Rommel

by Daniel Russ on January 31, 2018

Post image for Rommel

 

ca. 1930s-1940s, Probably North Africa — Field Marshal Erwin Rommel — Image by © CORBIS

Rommel struggled to do his due diligence for Hitler. On the 13th of May 1943, Axis forces surrendered to the Allies in Tunisia. This would forever imprecate Rommel as a failed commander. That said, he still retained the support of the German population. Hitler’s blandishments had backfired and Rommel was as close to a folk hero as any Field Marshall would ever become. Keep in mind that the German High Command was skeptical of Rommel, not the German people. Hitler understood his import and renewed his importance by giving him the task of building the Atlantic Wall, one of the largest fortifications in history. Hitler believed that if they made an amphibious landing too costly, the Allies would not try it again. Concurrently, the Russian onslaught was headed West, promising to consume Germany. Inundated with the fear of the Soviet advance, Hitler depleted the very divisions that Rommel would need to defend the coast against a massive invasion fleet.

 

The Resistance saw the power of Rommel’s appeal as way to power a coup. It was obvious to people close to Rommel that Hitler’s god like powers and arbitrary missives were destroying whatever hopes Germany had to survive and absolutely frustrating Erwin Rommel.  Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg had influenced many operatives to try and assassinate or overthrow Hitler. Among them were General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, and General Hans Speidel, Rommel’s Chief of Staff, Ceasar Von Hofacker, Gunter Von Kluge and Gerd Von Rundstedt. All of them had access to Rommel and the conspirators began the discussion.

 

Like all bad managers, Hitler put commanders at each other’s throats. In Salzburg, he invited Heinz Guderian to critique Rommel’s plans and a bitter argument developed. Rommel wasn’t just trying to protect Germany, he was trying to recover from North Africa. Another Gallimaufry ensued when Alfred Jodl decided he could only spare 3 Panzer divisions to defend the coast. Rommel had a thrombo, and demanded an audience with Hitler. Rommel and the Resistance read the writing on the wall. All the PR in the world would not change the fact that the end was near and it would be best to begin negotiating a surrender. Rommel and Speidel also felt the smartest option would be an immediate surrender to the Americans and then a combined defense against Russia.

 

It was also becoming apparent to the resistance that Hitler was carrying on a genocide he was trying to hide from the world.

 

Matters grew worse for Rommel. He was ensconced in his home away from the front when D-Day exploded. The very facts that 160,000 soldiers held a swath of French territory 50 miles wide and had heavy equipment was a devastating blow to Rommel. Again. By the time he made it to the Normandy operations center, he heard that the Russians had broken through the lines of Army Group Center.

 

 

Once the Allies began making inroads into the country, Hitler decided that the Cherbourg peninsula be defended at all costs. While he made Rommel divert assets to saving Cherbourg, he ended up losing Cherbourg and allowing the Allies god progress into the hedgerow countryside. On 6/29/44, in Salzburg, at a huge conference over maps, Rommel suggested that the situation was hopeless.

 

He was again expelled from a military conference. He knew that Operation Valkyrie meant an assassination of Hitler. Rommel was more comfortable with a coup, and made it clear he preferred that.

 

In the ensuing weeks, Rommel suffered an injury when Allied fighter strafed his staff car. His involvement with the Resistance was exposed in the aftermath of the failure of the assassination attempt on Hitler in the Wolf’s Lair on July 20th 1944. Senior conspirators were captured and executed. Hitler agreed to hide the betrayal from the people, but Rommel had to take poison.

 

His burial was a national event fully inundated with crying German housewives and tearful children. The remarkable thing about him and Von Kluge, and Von Rundstedt was that they were willing to watch Germany fall rather than confront an insane narsissist. 

 

 

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