with the
Panzer-Lehr-Division placed on standby.
Later in the day, Rundstedt received authorisation to move additional
units in preparation for a counterattack, which Rundstedt decided to
launch on 7 June. Upon arrival,
Rommel concurred with the plan. By
Rommel and Speidel continued to believe that the
Normandy landing might have been a diversionary attack, as the Allied
deception measures still pointed towards Calais. The 7 June
counterattack did not take place as the 12th SS did not arrive on time
due to the Allied air bombardments. All this made the German
command structure in
France in disarray during the opening hours of
Facing relatively small-scale German counterattacks, the Allies
secured five beachheads by nightfall of 6 June, landing 155,000
troops. The Allies pushed ashore and expanded their beachhead
despite strong German resistance.
Rommel believed that if his armies
pulled out of range of Allied naval fire, it would give them a chance
to regroup and re-engage them later with a better chance of success.
While he managed to convince Rundstedt, they still needed to win over
Hitler. At a meeting with Hitler in
Margival on 17 June,
Hitler about the inevitable collapse in the German defences, but was
rebuffed and told to focus on military operations.
By mid-July the German position was crumbling. On 17 July 1944, Rommel
was returning from visiting the headquarters of the I SS Panzer Corps.
According to a widely accepted version of events, an
412 Squadron piloted by
Charley Fox strafed his staff car near
Sainte-Foy-de-Montgommery. The driver sped up and attempted to
get off the main roadway, but a 20 mm round shattered his left
arm, causing the vehicle to veer off of the road and crash into trees.
Rommel was thrown from the car, suffering injuries to the left side of
his face from glass shards and three fractures to his skull.
He was hospitalised with major head injuries (assumed to be almost
Plot against Hitler
Main article: 20 July plot
The role that
Rommel played in the military's resistance against
Hitler or the
20 July plot
20 July plot is difficult to ascertain, as people most
directly involved did not survive and limited documentation on the
conspirators' plans and preparations exists. The strongest
evidence that points to the possibility that
Rommel came to support
the assassination plan was General Eberbach's confession to his son
(eavesdropped by British agencies) while in British captivity, which
Rommel explicitly said to him that Hitler and his close
associates had to be killed because this would be the only way out for
Germany. This conversation occurred about a month
Rommel was coerced into committing suicide.
Bomb blast damage following attempt to kill Hitler on 20 July 1944
According to a post-war account by Karl Strölin, three of Rommel's
friends—the Oberbürgermeister of Stuttgart, Strölin (who had
Rommel in the First World War), Alexander von Falkenhausen
and Carl Heinrich von Stülpnagel—began efforts to bring
the anti-Hitler conspiracy in early 1944. According to Strölin,
sometime in February,
Rommel agreed to lend his support to the
resistance. On 15 April 1944 Rommel's new chief of staff, Hans
Speidel, arrived in
Normandy and reintroduced
Stülpnagel. Speidel had previously been connected to Carl
Goerdeler, the civilian leader of the resistance, but not to the
plotters led by Claus von Stauffenberg, and came to Stauffenberg's
attention only due to his appointment to Rommel's headquarters. The
conspirators felt they needed the support of a field marshal on active
duty. Erwin von Witzleben, who would have become commander-in-chief of
Wehrmacht had the plot succeeded, was a field marshal, but had
been inactive since 1942. The conspirators gave instructions to
Speidel to bring
Rommel into their circle.
Speidel met with former foreign minister
Konstantin von Neurath
Konstantin von Neurath and
Strölin on 27 May in Germany, ostensibly at Rommel's request,
although the latter was not present. Neurath and Strölin suggested
opening immediate surrender negotiations in the West, and, according
Rommel agreed to further discussions and
preparations. Around the same timeframe, the plotters in Berlin
were not aware that
Rommel had allegedly decided to take part in the
conspiracy. On 16 May, they informed Allen Dulles, through whom they
hoped to negotiate with the Western Allies, that
Rommel could not be
counted on for support.
At least initially,
Rommel opposed assassinating Hitler.
According to some authors, he gradually
changed his attitude. After the war, his widow—among
Rommel believed an assassination attempt
would spark civil war in Germany and Austria, and Hitler would have
become a martyr for a lasting cause. Instead,
suggested that Hitler be arrested and brought to trial for his crimes;
he did not attempt to implement this plan when Hitler visited
Margival, France, on 17 June. The arrest plan would have been highly
improbable, as Hitler's security was extremely tight.
have known this, having commanded Hitler's army protection detail in
1939. He was in favour of peace negotiations, and repeatedly
urged Hitler to negotiate with the Allies, which is dubbed by some as
"hopelessly naive", considering no one would trust
Hitler, and "as naive as it was idealistic, the attitude
he showed to the man he had sworn loyalty". On 15 July, Rommel
wrote a letter to Hitler giving him a "last chance" to end the
hostilities with the Western Allies, urging Hitler to "draw the proper
conclusions without delay." What
Rommel didn't know was that the
letter took two weeks to reach Hitler because of Kluge's
precautions. Various authors report that many German
generals in Normandy, including some SS officers like Hausser,
Bittrich, Dietrich (a hard-core Nazi and Hitler's long-time supporter)
and Rommel's former opponent Geyr von Schweppenburg pledged support to
him, even against Hitler's orders, while Kluge supported him with much
hesitation. Von Rundstedt encouraged
carry out his plans but refused to do anything himself, remarking that
it had to be a man who was still young and loved by the
people, while von Manstein was also approached by
categorically refused, although he did not report them to Hitler
On 17 July
Rommel was incapacitated by an Allied air attack, which
many authors describe as a fateful event that drastically altered the
outcome of the bomb plot. Writer
Ernst Jünger commented: "The blow that felled Rommel ... robbed
the plan of the shoulders that were to be entrusted the double weight
of war and civil war - the only man who had enough naivety to counter
the simple terror that those he was about to go against
After the failed bomb attack of 20 July, many conspirators were
arrested and the dragnet expanded to thousands.
Rommel was first
implicated when Stülpnagel, after his failed suicide attempt,
repeatedly muttered "Rommel" in delirium. Under torture,
Rommel as one of the participants. Additionally,
Goerdeler had written down Rommel's name on a list as potential Reich
President (according to Stroelin, they had not managed to announce
this intention to
Rommel yet and he probably never heard of it until
the end of his life). On 27 September,
Martin Bormann submitted to Hitler a memorandum which claimed that
"the late General Stülpnagel, Colonel von Hofacker, Kluge's nephew
who has been executed,
Lieutenant Colonel Rathgens, and several ...
living defendants have testified that
perfectly in the picture about the assassination plan and has promised
to be at the disposal of the New Government." Gestapo agents
were sent to Rommel's house in
Ulm and placed him under
Rommel's funeral procession.
Rommel's case was turned over to the "Court of Military Honour"—a
drumhead court-martial convened to decide the fate of officers
involved in the conspiracy. The court included, among others, Wilhelm
Keitel, Heinz Guderian,
Gerd von Rundstedt
Gerd von Rundstedt and Heinrich
Rommel had fired after
1941). The Court acquired information that implicated
Speidel, Hofacker and others, with Keitel and Kaltenbrunner assuming
Rommel had taken part in the subversion. Keitel and Guderian then
made the decision that favoured Speidel's case and at the same time
shifted the blame to Rommel. By normal procedure, this
would lead to Rommel's being brought to Roland Freisler's People's
Court, a kangaroo court that always decided in favour of the
prosecution. However, Hitler knew that having
Rommel branded and
executed as a traitor would severely damage morale on the home
front. He thus decided to offer
Rommel the chance to take
his own life.
Two generals from Hitler's headquarters,
Wilhelm Burgdorf and Ernst
Rommel at his home on 14 October 1944. Burgdorf
informed him of the charges and offered him three options: he could
choose to defend himself personally to Hitler in Berlin,[N 10] or if
he refused to do so (which would be taken as an admission of guilt),
he would either face the People's Court—which would have been
tantamount to a death sentence—or choose a quiet suicide. In the
former case, his family would have suffered even before the
all-but-certain conviction and execution, and his staff would have
been arrested and executed as well. In the latter case, the government
would claim that he died a hero and bury him with full military
honours, and his family would receive full pension payments. Burgdorf
had brought a cyanide capsule.
Rommel denied involvement in the plot, declared his love for Hitler
and that he would gladly serve his "Fatherland" again. Der
Spiegel takes notice of the fact that he was talking to his messengers
of death and some would claim that he was acting out of helpless
Der Spiegel thought his love for Hitler felt
sincere) while Remy suggests that
Rommel was trying in some way
to apologize to Hitler, towards whom he had conflicting emotions,
which Ernst Maisel realized and found "disgusting" and "a
hypocrisy", because Maisel (a loyal, unapologetic Hitler supporter,
even after the war) could not understand how someone could try to kill
someone he loved (Rommel's previous replies about his role in the
attempt made Maisel believe that he was part of the
Rommel thought the matter over, an SS detachment surrounded his
village, leading him to conclude that if he agreed to face the
People's Court, he would not reach Berlin alive. With that in
Rommel opted to commit suicide, and explained his decision to
his wife and son. Wearing his
Afrika Korps jacket and carrying
his field marshal's baton,
Rommel went to Burgdorf's Opel, driven by
SS Master Sergeant Heinrich Doose, and was driven out of the village.
After stopping, Doose and Maisel walked away from the car, leaving
Rommel with Burgdorf. Five minutes later Burgdorf gestured to the two
men to return to the car, and Doose noticed that
Rommel was slumped
over, having taken the cyanide. He died before being taken to the
Wagner-Schule field hospital. Ten minutes later, the group telephoned
Rommel's wife to inform her of his death.
Witnesses were struck by the smile of deep contempt on the dead man's
face, never seen in life, and his widow thought it was for
The official story of Rommel's death, as reported to the public,
Rommel had died of either a heart attack or a cerebral
embolism—a complication of the skull fractures he had suffered in
the earlier strafing of his staff car. To
strengthen the story still further, Hitler ordered an official day of
mourning in commemoration. As previously promised,
Rommel was given a
state funeral. The fact that his state funeral was held in
of Berlin had, according to his son, been stipulated by Rommel.
Rommel had specified that no political paraphernalia be displayed on
his corpse, but the Nazis made sure his coffin was festooned with
swastikas. Hitler sent
Field Marshal von Rundstedt, who was
Rommel had died as a result of Hitler's orders, as his
representative at Rommel's funeral. The body was cremated so no
incriminating evidence would be left. The truth behind Rommel's
death became known to the Allies when intelligence officer Charles
Marshall interviewed Rommel's widow, Lucia Rommel, as well as
from a letter by Rommel's son Manfred in April 1945.
Rommel's grave is located in Herrlingen, a short distance west of Ulm.
For decades after the war on the anniversary of his death, veterans of
the Africa campaign, including former opponents, would gather at his
tomb in Herrlingen.
Rommel's style as military commander
Rommel's experiences on the Italian front in the First World War which
gained successes against opponents shaped Rommel's subsequent style as
a military commander.
Rommel was a successful tactician in a rapidly
developing, mobile battle. He learned that taking initiative and not
allowing the enemy forces to regroup led to victory. Some authors,
like Porch, comment that Rommel's enemies were often less organized,
second-rate, or depleted, and his tactics were less effective against
adequately led, trained and supplied opponents, and proved
insufficient in the latter years of the war. Others point out
that through his career, he frequently fought while out-numbered and
out-gunned, sometimes overwhelmingly so, while having to deal with
internal opponents in Germany who hoped that he would
Rommel is praised by numerous authors as a great leader of men.[N
The historian and journalist
Basil Liddell Hart
Basil Liddell Hart concludes that he was
a strong leader who was worshipped by his troops and respected by his
adversaries, and is deserving to be named as one of the "Great
Captains of History."
Owen Connelly concurred, writing that "No
better exemplar of military leadership can be found than Erwin
Rommel", quoting Mellenthin on the inexplicable mutual understanding
that existed between
Rommel and his troops. Hitler, though,
remarked that, "Unfortunately Field-Marshal
Rommel is a very great
leader full of drive in times of success, but an absolute pessimist
when he meets the slightest problems." Telp criticised
not extending the benevolence he showed in promoting his own officers'
careers to his peers, who he ignored or slighted in his reports.
Rommel helping to free up his staff car, Škoda Superb Kfz 21
Rommel received both praise and criticism for his leadership during
the French campaign. Many, such as General Georg Stumme, who had
previously commanded 7th Panzer Division, were impressed with the
speed and success of Rommel's drive. Others were reserved or
critical: Kluge, the commanding officer, argued that Rommel's
decisions were impulsive and that he claimed too much credit, by
falsifying diagrams or not acknowledging contributions of other units,
especially the Luftwaffe. Some pointed out that Rommel's division took
the highest casualties in the campaign. Others point out that in
exchange for 2,160 casualties and 42 tanks, it captured more than
100,000 prisoners and destroyed nearly two divisions' worth of enemy
tanks (about 450 tanks), vehicles and guns.
Taking his opponents by surprise and creating uncertainty in their
minds were key elements in Rommel's approach to offensive warfare: he
took advantage of sand storms and the dark of night to conceal the
movement of his forces.
Rommel was aggressive, often directed
battle from the front or piloted a reconnaissance aircraft over the
lines to get a view of the situation. When the British mounted a
commando raid deep behind German lines in an effort to kill
his staff on the eve of their Crusader offensive,
Rommel was indignant
that the British expected to find his headquarters 250 miles behind
Friedrich von Mellenthin
Friedrich von Mellenthin and Harald Kuhn write that at
times in North Africa his absence from a position of communication
made command of the battles of the
Afrika Korps difficult. Mellenthin
lists Rommel's counterattack during
Operation Crusader as one such
instance. Butler concurred, saying that leading from the
front is a good concept, however
Rommel took it so far (he frequently
directed the actions of a single company or battalion) that he made
communication and coordination between units problematic, as well as
risking of life to where he could have been easily killed even by one
of his own artillery batteries. Kesselring also complained about
Rommel cruising about the battlefield like a division or corps
commander, but Gause and Westphal supported
Rommel and replied that in
the African desert only this method would work, and that it was
useless to try to restrain
Rommel anyway. His staff
officers, although admiring towards their leader, complained about the
self-destructive Spartan lifestyle that made life harder, diminished
his effectiveness and forced them to "babi[ed] him as unobstrusively
Rommel spoke German with a pronounced southern German or Swabian
accent. He was not a part of the Prussian aristocracy that dominated
the German high command, and as such was looked upon somewhat
suspiciously by the Wehrmacht's traditional power structure.
Rommel felt a commander should be physically more robust than the
troops he led, and should always show them an example.[N 14] He
expected his subordinate commanders to do the same.
Rommel was direct, unbending, tough in his manners, to superiors and
subordinates alike, disobedient even to Hitler whenever he saw fit,
although he was gentle and diplomatic to the lower ranks (German and
Italian alike) and POWs. Despite being
publicity-friendly, he was also shy, introverted, clumsy and overly
formal even to his closest aides, judging people only on their merits,
although loyal and considerate to those who had proved reliability,
and displayed a surprisingly passionate and devoted side to a very
small few (including Hitler) with whom he had dropped down the
seemingly impenetrable barriers (many of these traits seemed to
manifest even at a very young age)..
Relations with Italian forces
Rommel with German and Italian officers, 1942
Rommel's relationship with the Italian High Command in North Africa
was generally poor. Although he was nominally subordinate to the
Italians, he enjoyed a certain degree of autonomy from them; since he
was directing their troops in battle as well as his own, this was
bound to cause hostility among Italian commanders. Conversely, as the
Italian command had control over the supplies of the forces in Africa,
they resupplied Italian units preferentially, which was a source of
Rommel and his staff. Rommel's direct and abrasive
manner did nothing to smooth these issues.
While certainly much less proficient than
Rommel in their leadership,
aggressiveness, tactical outlook and mobile warfare skills,
Italian commanders were competent in logistics, strategy and artillery
doctrine: their troops were ill-equipped but well-trained. As such,
the Italian commanders were repeatedly at odds with
concerns with issues of supply.
Field Marshal Kesselring was
assigned Supreme Commander Mediterranean, at least in part to
alleviate command problems between
Rommel and the Italians. This
effort resulted only in partial success, with Kesselring's own
relationship with the Italians being unsteady and Kesselring claiming
Rommel ignored him as easily as he ignored the Italians.
Rommel often went directly to Hitler with his needs and concerns,
taking advantage of the favoritism that the Führer displayed towards
him and adding to the distrust that Kesselring and the German High
Command already had of him.
Very different, however, was the perception of
Rommel by Italian
common soldiers and NCOs, who, like the German field troops, had the
deepest trust and respect for him.[N 15] Paolo Colacicchi, an
officer in the Italian Tenth Army recalled that
Rommel "became sort of
a myth to the Italian soldiers" and that the
Bersaglieri baptised him
"Rommelito"(perhaps also a reference to both men's small stature:
"Rommelito" means "little Rommel" while
Romulus means "the little boy
from Rome". Incidentally, Palestine Jews associated
Romulus as well, based on Ohr Hachaim's 200-year-old commentary on the
account of Jacob wrestling with the angel).
Rommel himself held a
much more generous view about the Italian soldier than about
their leadership (towards whom his disdain, deeply rooted in
militarism, was not atypical, although unlike Kesselring, he was
incapable of concealing it) Unlike many of his superiors and
subordinates who held racist views, he was usually "kindly disposed"
to the Italians in general.
Some authors like Sadkovich blame
Rommel for abandoning his Italian
units, refusing cooperation, rarely acknowledging their achievements
and other erroneous behaviours towards his Italian allies, while
others point out that the Italians under Rommel, in comparison with
many of their compatriots in other areas, were better led, supplied
and trained, and fought well as a result, with a ratio of wounded and
killed Italians similar to that of the Germans. In
one case, a false accusation of Rommel's supposed mistreatment of
Italians made by Goering was refuted by Mussolini himself. In
1943, Jodl described
Rommel as the only German commander numerous
officers and soldiers in Italy would willingly subordinate to.
Views on the conduct of war
Rommel walks past Allied prisoners taken at Tobruk, 1942
Many authors describe
Rommel as having a reputation of being a
chivalrous, humane, and professional officer, and that he earned the
respect of both his own troops and his
to Young's biography and Luck's memoirs, during the desert campaign,
interactions between German and British troops encountering each other
between battles were sometimes openly friendly. The same was
not true in the
Normandy Campaign, however, where both Allied and
German troops murdered prisoners of war on occasion during June and
July 1944. According to Remy, although there were massacres
caused by Hitler's orders (issued during Rommel's stay in a hospital),
Rommel treated his Italian opponents with his usual fairness,
requiring that the prisoners should be accorded the same conditions as
German civilians. Remy opines that an order in which
Rommel (who was
actually protesting against Hitler's directives) called for no
"sentimental scruples" against "Badoglio-dependent bandits in uniforms
of the once brothers-in-arms" should not be taken out of context.
Peter Lieb agrees that the order did not radicalize the war and that
the disarmament in Rommel's area of responsibility happened without
major bloodshed. Italian internees were sent to Germany for
forced labour, but
Rommel did not know about this. In
Rommel withheld Hitler's
Commando Order to execute captured
commandos from Army Group B, with his units reporting that they were
treating commandos as regular POWs. The same had most likely been done
in North Africa, however this is disputed by historian Szymon
Datner who wrote that
Rommel might have been simply trying to conceal
Nazi Germany from the Allies. Other authors argue
that generosity to opponents was a natural trait of the man, like
Claus Telp who states that
Rommel by nature was chivalrous and not
prone to order needless violence, or Robert Forczyk who considers
Rommel a true great captain with chivalry. Maurice Remy states
that due to the man's personality and some special circumstances, he
was only really confronted with the reality of atrocities in 1944
(although he had heard rumours about massacres while fighting in
Africa). Some authors cite, among other cases, Rommel's naive
reactions to what happened in Poland while being there: he paid a
visit to his wife's uncle, famous Polish priest and patriotic leader
Edmund Roszczynialski, who was murdered days after, which was never
found out by
Rommel who, at his wife's urgings, kept writing letter
after letter to Himmler's adjutants asking them to keep track and take
care of their relative. Knopp and Mosier agree that he
was naive politically, citing his request for a Jewish Gauleiter in
1943. Despite this, Peter Lieb finds it hard to believe that
a man of Rommel's position could have known nothing about atrocities,
although Lieb accepts that locally he was separated from places these
atrocities happened, while
Der Spiegel comments that
simply in denial about what happened around him. Alaric Searle
points out that it was the early diplomatic successes and bloodless
expansion that blinded
Rommel to the true nature of his beloved
Führer, whom he kept naively supporting. Scheck believes that it
might be forever unclear whether
Rommel recognized the unprecedent
depraved character of the regime. When
Rommel learned about the
atrocities SS Division Leibstandarte committed in Italy in September
1943, he allegedly forbade his son to join the Waffen-SS.
Richard J. Evans
Richard J. Evans has stated that German soldiers in Tunisia
raped Jewish women, and the success of Rommel's forces in capturing or
securing Allied, Italian and Vichy French territory in North Africa
led to many Jews in these areas being killed by other German
institutions as part of the Holocaust. Similarly, several German
historians argued that while
Rommel did not have strong racial views,
if he had succeeded in his goal of invading the
Middle East during
1942 large numbers of Jews in Palestine would have been murdered by an
SS unit which had been deployed to North Africa in July 1942 to
operate behind the lines of the Afrika Korps. According to Mallmann
and Cüppers, on 20 July, Walther Rauff, who was responsible for the
unit, was sent to
Tobruk to report to Rommel, however
500 km away from
Tobruk conducting the First El Alamein, so
Mallmann and Cüppers found that the chance for a meeting between
Rommel and Rauff (in which
Rommel reportedly was disgusted after
learning about the plan from Rauff and sent Rauff on his way), as
described by a post-war CIA report, was hardly possible. On 29
July, Rauff's unit was sent to Athens, expecting to enter Africa when
Rommel crossed the Nile. However, in view of the Axis' deteriorating
situation in Africa, they returned to Germany in September.
Historian Jean-Christoph Caron opines that there is no evidence that
Rommel knew or would have supported Rauff's mission, and he also
Rommel bore no direct responsibility regarding the SS's
looting of gold in Tunisia. According to historian Haim Saadon,
Director of the Center of Research on North African Jewry in WWII,
there was no extermination plan: Rauff's documents show that his
foremost concern was helping the
Wehrmacht to win, and he came up with
idea of forced labour camps in the process. By the time
these labour camps were in effect, according to Ben Shepherd, Rommel
had already been retreating and there is no proof of his contact with
Rommel had described the conduct of the desert war as "War without
Hate" in his papers. Historian
Martin Kitchen states that the
reputation of the
Afrika Korps was preserved due to circumstances: the
sparsely populated desert areas did not lend themselves to ethnic
cleansing; the German forces never reached
Egypt and Palestine that
had large Jewish populations; and in the urban areas of
Tripolitania, the Italian government constrained the German efforts to
discriminate against or eliminate Jews who were Italian citizens.
Despite this, the North African Jews themselves believed that it was
Rommel who prevented the "Final Solution" from being carried out
against them when German might dominated North Africa from
Morocco. According to Curtis and Remy, 120,000 Jews lived in
Algeria, 200,000 in Morocco, about 80,000 in
Tunisia (when the Germans
Tunisia in 1942, this number remained the same), 26,000
in Libya. According to Marshall, he sharply protested the Jewish
policies, other immoral activities and was an opponent of the
Gestapo. He also refused to comply with Hitler's order to execute
Jewish POWs.[N 16] (His own
Afrika Korps was known among soldiers
of Jewish descent as a refuge, safe from racial laws and
discrimination.) At his 17 June 1944 meeting with Hitler at
Margival, he protested against the atrocity committed by the 2nd SS
Panzer Division Das Reich, which had massacred the citizens of the
French town of Oradour-sur-Glane.
Rommel asked to be allowed to punish
the division. Building the
Atlantic Wall was officially
the responsibility of the Organisation Todt (which was not under
Rommel's command), but he enthusiastically joined the task,
protesting slave labour and suggesting that they should recruit French
civilians and pay them good wages. Despite this, French
civilians and Italian prisoners of war held by the Germans were forced
by officials under the Vichy government, the Todt Organization
and the SS forces to work on building some of the defences Rommel
ordered constructed, in appalling conditions according to historian
Will Fowler. Although they got basic wages, the workers complained
because it was too little and there was no heavy
equipment. Robin Neillands and Roderick De Normann
report that German soldiers as well as Russian and Polish renegades
were used to avoid forced labour. German troops also worked
almost round-the-clock under very harsh conditions, with Rommel's
rewards being accordions (
Rommel was an eccentric and horrible
violinist himself). Lieb reports that he felt pity when
he saw the French's suffering in his inspection tour and probably
helped to save the lives of thousands of locals.
Rick Atkinson criticizes
Rommel for gaining a looted stamp collection
(a bribe from Sepp Dietrich) and a villa taken from the Jews.
Lucas, Matthews and Remy though describe the contemptuous and angry
Rommel towards Dietrich's act, the lootings and other
brutal behaviours of the SS that he had discovered in Italy.
Claudia Hecht also explains that although the Stuttgart and Ulm
authorities did arrange for the
Rommel family the brief use of a villa
(whose Jewish owners had been forced out two years before that) after
their house had been destroyed by Allied bombing, the ownership was
never transferred to them. Butler notes that
Rommel was one of
the few who refused large estates and gifts of cash Hitler gave to his
Curiously, a recent research by
Norman Ohler claims that Rommel's
behaviours were heavily influenced by Pervitin which he reportedly
took in heavy doses, to such an extent that Ohler referred to him as
"the Crystal Fox" ("Kristallfuchs") playing off the nickname
"the Desert Fox" (a nickname famously given to him by the British, as
reported by other sources).
In Nazi and Allied propaganda
At the beginning, although Hitler and Goebbels took particular notice
of Rommel, the Nazi elites had no intent to create one major war
symbol (partly out of fear that he would offset Hitler),
generating huge propaganda campaigns for not only
Rommel but also Gerd
von Rundstedt, Walther von Brauchitsch, Eduard Dietl, Sepp Dietrich
(the latter two were party members and also strongly supported by
Hitler), etc. Despite this, due to a multitude of
conditions such as Rommel's unusual charisma,[N 17][N 18] his talents
both in military matters and public relations[N 19] as well as no
small help from Goebbels' propaganda machine and the Allies's
participation in mythologizing his life (either for political
benefits, sympathy for someone who evoked a romantic
archetype, or genuine admiration for his actions), the
situation gradually developed to the point that, as Spiegel described,
"Even back then his fame outshone that of all other commanders."
Rommel's victories in
France were featured in the German press and in
the February 1941 film Victory in the West, in which
helped direct a segment reenacting the crossing of the Somme
River. Rommel's victories in 1941 were played up by the Nazi
propaganda, even though his successes in North Africa were achieved in
arguably one of Germany's least strategically important theaters of
World War II.[N 20] In November 1941, Reich Minister of Propaganda
Joseph Goebbels wrote about "the urgent need" to have
to a kind of popular hero". Rommel, with his innate abilities as a
military commander and love of the spotlight, was a perfect fit for
the role Goebbels designed for him.
Rommel at a
Paris victory parade (June 1940).
Rommel had access to
Reich Minister of Propaganda
Joseph Goebbels via a senior propaganda
official Karl Hanke, who served under
Rommel during the 1940
Successes in North Africa
In North Africa,
Rommel received help in cultivating his image from
Alfred Ingemar Berndt, a senior official at the Reich Propaganda
Ministry who had volunteered for military service. Seconded by
Goebbels, Berndt was assigned to Rommel's staff and became one of his
closest aides. Berndt often acted as liaison between Rommel, the
Propaganda Ministry and the Führer Headquarters. He directed Rommel's
photo shoots and filed radio dispatches describing the
In the spring of 1941, Rommel's name began to appear in the British
media. In the autumn of 1941 and early winter of 1941/1942, he was
mentioned in the British press almost daily. Toward the end of the
year, the Reich propaganda machine also used Rommel's successes in
Africa as a diversion from the Wehrmacht's challenging situation in
the Soviet Union with the stall of Operation Barbarossa.[N
21] The American press soon began to take notice of
Rommel as well,
following the country's entry into the war on 11 December 1941,
writing that "The British (...) admire him because he beat them and
were surprised to have beaten in turn such a capable general". General
Auchinleck distributed a directive to his commanders seeking to dispel
the notion that
Rommel was a "superman". Rommel, no matter
how hard the situation was, made a deliberate effort at always
spending some time with soldiers and patients, his own and POWs alike,
which contributed greatly to his reputation of not only being a great
commander but also "a decent chap" among the troops.
The attention of the Western and especially the British press thrilled
Goebbels, who wrote in his diary in early 1942: "
Rommel continues to
be the recognized darling of even the enemies' news agencies."
Field Marshal was pleased by the media attention, although he knew
the downsides of having a reputation.[N 22] Hitler took note
of the British propaganda as well, commenting in the summer of 1942
that Britain's leaders must have hoped "to be able to explain their
defeat to their own nation more easily by focusing on Rommel."
Field Marshal was the German commander most frequently covered in
the German media, and the only one to be given a press conference,
which took place in October 1942. The press conference was
moderated by Goebbels and was attended by both domestic and foreign
Rommel declared: "Today we (...) have the gates of
hand, and with the intent to act!" Keeping the focus on Rommel
distracted the German public from
Wehrmacht losses elsewhere as the
tide of the war began to turn. He became a symbol that was used to
reinforce the German public's faith in an ultimate Axis victory.
In the wake of the successful British offensive in November 1942 and
other military reverses, the Propaganda Ministry directed the media to
emphasize Rommel's invincibility. The charade was maintained until the
spring of 1943, even as the German situation in Africa became
increasingly precarious. To ensure that the inevitable defeat in
Africa would not be associated with Rommel's name, Goebbels had the
Supreme High Command announce in May 1943 that
Rommel was on a
two-month leave for health reasons.[N 23] Instead, the campaign
was presented, by Berndt, who resumed his role in the Propaganda
Ministry, as a ruse to tie down the British Empire while Germany was
turning Europe into an impenetrable fortress, with
Rommel at the helm
of this success. After the radio program ran in May 1943,
Berndt a case of cigars as a sign of his gratitude.
One of the many propaganda photographs of
Rommel on inspection tours
of the Atlantic wall.
Rommel then entered a period without a significant command,
he remained a household name in Germany, synonymous with the aura of
invincibility. Hitler then made
Rommel part of his defensive
Fortress Europe (Festung Europa) by sending him to the
West to inspect fortifications along the Atlantic Wall. Goebbels
supported the decision, noting in his diary that
"undoubtedly the suitable man" for the task. The propaganda minister
expected the move to reassure the German public and at the same time
to have a negative impact on the Allied forces' morale.
In France, a
Wehrmacht propaganda company frequently accompanied
Rommel on his inspection trips to document his work for both domestic
and foreign audiences. In May 1944 the German newsreels
reported on Rommel's speech at a
Wehrmacht conference, where he stated
his conviction that "every single German soldier will make his
contribution against the Anglo-American spirit that it deserves for
its criminal and bestial air war campaign against our homeland". The
speech led to an upswing in morale and sustained confidence in
Rommel was seriously wounded on 17 July 1944, the Propaganda
Ministry undertook efforts to conceal the injury so as not to
undermine domestic morale. Despite those, the news leaked to the
British press. To counteract the rumors of a serious injury and even
Rommel was required to appear at the 1 August press conference.
On 3 August, the German press published an official report that Rommel
had been injured in a car accident.
Rommel noted in his diary his
dismay at this twisting of the truth, belatedly realising how much the
Reich propaganda was using him for its own ends.
Rommel's views on propaganda
Rommel was interested in propaganda, beyond the promotion of his own
image. In 1944, after visiting
France and reading his
proposals on counteracting Allied propaganda, Alfred-Ingemar Berndt
remarked: "He is also interested in this propaganda business and wants
to develop it by all means. He has even thought and brought out
practical suggestions for each program and subject."
Rommel saw the propaganda and education values in his and his nation's
deeds (He also did value justice itself: According to Admiral Ruge's
Rommel told Ruge: "Justice is the indispensable foundation of a
nation. Unfortunately the higher-ups are not clean. The slaughterings
are grave sins.") The key to the successful creating of an image,
according to Rommel, was leading by example: "The men tend to feel no
kind of contact with a commander who, they know, is sitting somewhere
in headquarters. What they want is what might be termed a physical
contact with him. In moments of panic, fatigue, or disorganization, or
when something out of the ordinary has to be demanded from them, the
personal example of the commander works wonders, especially if he has
had the wit to create some sort of legend around himself." He
urged Axis authorities to treat the Arab with the utmost respect to
prevent uprisings behind the front.
He protested the use of propaganda at the cost of explicit military
benefits though. Ruge suggests that his chief treated his own
fame as a kind of weapon.
The political scientist and historian
Randall Hansen suggests that
Rommel chose his whole command style for the purpose of spreading
meritocracy and egalitarianism, as well as Nazi ideals he shared with
Hitler due to their common non-aristocratic background. His
egalitarianism extended to people of other races: in replying to
white South African officers' demands that the black POWs should be
housed in separated compounds, he refused, commenting that the black
soldiers wore the same uniforms and had fought alongside the whites,
and thus were their equals. On the other hand, Watson comments
that, regarding the Afrika Korps, any Nazi indoctrination was
Rommel the freedom to reinvent his army in his own
style. Rommel's proposals were not always practical: in 1943, he
surprised Hitler by proposing that a Jew should be made into a
Gauleiter to prove to the world that Germany was innocent of
Rommel had heard from the enemy's propaganda
regarding the mistreatment of Jews. Hitler replied "Dear Rommel, you
understand nothing about my thinking at all".
Relationship with National Socialism
Adolf Hitler in 1942
Rommel was not a member of the Nazi Party.
Rommel and Hitler had
a close and genuine, if complicated, personal relationship. Rommel, as
Wehrmacht officers, welcomed the Nazi rise to power.
Numerous historians state that
Rommel was one of Hitler's favorite
generals and that his close relationship with the dictator benefited
both his inter-war and war-time career. Robert Citino
Rommel as "not apolitical" and writes that he owed his
career to Hitler, to whom Rommel's attitude was "worshipful",
with Messenger agreeing that
Rommel owed his tank command, his hero
status and other promotions to Hitler's interference and
Kesselring described Rommel's own power over Hitler as
"hypnotic". In 1944,
Rommel himself told Ruge and his wife that
Hitler had a kind of irresistible magnetic aura ("magnetismus") and
was always seemingly in an intoxicated condition. Maurice Remy
notes that the moment the fatal attraction truly materialized into a
personal relationship was 1939, when
Rommel proudly announced to his
friend Kurt Hesse that he had "sort of forced Hitler to go with me (to
the Hradschin Castle in Prague, in an open top car, without another
bodyguard), under my personal protection ... He had entrusted
himself to me and would never forget me for my excellent advice."
The close relationship between
Rommel and Hitler continued following
the Western campaign; after
Rommel sent to him a specially prepared
diary on the 7th Division, he received a letter of thanks from the
dictator[N 25] (According to Speer, normally, he would send
extremely unclear reports which annoyed Hitler greatly).
According to Maurice Remy, the relationship, which Remy calls "a dream
marriage", only showed the first crack in 1942,and later
gradually turned into, in the words of German writer
Ernst Jünger who
was in contact with
Rommel in Normandy, "hassliebe" (a love-hate
relationship). Ruge's diary and Rommel's letter to his wife
showed his mood to fluctuate wildly regarding Hitler: while he showed
disgust towards the atrocities and disappointment towards the
situation, he was overjoyed to welcome a visit from Hitler, only to
return to depression the next day when faced with reality. Hitler
displayed the same emotions. Amid growing doubts and differences, he
would remain eager to hear from Rommel's calls (they had almost daily,
hour-long, highly animated conversations, with the preferred topic
being technical innovations), once almost grabbed the telephone
out of Linge's hand. Hitler tried to fix the dysfunctional
relationship many times without results, with
Rommel calling his
attempts "Sunlamp Treatment", although later he said that "Once I have
loved the Führer, and I still do." Remy and Der Spiegel
remark that the statement was very much genuine, while Watson notes
that he believed he deserved to die for his treasonable plan.
Rommel was an ambitious man who took advantage of his proximity to
Hitler and willingly accepted the propaganda campaigns designed for
him by Goebbels.[N 26] On one hand, he wanted personal promotion
and the realization of his ideals. On the other hand, being elevated
by the traditional system that gave preferential treatment to
aristocratic officers would be betrayal of his aspiration "to remain a
man of the troops".[N 27] In 1918,
Rommel refused an invitation to a
prestigious officer training course, and with it, the chance to be
promoted to general. Additionally, he had no inclination towards
the political route, preferring to remain a soldier
("Nur-Soldat"). He was thus attracted by the Common Man
theme which promised to level German society, the glorification
of the national community, and the idea of a soldier of common
background who served the Fatherland with talent and got rewarded by
another common man who embodied the will of the German people.
While he had much indignation towards German's contemporary class
problem, this self-association with the Common Men went along well
with his desire to simulate the knights of the past, who also led from
the front. (the dominant parent in Rommel's life was his mother
Helene, a minor "von" and a loving, but ambitious and class-conscious
mother who strongly stirred him towards a military career
Rommel was greatly attached to his
profession ("the body and soul of war", a fellow officer
commented), he seemed to equally enjoy the idea of peace, as
shown by his words to his wife in August 1939: "You can trust me, we
have taken part in one World War, but as long as our generation live,
there will not be a second.", as well as his letter sent to her the
night before the Invasion of Poland, in which he expressed "boundless
optimism" (Maurice Remy's comment): "I still believe the atmosphere
will not become more bellicose." Butler remarks that
center in his politics, leaning a little to the left in his
Messenger argues that Rommel's attitude towards Hitler changed only
after the Allied invasion of Normandy, when
Rommel came to realise
that the war could not be won, while Maurice Remy suggests that
Rommel never truly broke away from the relationship with Hitler, but
praises him for "always had the courage to oppose him whenever his
conscience required so." The historian Peter Lieb states that it
was not clear whether the threat of defeat was the only reason he
wanted to switch sides The relationship seemed to go downhill
much after a conversation in July 1943, in which Hitler told Rommel
that if they did not win the war, the Germans could rot.
began to think that it was lucky that his
Afrika Korps was now safe as
POWs and could escape Hitler's Wagnerian ending. Die
Welt comments that Hitler chose
Rommel as his favourite because he was
apolitical, and that the combination of his military expertise and
Rommel to remain clean.
Rommel's political inclinations were a controversial matter even among
the contemporary Nazi elites.
Rommel himself, while showing support to
some facets of the Nazi ideology and enjoying the propaganda the
Nazi machine built around him, was enraged by the Nazi media's effort
to portray him as an early party member and son of a mason, forcing
them to correct these wrong facts. The Nazi elites were not
comfortable with the idea of a national icon who did not
wholeheartedly support the regime. Hitler and Goebbels, his main
supporters, tended to defend him. When
Rommel was being considered for
appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Army in the summer of 1942,
Goebbels wrote in his diary that
Rommel "is ideologically sound, is
not just sympathetic to the National Socialists. He is a National
Socialist; he is a troop leader with a gift for improvisation,
personally courageous and extraordinarily inventive. These are the
kinds of soldiers we need." Despite this, they gradually saw that
his grasp of political realities and his views could be very different
from theirs.[N 28] Hitler knew, though, that Rommel's
optimistic and combative character was indispensable for his war
Rommel lost faith in the final victory and Hitler's
leadership, Hitler and Goebbels tried to find an alternative in
Manstein to remedy the fighting will and "political direction" of
other generals but did not succeed.
Meanwhile, officials who did not like
Rommel like Bormann and Schirach
whispered to each other that he was not a Nazi at all. Rommel's
relationship to the Nazi elites, other than Hitler and Goebbels, was
mostly hostile, although even powerful people like Bormann and
Himmler had to tread carefully around Rommel. Himmler, who played a
decisive role in Rommel's death, tried to blame Keitel and Jodl for
the deed, which indeed was initiated by Keitel and Jodl, who deeply
resented Rommel's meteoric rise and had long feared that he would
become the Commander-in-Chief. (while Hitler also played
innocent by trying to erect a monument for the national hero, on 7
March 1945) Franz Halder, after concocting several schemes to
Rommel through people like Paulus and Gause to no avail (even
willing to undermine German operations and strategy in the process for
the sole purpose of embarrassing him), concluded that
a madman with whom no one dared to cross swords because of "his brutal
methods and his backing from the highest levels".
his part was highly critical of Himmler, Halder, the High Command and
particularly Goering who
Rommel at one point called his "bitterest
enemy".[N 29] Hitler realized that
Rommel attracted the elites'
negative emotions to himself, in the same way he generated optimism in
the common people. Depending on the case, Hitler manipulated or
exarcebated the situation in order to benefit himself,[N 30]
although he originally had no intent of pushing
Rommel to the point of
destruction (even after having been informed of Rommel's
involvement in the plot, hurt and vengeful, at first he wanted to
retire Rommel, and eventually offered him a last-minute chance to
explain himself and refute the claims, which
Rommel apparently did not
take advantage of), until Rommel's enemies worked together
to bring him down.
Maurice Remy concludes that, unwillingly and probably without ever
Rommel was part of a murderous regime, although he never
actually grasped the core of National Socialism. Peter Lieb sees
Rommel as a person who could not be put into a single drawer, although
problematic by modern moral standards, and suggests people to
personally decide for themselves whether
Rommel should remain a role
model or not. Historian Cornelia Hecht remarks "It is really hard
to know who the man behind the myth was," noting that in numerous
letters he wrote to his wife during their almost 30-year marriage, he
commented little on political issues as well as his personal life as a
husband and a father.
According to some critical authors, an assessment of Rommel's role in
history has been hampered by views of
Rommel that were formed, at
least in part, due to political reasons, creating what these
historians have called the "
Rommel myth". The interpretation
considered by some historians to be a myth is the depiction of the
Field Marshal as an apolitical, brilliant commander and a victim of
Third Reich who participated in the
20 July plot
20 July plot against Adolf
Hitler. There is a notable number of authors who refer to
Rommel Myth" or "
Rommel Legend" in a neutral or positive manner
The seeds of the myth can be found first in Rommel's drive for success
as a young officer in World War I, and then in his popular 1937 book
Infantry Attacks, which was written in a style that diverged from the
German military literature of the time and became a
The myth then took shape during the opening years of World War II, as
a component of
Nazi propaganda to praise the
Wehrmacht and instill
optimism in the German public, with Rommel's willing participation.
Rommel came to North Africa, it was picked up and disseminated in
the West by the British press as the Allies sought to explain their
continued inability to defeat the Axis forces in North Africa.
The British military and political figures contributed to the heroic
image of the man as
Rommel resumed offensive operations in January
1942 against the British forces weakened by redeployments to the Far
East. During parliamentary debate following the fall of Tobruk,
Rommel as an "extraordinary bold and clever
opponent" and a "great field commander".
According to Der Spiegel, following the war's end, West Germany
yearned for father figures who were needed to replace the former ones
who had been unmasked as criminals.
Rommel was chosen because he
embodied the decent soldier, cunning yet fair-minded, and if guilty by
association, not so guilty that he became unreliable, and
additionally, former comrades reported that he was close to the
Resistance. While everyone else was disgraced, his star became
brighter than ever, and he made the historically unprecedent leap over
the threshold between eras: from Hitler's favourite general, to the
young republic's hero. Cornelia Hecht notes that despite the change of
Rommel has become the symbol of different regimes and concepts,
which is paradoxical, whoever the man he really was. Ulrich
vom Hagen reports that Rommel, for the admiration shown towards him by
all sides after the war, was used as a unity symbol that led to the
"elegant settlement" of the conflict between fascistic,
small-bourgeois elements and the aristocratic traditionalists during
the early years after the formation of the Bundeswehr. Simon Ball
describes how various elements in the German and British armies and
governments extensively used Rommel's image in dealing with their
inner struggles, promoting aspects of his that each group associated
Eric Dorman-Smith claimed that it was a "pity we
could not have combined with
Rommel to clean up the whole mess on both
At the same time, the Western Allies, and particularly the British,
Rommel as the "good German". His reputation for conducting a
clean war was used in the interest of the West German rearmament and
reconciliation between the former enemies—Britain and the United
States on one side and the new
Federal Republic of Germany
Federal Republic of Germany on the
other. When Rommel's alleged involvement in the plot to kill
Hitler became known after the war, his stature was enhanced in the
eyes of his former adversaries.
Rommel was often cited in Western
sources as a patriotic German willing to stand up to Hitler. Churchill
wrote about him in 1950: "[Rommel] (...) deserves our respect because,
although a loyal German soldier, he came to hate Hitler and all his
works, and took part in the conspiracy of 1944 to rescue Germany by
displacing the maniac and tyrant."
The German rearmament of the early 1950s was highly dependent on the
moral rehabilitation that the
Wehrmacht needed. The journalist and
historian Basil Liddell Hart, an early proponent of these two
interconnected initiatives, provided the first widely available source
Rommel in his 1948 book on Hitler's generals, updated in 1951,
Rommel in a positive light and as someone who stood apart
from the regime.
The other foundational text was the influential and laudatory 1950
biography Rommel: The Desert Fox by Brigadier Desmond
Young.[N 32] Young extensively interviewed Rommel's widow
and collaborated with several individuals who had been close to
Rommel, including Hans Speidel. The manner of Rommel's death had led
to the assumption that he had not been a supporter of Nazism, to which
Young subscribed.[N 33] The reception of The Desert Fox in
Britain was enthusiastic, with the book going through eight editions
in a year. Young's biography was another step in the development
Rommel myth – with
Rommel emerging as an active, if not a
leading, plotter. Speidel contributed as well, starting, from the
early 1950s, to bring up Rommel's and his own role in the plot,
boosting his [Speidel's] suitability for a future role in the new
military force of the Federal Republic, the Bundeswehr, and then in
Further in 1953 was the publication of Rommel's writings of the war
period as The
Rommel Papers, edited by Liddell Hart. The book
contributed to the perception of
Rommel as a brilliant commander; in
an introduction, Liddell Hart drew comparisons between
Lawrence of Arabia, "two masters of desert warfare". Liddell Hart
had a personal interest in the work: by having coaxed Rommel's widow
to include material favorable to himself, he could present
his "pupil". The controversy was described by the political scientist
John Mearsheimer, who concluded that, by "manipulating history",
Liddell Hart was in a position to show that he was at the root of the
dramatic German success in 1940.
Elements of the myth
Rommel's desert uniform and death mask (right) displayed at the German
Tank Museum in Munster.
According to Connelly, Young and Liddell Hart laid the foundation for
the Anglo-American myth, which consisted of three themes: Rommel's
ambivalence towards Nazism; his military genius; and the emphasis of
the chivalrous nature of the fighting in North Africa. Their
works lent support to the image of the "clean Wehrmacht" and were
generally not questioned, since they came from British authors, rather
than German revisionists.[N 34]
Historian Bruce Allen Watson offers his interpretation of the myth,
encompassing the foundation laid down by the
Nazi propaganda machine.
According to Watson, the most dominant element is
Rommel the Superior
Soldier; the second being
Rommel the Common Man; and the last one
Rommel the Martyr. The German news magazine
Der Spiegel described
the myth in 2007 as "Gentleman warrior, military genius".[N 35]
Contradictions and ambiguities
During recent years, historians' opinions on
Rommel have become more
diversified, with some aspects of his image being the target of
revisionism more frequently than the others. According to the
prominent German historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler, the modern consensus
agrees with post-war sources that
Rommel treated the Allied captives
decently, and he personally thinks that the movie
Rommel does not
overstate his conscience. Also according to Wehler, scholars in
England and the US still show a lot of admiration towards
military commander. Some authors, notably Wolfgang Proske, see
Rommel as a criminal whose memorials should be removed, although these
represent the unorthodox minority (which is admitted by
Proske). Perry and Massari note that the majority of
historians continue to describe
Rommel as a brilliant, chivalrous
Modern historians who agree with the image of the apolitical,
chivalrous genius also have
different opinions regarding details. Smith and Bierman opine that
Rommel might be considered an honourable man in his limited way but in
a deeply dishonourable cause, and that he played the game of war with
no more hatred for his opponent than a rugby team captain might feel
for his opposite number. Butler states that Rommel's idealistic
character led to grave misjudgements because he refused to let
anything compromise it, and also that although he had a sense of
strategy that developed greatly during the war, he lacked a philosophy
According to some modern scholars, he was much more complex than the
figure that has been firmly established in post-war reputation.
Caddick-Adams writes that
Rommel was a "complicated man of many
contradictions", while Beckett notes that "Rommel's myth (...)
has proved remarkably resilient" and that more work is needed to put
him in proper historical context. Watson opines that historians
Rommel as someone they want him to be, "coward ...
hero, fool, villain or hypocrite", and that he seemed to be all of
these things, except coward, with perhaps a naive loyalty. Hansen
Rommel was hardly naive, always judged military and
political situations with cold objectivity, and shared a lot of
characteristics with Hitler, an opinion shared by psychoanalyst
and historian Geoffrey Cocks, who writes that
Rommel "embodies the
modern synergy of technical expertise and self-promotion ...
arriviste, ... professionally ambitious, adept at cultivating a
mass media image ... like Hitler."
There is also, especially in Germany, an increasing tendency to
Rommel as someone who cannot be explained in concrete details
yet. However, these modern authors, while respecting the man and his
mythical aura, are not afraid to show his questionable traits, or
point out the horrible (including the possible) consequences of his
"politically extremely naive" actions that perhaps would not be
fitting of a role model, and allow living witnesses who might portray
Rommel in a negative light to speak in documentaries about him, to the
extent some, like General Storbeck, consider excessive and unbalanced
(Storbeck states that there are many other witnesses who will provide
the opposite views, and also questions the use of an extremely ill
Manfred Rommel to achieve a portrayal filmmakers
Reputation as military commander
Rommel myth § Operational and strategic level
Rommel had been extraordinarily well known in his lifetime, including
by his adversaries. His tactical prowess and consistent decency in the
treatment of Allied prisoners earned him the respect of many
opponents, including Claude Auchinleck, Archibald Wavell, George S.
Patton, and Bernard Montgomery.
Rommel's military reputation has been controversial. While nearly all
military practitioners acknowledge Rommel's excellent tactical skills
and personal bravery, some, such as U.S. major general and military
David T. Zabecki of the
United States Naval Institute,
considers Rommel's performance as an operational level commander to be
highly overrated. He argues that other officers share this
belief.[N 36] General Klaus Naumann, who served as Chief of Staff
of the Bundeswehr, agrees with the military historian Charles
Rommel had challenges at the operational level, and
states that Rommel's violation of the unity of command principle,
bypassing the chain of command in Africa, was unacceptable and
contributed to the eventual operational and strategic failure in North
Africa.[N 37] The German biographer
Wolf Heckmann describes
Rommel as "the most overrated commander of an army in world
Nevertheless, there is also a notable number of officers who admire
his methods, like Norman Schwarzkopf who describes
Rommel as a "genius
at battles of movement" and explains that "Look at Rommel. Look at
North Africa, the Arab-Israeli wars, and all the rest of them. A war
in the desert is a war of mobility and lethality. It's not a war where
straight lines are drawn in the sand and [you] say, 'I will defend
here or die."
Ariel Sharon deemed the German military model
Rommel to be superior to the British model used by
Montgomery. His compatriot
Moshe Dayan likewise considered Rommel
a model and icon.
Wesley Clark states that "Rommel's military
reputation, though, has lived on, and still sets the standard for a
style of daring, charismatic leadership to which most officers
aspire." During the recent desert wars, Rommel's military
theories and experiences attracted great interest from policy makers
and military instructors. Chinese military leader Sun Li-jen
had the laudatory nickname "
Rommel of the East". The Bundeswehr
NATO partners recognize
Rommel as the modern knight of
the Bundeswehr, a highly successful operator of military arts and an
apolitical, chivalrous soldier (with several leaders of the Bundeswehr
like Helmut Willmann (de),
Hartmut Bagger and Edgar
Trost (de) declaring him as their personal role model). This
ideal of modern knighthood is connected and combined with the
Miles Christianus model, the more recent "Miles
Protector" model, the "Soldier-Statesman" concept, and the
traditional monofunctional combatant.
Certain modern military historians, such as Larry T. Addington, Niall
Douglas Porch and Robert Citino, are skeptical of
Rommel as an
operational, let alone strategic level commander. They point to
Rommel's lack of appreciation for Germany's strategic situation, his
misunderstanding of the relative importance of his theatre to the
German High Command, his poor grasp of logistical realities, and,
according to the historian Ian Beckett, his "penchant for glory
hunting". Citino credits Rommel's limitations as an
operational level commander as "materially contributing" to the
eventual demise of the Axis forces in North Africa,[N 38] while
Addington focuses on the struggle over strategy, whereby Rommel's
initial brilliant success resulted in "catastrophic effects" for
Germany in North Africa. Porch highlights Rommel's "offensive
mentality", symptomatic of the
Wehrmacht commanders as a whole in the
belief that the tactical and operational victories would lead to
strategic success. Compounding the problem was the Wehrmacht's
institutional tendency to discount logistics, industrial output and
their opponents' capacity to learn from past mistakes.
Geoffrey P. Megargee points out Rommel's playing the
German and Italian command structures against each other to his
Rommel used the confused structure (the
Command of the Wehrmacht), the
OKH (Supreme High Command of the Army)
and the Italian Supreme Command) to disregard orders that he disagreed
with or to appeal to whatever authority he felt would be most
sympathetic to his requests.
Some historians, such as Zabecki and Peter Lieb (de), take issue
with Rommel's absence from
Normandy on the day of the Allied invasion,
6 June 1944. He had left
France on 5 June and was at home on the 6th
celebrating his wife's birthday. (According to Rommel, he planned to
proceed to see Hitler the next day to discuss the situation in
Normandy). Zabecki calls his decision to leave the theatre
in view of an imminent invasion "an incredible lapse of command
T.L.McMahon argues that
Rommel no doubt possessed operational vision,
Rommel did not have the strategic resources to effect his
operational choices while his forces provided the tactical ability to
accomplish his goals, and the German staff and system of staff command
were designed for commanders who led from the front, and in some cases
he might have chosen the same options as Montgomery (a reputedly
strategy-oriented commander) had he been put in the same
conditions. According to Steven Zaloga, tactical flexibility was
a great advantage of the German system, but in the final years of the
war, Hitler and his cronies like Himmler and Goering had usurped more
and more authority at the strategic level, leaving professionals like
Rommel increasing constraints on their actions. Martin Blumenson
Rommel a general with a compelling view of strategy and
logistics, which was demonstrated through his many arguments with his
superiors over such matters, although Blumenson also thinks that what
Rommel was his boldness, his intuitive feel for the
battlefield.(Upon which Schwarzkopf also comments "
Rommel had a
feel for the battlefield like no other man.")
Joseph Forbes comments that: "The complex, conflict-filled interaction
Rommel and his superiors over logistics, objectives and
priorities should not be used to detract from Rommel's reputation as a
remarkable military leader", because
Rommel was not given powers over
logistics, and because if only generals who attain strategic-policy
goals are great generals, such highly regarded commanders as Robert E.
Lee, Hannibal, Charles XII would have to be excluded from that
list. General Siegfried F. Storbeck, Deputy Inspector General of
Bundeswehr (1987–1991), remarks that, Rommel's leadership style
and offensive thinking, although carrying inherent risks like losing
the overview of the situation and creating overlapping of authority,
have been proved effective, and have been analysed and incorporated in
the training of officers by "us, our Western allies, the Warsaw Pact,
and even the Israel Defense Forces." Maurice Remy and Samuel
Mitcham both defend his strategic decision regarding
although risky, the only logical choice.[N 39][N 40] Mitcham also
takes note of the fact that the British C-in-C actually feared that
the German leadership would embark on Rommel's strategic plans
Suez Canal instead of that of Hitler.
Rommel was among the few Axis commanders (the others being Isoroku
Yamamoto and Reinhard Heydrich) who were targeted for assassination by
Allied planners. Two attempts were made, the first being Operation
Flipper in North Africa in 1941, and the second being Operation Gaff
Normandy in 1944.
While at Cadet School in 1911,
Rommel met and became engaged to
17-year-old Lucia (Lucie) Maria Mollin (1894–1971). While
stationed in Weingarten in 1913,
Rommel developed a relationship with
Walburga Stemmer, which produced a daughter, Gertrude, born 8 December
1913. Because of elitism in the officer corps, Stemmer's
working-class background made her unsuitable as an officer's wife, and
Rommel felt honour-bound to uphold his previous commitment to Mollin.
With Mollin's cooperation, he accepted financial responsibility for
Rommel and Mollin were married in November 1916 in
Danzig. Rommel's marriage was a happy one, and he wrote his wife
at least one letter every day while he was in the field.
After the end of the First World War, the couple settled initially in
Stuttgart, and Stemmer and her child lived with them. Gertrude was
referred to as Rommel's niece, a fiction that went unquestioned due to
the enormous number of women widowed during the war. Walburga
died suddenly in October 1928, and Gertrude remained a member of the
household until Rommel's death in 1944. A son, Manfred Rommel,
was born on 24 December 1928, later served as Mayor of Stuttgart from
1974 to 1996.
Rommel at Al Alamein war museum in Egypt, which was built by
Anwar Sadat in honour of Rommel. The museum was later expanded into a
general war museum but
Rommel remains a central figure.
Military Merit Order (Württemberg)
Iron Cross 2nd Class on 24 September 1914 & 1st Class on 29
Pour le Mérite
Pour le Mérite on 18 December 1917
Clasp to the
Iron Cross 2nd Class on 13 May 1940 & 1st Class on 15
Knight's Cross of the
Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
Knight's Cross of the
Iron Cross on 27 May 1940 as commander of the
Oak Leaves (10th recipient) on 20 March 1941 as commander of the 7th
Swords (6th recipient) on 20 January 1942 as commander of the Panzer
Diamonds (6th recipient) on 11 March 1943 as commander in chief of the
Army Group Afrika
Gold Medal of Military Valour
Gold Medal of Military Valour in February 1942
Knight of the
Colonial Order of the Star of Italy
Colonial Order of the Star of Italy in February
Ursula von der Leyen
Ursula von der Leyen during a visit to the Field
Rommel Barracks, Augustdorf
The German Army's largest base, the
Augustdorf, is named in his honour; at the dedication in 1961 his
widow Lucie and son
Manfred Rommel were guests of honour. The
Rommel Barracks, Dornstadt, was also named for him in 1965. A
third base named for him, the
Rommel Barracks, Osterode,
closed in 2004. A
German Navy Lütjens-class destroyer, Rommel, was
named for him in 1969 and christened by his widow; the ship was
decommissioned in 1998.
Numerous streets in Germany, especially in Rommel's home state of
Baden-Württemberg, are named in his honor, including the street near
where his last home was located. The
Rommel Memorial was erected in
Heidenheim in 1961. The
Rommel Museum opened in 1989 in the Villa
Lindenhof in Herrlingen; there is also a
Rommel Museum in Mersa
Egypt which opened in 1977, and which is located in one of
Rommel's former headquarters; various other localities and
establishments in Mersa Matruh, including
Rommel Beach, are also named
In Italy, the annual marathon tour "
Rommel Trail", which is sponsored
Protezione Civile and the autonomous region of Friuli Venezia
Giulia through its tourism agency, celebrates
Rommel and the Battle of
Caporetto. The naming has been criticized by the politician Giuseppe
^ "Indeed, the soldiers of the 'Ghost Division' and its partner in
crime, 5th Panzer Division, committed numerous atrocities against
French colonial troops in 1940, murdering fifty surrendered
non-commissioned officers and men at Airaines"
^ "On 7 June, a number of soldiers of 53eme Regiment d'Infanterie
Coloniale were shot, probably by troops of the 5th Panzer Division,
following their surrender after a spirited defense in the area of
Airaines, near Le Quesnoy. Similar acts had also been perpetrated by
soldiers of Rommel's 7th Panzer Division on 5 June against the
defenders of Le Quesnoy.
Rommel noted in his own account that "any
enemy troops were either wiped out or forced to withdraw"; at the same
time he also provided the disparaging (but possibly somewhat
contradictory in light of his first note) observation that "many of
the prisoners taken were hopelessly drunk."
^ In Hangest-sur-Somme, some captured Tirailleurs and a French second
lieutenant were shot by Germans in black uniforms, most likely members
of Rommel's 7th Panzer Division
^ 23 to 28 November according to Mellenthin.
^ As recounted by Luck in his memoirs,
Rommel commented to his wife
that he wished Hitler had given him another division instead.
^ Lieb: Of course,
Rommel did not conceive all these devices
himself ... His engineer general Wilhelm Meise once called Rommel
'the greatest engineer of the Second World War.
^ Earle Rice, historian and senior design engineer in aerospace and
nuclear industries: he would add all manner of ingenious obstacles and
impedance devices to the anticipated landing areas. But ...
shortages of concrete and other materials and insufficient time
prevented him from completing the
Atlantic Wall to his
^ Zaloga, historian and military technology expert:
Rommel and his
headquarters developed a variety of obstacles to interfere with
landing craft. This was Rommel's single most important contribution to
the defense of the
Normandy coast ... Rommel's pet project, the
coastal obstacles, had proven to be one of the most successful
innovations in the German defenses.
^ Ruge: "He did not adhere rigidly to details ... was very open
to new ideas and very much interested in technical progress. He
grasped the significance of an improvement or an invention very
quickly and often added to it. When a new device had been suggested to
him during the evening, it was not unusual for
Rommel to phone the
proposer early the following morning with a proposal of his own which
was a definite improvement". Dihm: "Therefore a complete series of
instructions were issued. These instructions were partly devised by
Generalfeldmarschall himself and were accompanied by sketches
drawn by him. They dealt mainly with the erection of obstacles on the
beaches. It was intended to join these barriers to form a continuous
^ "Burgdorf had with him copies of the interrogations of von Hofacker,
von Stülpnagel and Speidel, along with a letter written by Keitel
ostensibly dictated by Hitler himself. In the letter, the Führer gave
Rommel an impossible choice: if he believed himself innocent of the
allegations against him, then
Rommel must report to Hitler in person
in Berlin; refusal to do so would be considered an admission of
guilt ... There was no mention of Rommel's case first being put
to the Wehrmacht's Court of Honor, a curious omission if
indeed being brought to book as part of von Stauffenberg's
^ Rommel's words, from Maisel's reminiscences: "I will see the
consequences. I have forgotten myself."
^ Lieb: "Rommel's internal opponents could not hide their satisfaction
as the events were unfolding" (Lieb 2014, pp. 122).
^ Pimlott: His qualities of leadership were high. He cared about his
men and was determined from the start of his fighting career to master
the tactical skills that would enable them to survive ... it was
obvious from the start that
Rommel was a cut above the majority of his
contemporaries ... The 'Desert Fox' was a genuine hero, revered
not just for his personal bravery in battle but also for his apparent
ability to outfight a succession of enemy generals, many of whom
enjoyed numerical and even technological superiority ... his
record ... undoubtedly raised him to the status of a potential
saviour of the Fatherland.
^ According to Lewin, in 1933 when
Rommel became commander of a
Hanoverian Jaeger battalion, which was composed of soldiers with
skiing expertise, its officers gave him the mandatory test on the snow
slopes. No lift was present, and the men had to climb to ski down the
hillside. They trudged to the top and descended, and honour was
satisfied, but the 41-year-old commander led his officers up and down
the slope twice more before he let them fall out.
^ Spiegel quoted Goebbels: "
Rommel is amazingly popular with the
troops, German and Italian. He is almost a mythical figure."
^ Mitcham's Life and Death of the Afrika Korps: "
OKW sent an
order ... spoke of numerous German "political refugees" (that is,
^ Remy:"On 8 August 1914, ...
Rommel discovered that he had
unusual charisma ... This effect (he had on the troops) would
become the fundamental element of Mythos Rommel.",
^ Der Spiegel: "The
Wehrmacht had many capable generals ... but
none had the charisma of the Swabian with that distinctive round
Rommel was, among other things, clever at public
^ Niall Barr: "... came to fame in a theatre which held almost no
strategic interest for Hitler whatsoever".(Barr 2014, p. 60).
Martin Kitchen: "German historians have largely ignored the North
African campaign, not only because it was
peripheral ...".(Kitchen 2009, p. 9).
^ Peter Caddick-Adams: "Rommel's advances over the winter 1941–42
became a very useful distraction away from Germany's failure before
^ Quote from one of Rommel's letters, January 1942: "The opinion of me
in the world press has improved".
^ Peter Lieb (de): "Hitler was well aware that it would be unwise
(...) to link the downfall of
Army Group Africa to the name of Rommel,
the child of Joseph Goebbel's propaganda machinery".
^ Robert Citino: "His career had been based solely on Hitler's favor,
and we might reasonably describe his attitude toward the Führer as
worshipful." Peter Caddick-Adams: "As is now clear,
been very close to Hitler and the Third Reich ..."
^ Charles Messenger: "He [Rommel] did receive one present that pleased
him. He had sent Hitler a meticulously prepared diary of his
division's exploits and received a letter of thanks just before
Christmas. 'You can be proud of your achievements', Hitler
^ Klaus Naumann: "
Rommel was used by the Nazi regime to create a myth.
He tolerated this since he had a strong dose of personal ambition and
^ Maurice Remy: "...
Rommel wollte bleiben, was es war: ein Mann
^ Kubetzky: "Politics-wise, he has nothing but fantastic conceptions."
(Goebbels' diary, after the assassination)
^ Erwin Rommel: "During the whole of this period my bitterest enemy
was Goering. I think he wanted to get me sacked in order to realise
his own plans in North Africa."
^ Erwin Rommel: "I was not very happy at the prospect of having to go
on playing whipping-boy for the Fuehrer s H.Q, the Commando Supremo
and the Luftwaffe."
^ "The masks he wore reflected the genuine plurality of the man"
^ Martin Kitchen: "Early biographies, such as that by Desmond Young,
were positively adulatory."(Kitchen 2009, p. 9).
^ Patrick Major: "Young had relied extensively on interviews with the
Field Marshal's surviving widow, son and former comrades so that the
positive picture that emerged is perhaps hardly surprising. Yet the
overall effect bordered on hagiography".
^ Kitchen: "The North African campaign has usually been seen, as in
the title of Rommel's account, as 'War without Hate', and thus as
further proof that the German army was not involved in any sordid
butchering, which was left to Himmler's SS. While it was perfectly
true that the German troops in North Africa fought with great
distinction and gallantry, (...) it was fortunate for their subsequent
reputation that the SS murderers that followed in their wake did not
have an opportunity to get to work."
^ Spiegel Online: "Gentleman warrior, military genius. The legend of
Erwin Rommel, the German
Field Marshal who outfoxed the British in
North Africa, lives on."
^ According to David T. Zabecki, Rommel's insubordination also played
a role, leading to a calamitous misuse of resources when
over the head of his superior,
Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, to
appeal directly to Hitler to approve an assault on
Egypt instead of
occupying Malta, as Kesselring and
OKW were planning.
^ Klaus Naumann: "Rommel's way out in Africa—bypassing the chain of
command by seeking direct access to Hitler—must never be taken as an
example to be followed." This allowed him to achieve some tactical
victories, but this contributed to eventual operational and strategic
failure in North Africa.
^ Robert Citino: "[Rommel's] disinterest in the dreary science of
logistics, his love of action, his tendency to fly off to wherever the
fighting was hottest—all of these qualities (...) are problems in a
commander under modern conditions, and they all contributed materially
to the disaster that ultimately befell him and his army in the
^ Remy: Kesselring, ... in his memoirs that criticizes the five
year younger and much more popular Rommel, ... he already knew at
least since the war's end about American arms shipment and intention
to intervene which would rendered the strategical value of Malta
meaningless, that left
Rommel only one choice ...
^ Mitcham: General Warlimont of the High Command later wrote that he
"could in any case hardly have acted differently" in ordering the
pursuit.General Warlimont and
Rommel were not exactly the best of
friends ... If this man, a member of
OKW in Berlin, endorsed
Rommel's decision after the fact, then the logic behind the decision
must have been compelling. With American industrial production
beginning to make itself felt, while Germany bled herself white on the
Russian Front, any chance of scoring a decisive victory had to be
^ Remy 2002, p. 15.
^ Bierman, John; Smith, Colin (2004). War Without Hate: The Desert
Campaign of 1940–43. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0142003947.
^ Remy 2002, pp. 28, 355, 361.
^ a b c d e f Scheck 2010.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 18, 122, 139, 147.
^ Hart 2014, p. 128-52.
^ a b c d e f g h i j Von Fleischhauer & Friedmann 2012.
^ Martin, Douglas (9 November 2013). "Manfred Rommel, Son of German
Field Marshal, Dies at 84" – via www.nytimes.com.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 8.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 26–27.
^ a b Remy 2002, p. 12.
^ Pimlott 2003, p. 9.
^ Hoffmann 2004, p. 10.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 30–31.
^ Butler 2015, p. 43.
^ Butler 2015, p. 31.
^ Lewin 1998, p. 4.
^ Fraser 1993, pp. 25, 27–29.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 31.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 36, 43.
^ Fraser 1993, pp. 43, 45.
^ a b c d Fraser 1993, p. 19.
^ Fraser 1993, pp. 53–60.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 65–67.
^ Hoffmann 2004, p. 14.
^ a b c Hoffmann 2004, p. 15.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 71–77.
^ a b Remy 2002, pp. 18–25.
^ Grossman 1993, pp. 316–335.
^ House 1985, p. 36.
^ a b Carver 2005, p. 321.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 78–81.
^ Butler 2015, p. 99.
^ Butler 2015, p. 100.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 86.
^ Schweizer, Karl. "Nach Absetzung der Dynastie zur freien Republik
erklärt" Aus den Tagen der Novemberrevolution 1918 und der
Räterepublik 1919 in Lindau/Bodensee (PDF). p. 7.
^ a b Reuth 2005, p. 18.
^ Remy 2015, p. 100.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 98.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 100.
^ a b Lewin 1998, p. 9.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 117.
^ Grossman, David A. (1993). "Maneuver Warfare in the Light
Rommel Model". In Hooker, Richard D. Maneuver Warfare.
Novato, CA: Presidio. pp. 316–35. Online version in
^ Butler 2015, pp. 133–134.
^ Showalter 2006, p. 123.
^ Remy 2002, pp. 36–37.
^ Butler 2016, pp. 24–30.
^ Butler 2015, p. 132.
^ Fraser 1993, pp. 120–121.
^ Remy 2002, p. 37.
^ Searle 2014, pp. 19–21.
^ Butler 2015, p. 137.
^ Butler 2015, p. 142.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 100, 103.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 99.
^ Butler 2015, p. 144.
^ Butler 2015, p. 146.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 141.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 146, 149.
^ Searle 2014, p. 24.
^ Maier 2013, p. 49.
^ Butler 2015, p. 151.
^ Hoffmann 2004, p. 114.
^ a b c Watson 1999, p. 158.
^ Caddick-Adams 2012, pp. 125, 141.
^ a b c d Zabecki 2016.
^ Zaloga 2013, p. 64.
^ Pimlott 1994, p. 49.
^ Fraser 1993, pp. 156–157.
^ Fraser 1993, pp. 151, 161.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 154–155.
^ Alexander, Bevin (2008). Inside the Nazi War Machine: How Three
Generals Unleashed Hitler's Blitzkrieg Upon the World. Casemate
Publishers. p. 104. ISBN 9781101460917.
^ Lewin 1998, p. 14.
^ Murray & Millett 2009, p. 71.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 160–161.
^ Krause & Phillips 2007, p. 176..
^ Butler 2015, p. 164.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 183.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 165–166.
^ Epkenhans, Michael (27 May 2015). "Dunkirk anniversary: The real
reason Hitler let the British troops go".
^ Butler 2015, p. 166.
^ a b Hoffmann 2004, p. 24.
^ Krause & Phillips 2007, p. 179.
^ Messenger 2009, p. 51.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 169–171.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 172, 174.
^ Fraser 1993, pp. 204–206.
^ Fraser 1993, pp. 191–192.
^ a b Butler 2015, p. 177.
^ Hoffmann 2004, p. 26.
^ Pimlott 1994, p. 48.
^ Sebag-Montefiore, Hugh (2007). Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man.
Penguin UK. ISBN 978-0-14-190616-4.
^ Bewley, Geoffrey (2004). "Was
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^ Weston, Richard (2005). "War: Ruthless And Brutal". Quadrant. 49 (5,
May 2005). ISSN 0033-5002.
^ a b c d Caddick-Adams 2012, pp. 471–472.
^ Petitfrère, Ray (1962). La mystique de la croix gammée. Éditions
France-Empire. p. 410.
^ Beckett 2014, Chapter 2 - Claus Telp, "
Rommel and 1940", p. 52.
^ Scheck, Raffael. "Mythos Rommel".
^ Scheck, Raffael (2006). Hitler's African Victims: The German Army
Massacres of Black French Soldiers ... p. 28.
^ Pimlott 2003, p. 47.
^ Les crimes nazis lors de la libération de la
Dominique Lormier 2014.
^ Alexander 2012, p. 332.
^ Stone 2009, p. 109.
^ Les Combats d'Airaines et environs, juin 1940 André Laboulet impr.
Lafosse, page 21, 1972.
^ "Un héros sort de l'ombre : Charles N'Tchoréré, venu du
Gabon, mort pour la France".
^ Scheck 2006, p. 26.
^ Dominique Lormier: Les crimes nazis lors de la libération de la
^ Butler 2015, p. 173–174.
^ Patton And Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century - Dennis
Showalter - 1996 "In fact, the garrison of Le Quesnoy, most of them
Senegalese, took heavy toll of the German infantry in house-to-house
fighting. Unlike other occasions in 1940, when Germans and Africans
met, there was no deliberate massacre of survivors."
^ Beckett 2014, p. 52, Chapter 2 - Claus Telp, "
Rommel and 1940",
^ a b Fraser 1993, p. 223.
^ a b Fraser 1993, p. 217.
^ Butler 2015, p. 17.
^ Butler 2015, p. 182.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 187–190.
^ Remy 2002, p. 56.
^ Butler 2015, p. 193.
^ Butler 2015, p. 199.
^ Butler 2015, p. 198.
^ Lewin 1998, p. 33.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 229.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 231.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 204–205.
^ Lewin 1998, p. 36.
^ Butler 2015, p. 205.
^ Lewin 1998, p. 35.
^ Butler 2015, p. 205–206.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 207, 214.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 236.
^ Butler 2015, p. 220.
^ Butler 2015, p. 221.
^ Butler 2015, p. 258.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 221, 224.
^ Hoffmann 2004, p. 35.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 242.
^ Hoffmann 2004, p. 39.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 240–241.
^ Butler 2015, p. 244.
^ Douglas-Home 1973, p. 100.
^ Butler 2015, p. 250.
^ Butler 2015, p. 271.
^ Lewin 1998, p. 48.
^ a b Mitcham 2007, pp. 28, 175.
^ Mitcham 2008, p. 436.
^ Lewin 1998, p. 53.
^ a b Lewin 1998, p. 54.
^ Lewin 1998, p. 57.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 292–293.
^ Butler 2015, p. 293.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 277.
^ Fraser 1993, pp. 278–280.
^ Butler 2015, p. 294.
^ Butler 2015, p. 295.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 294–295.
^ Butler 2015, p. 297.
^ a b Butler 2015, p. 298.
^ Fraser 1993, pp. 287–289.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 300–301.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 288.
^ von Luck 1989, p. 58.
^ Fraser 1993, pp. 291–293.
^ Butler 2015, p. 304.
^ Douglas-Home 1973, p. 131.
^ Lewin 1998, pp. 99–101, Quote from Rommel: I had maintained
secrecy over the Panzer Group's forthcoming attack eastwards from
Mersa el Brega and informed neither the Italian nor the German High
Command. We knew from experience that Italian Headquarters cannot keep
things to themselves and that everything they wireless to Rome gets
round to British ears. However, I had arranged with the Quartermaster
for the Panzer Group's order to be posted in every Cantoniera in
Tripolitinia on 21 January ....
^ Butler 2015, pp. 308, 311.
^ Lewin 1998, p. 106.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 309–310.
^ Butler 2015, p. 321.
^ Butler 2015, p. 319.
^ a b
Rommel 1982, p. 196.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 323–324.
^ Hoffmann 2004, p. 45.
^ Butler 2015, p. 326.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 325–327.
^ Butler 2015, p. 330.
^ Butler 2015, p. 331.
Rommel 1982, p. 217.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 334.
Rommel 1982, p. 224.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 334–335.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 337.
^ Butler 2015, p. 337.
^ von Luck 1989, p. 103.
^ Playfair 1960, p. 296.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 285–286, 345–347.
^ Shirer 1960, pp. 911–912.
^ Butler 2015, p. 342.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 339, 343.
^ Fraser 1993, pp. 343–344.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 343–344.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 338–339, 344.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 347–350.
^ Shirer 1960, p. 913.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 345.
^ Butler 2015, p. 351.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 346.
^ Butler 2015, p. 354.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 355, 370.
^ a b Douglas-Home 1973, p. 171.
^ Douglas-Home 1973, map, p.163.
^ Hoffmann 2004, pp. 47–48.
^ Hoffmann 2004, p. 48.
^ Douglas-Home 1973, p. 165.
^ Carver 1962, p. 67.
^ Lewin 1998, p. 160.
^ Carver 1962, p. 70.
Rommel 1982, p. 286.
^ Butler 2015, p. 372.
^ Hoffmann 2004, p. 50.
^ Hoffmann 2004, p. 52.
^ Butler 2015, p. 362.
^ Douglas-Home 1973, p. 172.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 370.
Rommel 1982, p. 299.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 375–377.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 373.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 378–380.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 378.
^ Butler 2015, p. 385.
^ Fraser 1993, pp. 379–380.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 385–386.
^ Butler 2015, pp. 387–388.
^ Fraser 1993, pp. 381–383.
Rommel 1982, p. 327.
^ Butler 2015, p. 389.
^ Fraser 1993, p. 383.
^ Douglas-Home 1973, p. 179.
^ Watson 1999, pp. 173–4 (2006 ed. Stackpole Books)..
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^ Coggins 1980, p. 11.
^ Lewin 1998, p. 192.
Rommel 1982, pp. 342–357.
^ Coggins 1980, p. 129.
^ Coggins 1980, p. 134.
^ Coggins 1980, p. 135.
^ Lewin 1998, p. 209.
^ Coggins 1980, p. 136.
^ Lieb 2014, p. 115–116.
^ Lieb 2014, p. 117.
^ Hoffmann 2004, p. 117.
^ a b c d Willmott 1984, p. 69.
^ Lewin 1998, p. 213.
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^ Rice 2009, p. 89–90.
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^ a b c Lieb 2014, p. 121.
^ Rice 2009, p. 90.
^ Willmott 1984, p. 60.
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^ Messenger 2009, p. 168–170.
^ Willmott 1984, p. 83.
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^ a b Hart 2014, p. 146.
^ a b "Obituary: Flight
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^ a b Beckett 2014, p. 6.
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