Erwin Rommel

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Erwin Rommel

Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel (November 15, 1891October 14, 1944) was one of the most distinguished German Field Marshals and commander of the Deutsches Afrika Korps in World War II. He is also known by his nickname The Desert Fox (Wstenfuchs).


Early life and career

Rommel was born in Heidenheim, approximately 50 km from Ulm, in the state of Wrttemberg. The second son of a Protestant Headmaster of the secondary school at Aalen, Erwin Rommel the elder and Helene von Luz, a daughter of a prominent local dignitary. The couple also had three more children, two sons, Karl and Gerhard, and a daughter, Helene. Later recalling his childhood, Rommel wrote that "my early years passed very happily". At the age of 14 Rommel, with a friend, built a full-scale glider that flew, although not far. Young Erwin considered becoming an engineer, but on his father's insistence joined the local 124th Wrttemberg Infantry Regiment as an officer cadet in 1910, and was soon sent to the Officer Cadet School in Danzig.

There, in 1911, Rommel met his future wife, Lucie Mollin, whom he married in 1916. In 1928, they had a son, Manfred, later the mayor of Stuttgart. Scholars Bierman and Smith argue that Rommel also had an affair with Walburga Stemmer in 1912 and that relationship produced a daughter named Gertrud (1 p. 56). Graduating from school in November 1911, Rommel was commissioned as a Lieutenant January 1912.

World War I

During World War I, Rommel served in France, as well as on the Romanian and Italian fronts, during which time he was wounded three times and awarded the Iron Cross - First and Second Class. He also became the youngest recipient of Prussia's highest medal, the Pour le Mrite, which he received after fighting in the mountains of north-east Italy, specifically at the Battle of Longarone, and the capture of Mount Matajur and its defenders, numbering 150 Italian officers, 7000 men and 81 artillery guns.

Inter-War years

After the war Rommel held battalion commands, and was instructor at the Dresden Infantry School (1929-1933) and the Potsdam War Academy (1935-1938). His war diaries, Infanterie greift an (Infantry Attacks), published in 1937, became a major textbook, which also attracted the attention of Adolf Hitler. In 1938, Rommel, now a colonel, was appointed commandant of the War Academy at Wiener Neustadt. He was removed after a short time, however, and placed in command of Adolf Hitler's personal protection battalion (Fhrer-Begleitbattalion). He was promoted again to Major General just prior to the invasion of Poland.

World War II

France 1940-41

In 1940 he was given command of the 7th Panzer Division, later nicknamed the "Ghost Division" (for the speed and surprise it was consistently able to achieve), for Fall Gelb, the invasion of the west. He showed considerable skill in this operation, and in reward was appointed commander of the German troops, the 5th Light and later the 15th Panzer Division, which were sent to Libya in early 1941 to aid the defeated Italian troops, forming the Deutsches Afrika Korps. It was in Africa that Rommel achieved his greatest fame as a commander.

Africa 1941-43

Rommel in Africa - Summer 1941
Rommel in Africa - Summer 1941

Rommel spent most of 1941 building his organization and re-forming the shattered Italian units, who had suffered a string of defeats at the hands of British Commonwealth forces under Major General Richard O'Connor. An offensive pushed the Allied forces back out of Libya, but it stalled a relatively short way into Egypt, and the important port of Tobruk, although surrounded, was still held by Allied forces under an Australian General, Leslie Morshead. The Allied Commander-in-Chief, General Archibald Wavell swapped commands with the British Commander-in-Chief India, General Claude Auchinleck. Auchinleck launched a major offensive to relieve Tobruk which eventually succeeded. However, when this offensive ran out of steam, Rommel struck.

Rommel in Africa
Rommel in Africa

In a classic blitzkrieg, Allied forces were comprehensively beaten. Within weeks they had been pushed back far into Egypt. Rommel's offensive was eventually stopped at the small railway town of El Alamein, just 60 miles from Cairo. The First Battle of El Alamein was lost by Rommel due to a combination of supply problems and improved Allied tactics. The Allies, with their backs against the wall, were very close to their supplies and had fresh troops on hand to reinforce their positions. Auchinleck's tactics of continually attacking the weaker Italian forces during the battle forced Rommel to use the Deutsches Afrika Korps in a "Fire Brigade" role and placed the initiative in Allied hands. Rommel tried again to break through the Allied lines during the Battle of Alam Halfa. He was decisively stopped by the newly arrived Allied commander, Lieutenant General Bernard Montgomery; mainly due to the fact that the allies had devised a machine capable of deciphering German communications, thus alerting them to Rommel's battle plan prior to the battle. This was known as the "Ultra".

With Allied forces from Malta interdicting his supplies at sea, and the massive distances they had to cover in the desert, Rommel could not hold the El Alamein position forever. Still, it took a large set piece battle, the Second Battle of El Alamein, to force his troops back. After the defeat at El Alamein, despite urgings from Hitler and Mussolini, Rommel's forces did not again stand and fight until they had entered Tunisia. Even then, their first battle was not against the British Eighth Army, but against the U.S. II Corps. Rommel inflicted a sharp reversal on the American forces at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass.

Turning once again to face the British Commonwealth forces in the old French border defences of the Mareth Line, Rommel could only delay the inevitable. Ultra was a major factor that led to the defeat of his forces. He left Africa after falling sick, and the men of his former command eventually became prisoners of war.

Some say that Rommel's withdrawal of his army back to Tunisia against Hitler's dreams was a much greater success than his capture of Tobruk (in sharp contrast to the fate suffered by the German 6th Army at the Battle of Stalingrad under the command of Friedrich Paulus).

France 1943-1944

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Field Marshall Erwin Rommel (center) discusses the upcoming Allied invasion of France with Colonel General Johannes Blaskowitz and Field Marshall Gerd von Rundstedt.

Back in Germany, Rommel was for some time virtually "unemployed". However, when the tide of war shifted against Germany, Hitler made Rommel the commander of Army Group B, responsible for defending the French coast against a possible Allied invasion. After his battles in Africa, Rommel concluded that any offensive movements would be impossible due to the overwhelming Allied air superiority. He argued that the tank forces should be kept in small units as close to the front as possible, so they wouldn't have to move far and enmasse when the invasion started. He wanted the invasion stopped right on the beaches.

However his commander, Gerd von Rundstedt, felt that there was no way to stop the invasion near the beaches due to the equally overwhelming firepower of the Royal Navy. He felt the tanks should be formed into large units well inland near Paris, where they could allow the Allies to extend into France and then be cut off. When asked to pick a plan, Hitler then vacillated and placed them in the middle, far enough to be useless to Rommel, not far enough to watch the fight for von Rundstedt. Rommel's plan nearly came to fruition anyway.

During D-Day several tank units, notably the 12th SS Panzer Division (the elite Hitler Jugend) were near enough to the beaches and created serious havoc. The overwhelming Allied numbers and Hitler's refusal to unleash the tank forces in time made any success unlikely, however, and soon the beachhead was secure.

The plot against Hitler

On July 17, 1944 his staff car was strafed by an RCAF Spitfire, and Rommel was hospitalized with major head injuries. In the meantime, after the failed July 20 Plot against Adolf Hitler, Rommel was suspected of connections with the conspiracy. Bormann was certain of Rommel's involvement, Goebbels was not. The true extent of Rommel's knowledge of, or involvement with, the plot is still unclear. After the war, however, his wife maintained that Rommel had been against the plot as it was carried out. It has been stated that Rommel wanted to avoid giving future generations of Germans the perception that the war was lost because of a backstab, the infamous Dolchstolegende, as it was commonly believed by some Germans following WWI. Instead, he favored a coup where Hitler would be taken alive and made to stand trial before the public. Due to Rommel's popularity with the German people, Hitler gave him an option to commit suicide with cyanide or face dishonour and retaliation against his family and staff. Rommel ended his own life on October 14, 1944, and was buried with full military honours.

After the war his diary was published as The Rommel Papers in which he confesses to murdering a French officer. Rommel is also remembered as close personal friend of Hitler. In his letters statements of admiration for National Socialism and aggression against Poland can be found.Statements can be found such as "The Fhrer knows whats right for us", "What do you make of the events of September  Hitlers speech? Isnt it wonderful that we have such a man?.

Battles of Erwin Rommel



  • The British Parliament considered a censure vote against Winston Churchill, for his failure to defeat Rommel. The vote failed, but in the course of the debate, Churchill would say:
    • "We have a very daring and skillful opponent against us, and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great General."
  • 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. He seemed to know what the enemy were like and how they would react."

Quotations by Erwin Rommel

  • "Sweat saves blood..."

External link


  • The Battle of Alamein: Turning Point, World War II, by Bierman and Smith (2002). ISBN 0670030406
  • Rommel's Greatest Victory, by Samuel W. Mitcham, Samuel Mitcham. ISBN 0891417303
  • Meeting the Fox: The Allied Invasion of Africa, from Operation Torch to Kasserine Pass to Victory in Tunisia, by Orr Kelly. ISBN 0471414298
  • INSIDE THE AFRIKA KORPS: The Crusader Battles, 1941-1942. ISBN 1853673226
  • Alamein, by Jon Latimer. ISBN 0674010167
  • Tank Combat in North Africa: The Opening Rounds : Operations Sonnenblume, Brevity, Skorpion and Battleaxe February 1941-June 1941 (Schiffer Military History), by Thomas L. Jentz. ISBN 0764302264
  • Rommel's North Africa Campaign: September 1940 - November 1942, by Jack Greene. ISBN 1580970184
  • Tobruk 1941: Rommel's Opening Move (Campaign, 80) by Jon Latimer. ISBN 1841760927
  • 21st Panzer Division: Rommel's Africa Korps Spearhead (Spearhead Series), by Chris Ellis. ISBN 0711028532
  • Afrikakorps, 1941-1943: The Libya Egypt Campaign, by Francois De Lannoy. ISBN 2840481529
  • With Rommel's Army in Libya by Almasy, Gabriel Francis Horchler, Janos Kubassek. ISBN 0759616086
  • Generalfeldmarschall Rommel : opperbevelhebber van Heeresgruppe B bij de voorbereiding van de verdediging van West-Europa, 5 november 1943 tot 6 juni 1944 by Hans Sakkers (1993). ISBN 90-800900-2-6 [text/photobook in Dutch about Rommel at the Atlantic Wall 1943/44]

German Field Marshals (Generalfeldmarschall) of World War II

Werner von Blomberg | Hermann Gring | Walther von Brauchitsch | Albert Kesselring | Wilhelm Keitel | Gnther von Kluge | Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb | Fedor von Bock | Wilhelm List | Erwin von Witzleben | Walther von Reichenau | Erhard Milch | Hugo Sperrle | Gerd von Rundstedt | Erwin Rommel | Georg von Kchler | Erich von Manstein | Friedrich Paulus | Ewald von Kleist | Maximilian von Weichs | Ernst Busch | Wolfram von Richthofen | Walther Model | Ferdinand Schrner | Robert Ritter von Greim

Honorary: Eduard von Bhm-Ermolli

German Grand Admirals (Groadmiral) of World War II

Erich Raeder | Karl Dnitz

Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oakleaves, Swords, and Diamonds during World War II

Werner Mlders | Adolf Galland | Gordon Gollob | Hans-Joachim Marseille | Hermann Graf | Erwin Rommel | Wolfgang Luth | Walter Nowotny | Adelbert Schulz | Hans-Ulrich Rudel | Hyazinth Graf von Strachwitz | Herbert Otto Gille | Hans-Valentin Hube | Albert Kesselring | Helmut Lent | Sepp Dietrich | Walther Model | Erich Hartmann | Hermann Balck | Gerhard Ramcke | Wolfgang Schnaufer | Albrecht Brandi | Ferdinand Schrner | Hasso von Manteuffel | Theodor Tolsdorff | Karl Mauss | Dietrich von Saucken

bg:Ервин Ромел

ca:Erwin Rommel cs:Erwin Rommel da:Erwin Rommel de:Erwin Rommel es:Erwin Rommel fr:Erwin Rommel gl:Erwin Rommel it:Erwin Rommel he:ארווין רומל lb:Erwin Rommel nl:Erwin Rommel ja:エルヴィン・ロンメル no:Erwin Rommel pl:Erwin Rommel pt:Erwin Rommel ru:Роммель, Эрвин simple:Erwin Rommel sk:Erwin Rommel sl:Erwin Rommel fi:Erwin Rommel sv:Erwin Rommel tr:Erwin Rommel zh:埃尔温·隆美尔


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