All About Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel(16)…
Rommel was in his lifetime extraordinarily well known not only by the German people but also by his adversaries. Popular stories of his chivalry and tactical prowess earned him the respect of many opponents, including Claude Auchinleck, Winston Churchill, George S. Patton, and Bernard Montgomery (who named a dog after him). Rommel, for his part, was complimentary towards and respectful of his foes. Hitler considered Rommel among his favourite generals.
The Afrika Korps were never accused of any war crimes, and Rommel himself referred to the fighting in North Africa as Krieg ohne Hass—war without hate. Numerous examples exist of Rommel’s chivalry towards Allied POWs, such as his defiance of Hitler’s infamous Commando Order following the capture of Lt. Roy Woodridge and Lt. George Lane as part of Operation Fortitude, as well as his refusal to comply with an order from Hitler to execute Jewish POWs.
During Rommel’s time in France, Hitler ordered him to deport the Jews in France; Rommel disobeyed the order. Several times he wrote letters protesting the treatment of the Jews. When British Major Geoffrey Keyes was killed during a failed commando raid to kill or capture Rommel behind German lines, Rommel ordered him buried with full military honours. Also, during the construction of the Atlantic Wall, Rommel directed that French workers were not to be used as slaves but were to be paid for their labour.
His military colleagues also played their part in perpetuating his legend. His former subordinate Kircheim, though privately critical of Rommel’s performance, nonetheless explained: „thanks to propaganda, first by Goebbels, then by Montgomery, and finally, after he was poisoned (sic), by all former enemy powers, he has become a symbol of the best military traditions. …Any public criticism of this legendary personality would damage the esteem in which the German soldier is held”
After the war, when Rommel’s alleged involvement in the plot to kill Hitler became known, his stature was enhanced greatly among the former Allied nations. Rommel was often cited in Western sources as a general who, though a loyal German, was willing to stand up to the evil that was Hitler. The release of the film The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951) helped enhance his reputation as one of the most widely known and well-regarded leaders in the German Army. In 1970 a Lütjens-class destroyer was named the FGS Rommel in his honour.
Quotations about Rommel…
The British Parliament considered a censure vote against Winston Churchill following the surrender of Tobruk. The vote failed, but in the course of the debate, Churchill stated:
- „We have a very daring and skillful opponent against us, and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great general.”
Churchill again, on hearing of Rommel’s death:
- „He also deserves our respect, because, although a loyal German soldier, he came to hate Hitler and all his works, and took part in the conspiracy to rescue Germany by displacing the maniac and tyrant. For this, he paid the forfeit of his life. In the sombre wars of modern democracy, there is little place for chivalry.”
Theodor Werner was an officer who, during World War I, served under Rommel:
- „Anybody who came under the spell of his personality turned into a real soldier. However tough the strain he seemed inexhaustible. He seemed to know what the enemy were like and how they would react.”
British General Claude Auchinleck, one of Rommel’s opponents in Africa, in a letter to his field commanders:
- „There exists a real danger that our friend Rommel is becoming a kind of magical or bogey-man to our troops, who are talking far too much about him. He is by no means a superman, although he is undoubtedly very energetic and able. Even if he were a superman, it would still be highly undesirable that our men should credit him with supernatural powers” and he ended the memo with the line „I am not jealous of Rommel.”
Medals and decorations…