Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel, 15 November 1891 — 14 October 1944
by Bodwyn Wook
When I was an adolescent and young man, the story of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, WW II German Army Afrika Korps commander and later opponent of Hitler, was no-end fascinating. I first encountered the Rommel story in a late-night viewing on television in November, 1966, of the early 1950s film, The Desert Fox, starring Mr James Mason. This movie was based on British Army Desert War officer-veteran Desmond Young’s admittedly adulatory biography.
I was surprised — and very pleased! — to learn that this altogether admirable German soldier (his story went far to relieve my congested feelings about my German ancestry after the Eichmann trial) was involved in the plot to remove Hitler, in 1944. Also, I could tell just by the pictures that there was something indeed ‘off’ about Montgomery, whereas this man Rommel was clearly the real thing. As I was seventeen, naturally I longed for someone in the American military to have enough integrity to blow up Lyndon Johnson! Of course now that I am becoming indeed an old man I can see the wasted lives lived on all sides. But, I still remember that to-day, 14 October 2009, marks the sixty-fifth anniversary of Rommel’s death by poisoning, by corrupt and minor General Staff functionaries on the orders of the egregious and volatile, always emotionalistic and distinctly slummy, Hitler.
Naturally, the forces of historical revisionism would eventually play their part in my opinion of Rommel.
Here are some snappy examples of Nazi propaganda-footage, from the on-line archives of EweHalfwit. The first out-take, from 1941 outside of al-Agheila during the first advances of the German contingents that would become the Afrika Korps, shows the deployment with open sights as anti-tank guns, of the German anti-aircraft 88 mm cannon that would so consternate the Americans at Kasserine pass a year-and-a-half later. Everything is joyous, annoyingly germanic and far, far too heinie, Hun and up-beat!
In the second item, we see a sombre Rommel speaking in late 1942 of the German abandonment of Tobruk, after the 2nd Alamein battle.
I think that the October dating of this segment is wrong, as Rommel was brought back from North Africa finally at the end of the year. In this film he is togged out in his full regalia as a German Army Field Marshal; he also looks somewhat nervy, like a man recovering from a long illness — which he indeed was in the Winter of 1942-3, whilst on duty at the War College at Wiener Neustadt, in Austria.
It was filmed in other words, as least so I think, at the time Rommel was first putting together the body of writing which, after the war, would be published (in English) , as The Rommel Papers:
The mood of the preceding is as subdued as the tone of the following documentary series is un-compromising:
Erwin Rommel was a career German Army-man who first prospered under the benevolent Hitler gaze; and, then, paid the Nazi celebrity-price of his fall from grace when he was implicated in the 1944 bomb plot. Had I been shown this stuff at seventeen I should naturally have said it was all lies…thus the power of the James Mason propaganda!
Now, at sixty and with advantage of the bit more of perspective thus conferred, I know that alas it is all only too probably true.
Rommel in the 1930s was a man in his forties after all. This is a decade, the fifth one of life, when if one is fit the end simply does seem in sight. It is an age when ordinary men abandon their spouses of many years and, in general, comport themselves like hysterical swine. Rommel however (in this he was like many soldiers) was more than devoted to his ‘Dearest Lu’, and hence he departed, sometimes anyway, into the hysteria of sycophancy:
In closing, then, one supposes that the fix is not yet entirely in on Erwin Rommel. For now, I find him to have been that most admirable of modern men, a patriot; and, his downfall that of a patriot whose naivete was easily converted to the nationalism of the late-modern, again hysterical, atmosphere in which after all he was raised.
In aid of whatever can even be any sort of ‘final’ verdict in History, the following is an index of papers relating to his life:
Index to Papers relating to the Life and Times of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
[These papers were collected by David Irving, the controversial English historian of WW II. The originals are held in the Irving Collection at the Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Leonrodstrasse, Munich, Germany. All rights to the following documents belong to Mr Irving and/or the German institute named, and at Bodwyn Wook we are merely re-publishing them here for sake of on-line information redundancy — ed]
INTRODUCTION: During the fifteen years that British historian David Irving worked on his two widely-acclaimed biographies of Adolf Hitler (The Warpath and Hitler’s War), and on his biographies of the Luftwaffe Field Marshal Erhard Milch, Hermann Göring’s Number Two, and of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, and on numerous other successful histories of the Third Reich, he amassed collections of official and private German records, and Allied interrogation of top Nazi officials, as well as interviewing many of the leading actors on an intimate basis himself.
Before transferring this Collection of his records to the Munich-based Institut für Zeitgeschichte (Institute of Contemporary History), David Irving allowed E.P. Microform Ltd. East Ardsley, Wakefield, Yorkshire, to prepare well-catalogued microfilm copies for individuals and institutions to acquire. (Some of the records were omitted from the microfilming programme for reasons of restrictions imposed by the donors, but they can be seen by permission in Munich.) The microfilmed portion of the Irving Collection, about 95 per cent of the total, includes all his research materials collected on the Nazi atomic and secret (V-) weapons research efforts as well as on the guidance of the war from Hitler’s and the top Luftwaffe levels and on the political and military background to the decisions that were taken on the German side. Most of the documentary material is in the original German, while most of the interrogation and interview reports are in English.
David Irving attached great importance in his Collection to obtaining access to new or relatively unknown private diaries of individuals, and these are often filmed throughout, sometimes together with his typed transcripts of the difficult German handwriting. They include the diaries of Milch, von Richthofen, von Weizsäcker, Bormann, Koeppen, Hewel, Speer, Himmler (and his ADC, Brandt), Kreipe, Koller, von Waldau, Schmundt, Eberhard, Fiebig, Pickert, Greiner, von Vormann, Tippelskirch, Lahousen, Jodl and fragments of the tantalizing Canaris and Mussolini diaries. These form an indispensable extension to the published diaries on which historians have hitherto chiefly relied like those of Goebbels, Ciano, Halder, Hassell, Groscurth, Frank and Rosenberg.
The records collected for the Rommel biography, including the personal diaries of Rommel and his interpreter Armbruster and naval aide Ruge, are particularly well catalogued and provide essential material for the study of the fighting in the North African desert (1941-1943) and in Normandy in 1944. See the review of this microfilm collection in Microform Reviews, vol. 7, No. 6, pp. 3,513.
Selected Documents on the Life and Campaigns of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
A MICROFILM PUBLICATION of many important and hitherto unavailable documents relating to the life and campaigns of Erwin Rommel. The material, mostly in German, was arranged and selected for filming by David Irving from his own collection of documents, letters, war diaries, newspaper and magazine articles as well as interview notes and other items which he gathered together for a widely acclaimed published biography of the Field-Marshal, “The Trail of the Fox”, also serialised by Der Spiegel. Microfilm reel details are as follows:
A Cabinet Office file, AL.451 entitled, Top Secret. Personal File of Field Marshal Rommel and copy of his Wehrpass. The contents are dated from 1910 to 1944, covering his entire military career.
Rommel’s Personalakte, 1929-1942. This is not the same as the Personal File held in London by the Cabinet Office (q.v.)
Rommel’s own Gefechtsbericht vom 9.11.1917, dated 11th November, 1917 relating to the capture of Longarone. With sketches.
Battle Reports of the Königl.Württ.Gebirgs-Battalion, 24th October to 9th December, 1917, relating the exploits of Rommel’s troops in the Julian Alps.
Fourteen top-level Chefsachen, (Top Secret command-level messages, drafts, memoranda, letters etc.) dated between 31st December, 1945 and 16th July, 1944 which were assembled by Rommel after that date with the evident intention of establishing that he was not to blame for the loss of France subsequent to the Allied Invasion of Normandy in June 1944.
Rommel documents on the Battle of France, mid March 1944 to 24th July, 1944. These original documents include a handwritten and typed draft letter from Rommel to Hitler dated late March 1944, on the subject of the defence of France; a situation appreciation dated 11th June, 1944; Rommel’s observations dated 3rd July, 1944 explaining why the invasion succeeded, together with a letter dated 5th July, 1944 sending the document to Kluge, the new C-in-C West; a signed copy of Rommel’s observations dated 15th July, 1944 with a covering letter dated 16th July, 1944 sending the documents to Kluge and the original typed letter from Rommel to his wife on 24th July, 1944 expressing his relief that the plot on Hitler’s life had failed.
The private Diary of Wilfried Armbruster, who was Rommel’s personal interpreter (German/Italian) covering the period 22nd October, 1941 to 21st March, 1943.
This is the typed transcript of the above private diary of Wilfried Armbruster which was prepared by David Irving in 1976 and corrected by Signor Armbruster,
Draft transcripts of parts of the diary kept by Luftwaffe General Otto Hoffman von Waldau who was Fliegerführer Afrika 1941/1942, then commander of a unit in Crete. His diary is a very illegible, blue carbon copy of a pencil diary, and can be seen on microfilm DJ 15A, also published by Microform. David Irving continued the transcribing begun by others in the 1950’s (Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr), and rendered useful parts of the 1942/1943 diaries. These fragments are the periods 11th November, 1939 to 12th June, 1940 (transcribed by von Waldau’s widow) and 26th February, 1942 to 18th December, 1942 (transcribed by David Irving),
Transcript diary of Generalleutnant Otto Hoffmann von Waldau as Fliegerführer Afrika during the desert war period 27th May, 1942 to 8th August, 1942. Also on this film are the diary of a British Officer captured at Bir Hacheim for the period 30th Nay to 11th June 1942 and Waldau’s assessment of the events of 1940, written at the end of that year.
Complete and original War Diary of Rommel’s headquarters, Heeresgruppe B, during the first two weeks of the Allied Invasion of Normandy, 1st June to 15th July, 1944,
Copy of the typed transcript prepared by Vizeadmiral Friedrich Ruge of his shorthand diary (Gabelsberger system) dated 20th December, 1943 to 19th October, 1944. Ruge was Rommel’s Naval aide in 1944.
Diary of a British army captain, Alastair Bannerman, 28th Nay to 7th June, 1944, on which day he was captured by the 21st Panzer Division at Caen. The diary is translated into German.
Complete copy of the daily telephone notes in German typescript, maintained by the G-2 Intelligence Officer attached to Rundstedt’s staff as C-in-C West (OB West) in Paris. This officer, Oberst i,G. Wilhelm Meyer-Detring, evidently wrote detailed notes on all his telephone conversations. They provide vital information on the course of the fighting in Normandy, resistance operations, political events, police and SS operations, Intelligence and counter-Intelligence. They commence at 1.40 a.m., 6th June, 1944, and are complete for June 1944 and early July. Only part of the July volume is included in this copy and the rest can be seen at the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz, file RH.19-IV/142.
Fragmentary transcript of the personal diary kept by Hauptmann der Reserve Hermann Kaiser, January to August 1943. Also included is a two-page analysis by Heinz-Günther Guderian Jr of some of the code-names and blanks left in the diary.
An American translation of excerpts from the diary of the Italian chief of the supreme command, Comando Supremo, Marshal Ugo Cavallero, relating to the fighting in North Africa between 20th October, 1942 and 17th January, 1943.
Illustrated propaganda book by Rommel’s family following the official line that he had died of his “injuries received”. Issued 1944/45, on instructions.
Selected documents relating to the issue of the non-Alarming of the Invasion Defences in Normandy on tho night of 5/6th June 1944. Consists primarily of correspondence with Rommel’s then G-2 officer (Intelligence, Ic) Colonel Anton Staubwasser and officers on the staff of Rundstedt in Paris (OB West).
British army documents relating to a July 1944 plan to assassinate Rommel, A small SAS (Special Air Services) team was parachuted into France for the purpose, but they were already too late, as Rommel had been injured by air strafing on 17th July, 1944.
A small number of papers and statements from the former Army Major Anton Ehrnsperger, the officer who accompanied the two generals Burgdorf and Maisel to Rommel on the day Rommel was obliged to commit suicide, 14th October, 1944,
Documents and working papers related to the topic of how Rommel was misled by German Intelligence officers on the Allied reserves still awaiting shipment to Normandy, June-July 1944. This badly hampered his strategic planning as he was forced to anticipate a second landing near Calais. Basically, the Allies fed false, inflated figures to Germany and Fremde Heere West multiplied these figures for their own reasons; Rommel’s own staff also added on to the FHW figure~ for no explicable reason,
Professor Dr. Kurt Hesse’s essay written in 1945 on the personality and role in history, of Rommel. German text – 26 pages. Hesse was a colleague of Rommel’s in the Potsdam Military Academy in 1938 and met him again in France in 1940 and 1944.
Six page letter by General der Panzer Heinrich Eberbach (retired) dated 11th April, 1967 on the subject of the personal knowledge of General Heinz Guderian.
Text of a Lecture by Lieutenant-General Johannes Streich (retired) entitled, “Memories of Afrika”. In 1941 Streich was the commander of the 5th Light Division in North Africa under Rommel’s command.
Captured British map showing the Libyan and Egyptian desert from Sollum (Salum) to Tobruk. This was in the possession of Rommel’s staff officer, Baron Constantin von Neurath.
Copies of David Irving’s notes on his interviews of members of Rommel’s family, friends and staff, which were conducted during the period approximately 1975-1977.
A series of manuscripts, approximately 300 pages, by people associated with Rommel. They are nearly all from the Foreign Military Studies (MS) series of the US army and include manuscripts by Vizeadmiral Friedrich Ruge, Alfred Gause, Geyr von Schweppenburg, Prof. (Oberst i.G,) Kurt Hesse, Oberst Bodo Zimmermann, Walter Blumentritt, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, Walter Warlimont, Rudolf Von Gersdorff, Heinz Guderian Sr., Max Pemsel, H. von Buttlar, and others.
Papers relating to the controversial non-commitment of the 116th Panzer Division to the fighting at tho Normandy bridgehead, between 6th June and 19th July, 1944. Statements relating to a conspiracy theory, and papers relating to the division’s movements are by Schwerin (Division Commander), Heinz-Günther Guderian, Nemminger (Division Historian), Speidel and Geyr von Schweppenburg and members of Schwerin’s personal staff at tho time, Holtermann and Lademann. Also included are manuscripts by General Voigtsberger.
Personal papers from the files of Generaloberst Hans Salmuth who commanded armies in the campaigns against Russia and in France. These are mostly in the form of diaries written in captivity after the war, recalling episodes from the war years. Much of the important material relating to the 1944 campaign has been transcribed into typescript by David Irving and this is also included.
Documents relating to the involvement of Lieutenant-General Hans Speidel in the conspiracy against Hitler and in the attempts to win Rommel for that conspiracy. Speidel was Rommel’s Chief of Staff, 1944.
Statements, papers, studies, drafts and final typescripts by Generalleutnant a.D. Hans Speidel, Rommel’s Chief of Staff from March to September 1944 and one of the leading Paris figures in the plot against Hitler’s life.
Selected papers relating to the role of Lieutenant-Colonel Caesar von Hofacker who tried in 1944 to win Rommel for the anti-Hitler conspiracy, then linked him with it under interrogation by the Gestapo, before he was hanged in 1944.
Approximately 200 pages of items of miscellaneous interest, including newspapers and magazine articles, statistics on the Africa campaign (supplies and casualties), interviews and interrogations not conducted by David Irving, a Shaef Report on “Operations in support of Neptune (Cover & Deception) June 1944, studies by Bayerlein, Westphal, Gause, Weichold, Heggenreiner, Manfred Rommel, Warlimont and the London Gazette Supplement dated 4th September, 1946 on the D-Day landings in 1944.
Approximately 1300 pages of copies of documents chronicling Rommel’s military career from 1917 to the end of 1941. These documents are from war diaries, letters, telegram files, German Army High Command (OKW) files, Führer’s HQ files, First World War histories and other sources.
Reels 6, 7, 8
These reels contain some 2,500 pages of copies of documents in approximate chronological sequence, chronicling Rommel’s military career from early 1942 to the date of his death, 14th October, 1944.
Comprehensive listing of the known diaries of Rommel which were kept either by him or for him from early 1941 to June 1944. Copies or typed transcripts of these diaries are contained on reels 9, 10 and 1.1 of this publication.
A working list of names of Officers, Ships, Desert Places, Maps, etc., compiled from various sources used in the deciphering and transcribing of the Rommel diaries in shorthand for the period 1941-1943.
Photocopies of handwritten notes by a member of Rommel’s staff in Africa, written during the summer of 1941. These are hastily jotted down notes on conferences between German and Italian generals.
Draft transcripts by David Irving of the handwritten notes in item 3 above. The page numbering of the transcript corresponds exactly to the page number of the original handwritten notes.
The Rommel diary for 22-23 November, 1941 and 19th March to 7th September, 1942 as dictated daily to his secretary, Feldwebel Albert Böttcher, either by Rommel himself, by his adjutant or Ordonnanzoffizier Leutnant Alfred-Ingemar Berndt or by other unknown staff members. Entitled sometimes “Tagesberichte”, daily reports, they describe Rommel’s movements and decisions on an hour-by-hour basis.
This is a typed line by line transcript of item 5 above and the original pagination is retained for comparison purposes. The final transcript was partially checked by former Leutnant Hans-Otto Behrendt of Rommel’s staff. Some place and person names are transcribed phonetically.
Two loose leaf notebooks filled with the shorthand record of Rommel’s diary for the 3rd October, 24th October to 23rd December, 1942 and for the 25th December, 1942 to 26th March, 1943.
A typed transcript of item I above. The pagination numbering is the same as the pagination of the original shorthand pages and the line by line layout has been copied as far as practicable, As in item 6 on reel 9 the pages were checked by lieutenant Hans-Otto Behrendt of Rommel’s staff and some place names have been transcribed phonetically.
Part of a further shorthand notebook kept by Rommel’s secretary, Feldwebel Albert Böttcher. A trial sample transcript revealed that these 38 pages were his dictation for reports on important Conferences attended by Rommel on 3rd December, 1942 with Bastico, and on 28th November to 2nd December, 1942 with Hitler and Göring. Almost identical transcripts of these notes existed in the appendices of the war diary of Panzer Armee Afrika and these transcripts are included in item 2 of this reel.
A selection of important Military Conferences attended by Rommel with the German and Italian commanders, Hitler, and Mussolini from 23rd September, 1942 to 16th March, 1943. These records are either from the Rommel family papers or the war diary of the Panzer Armee Afrika or the Italian Comando Supremo files.
Shorthand dictation taken by Rommel’s secretary, Feldwebel Albert Böttcher consisting primarily of letters dictated by Rommel to his family, friends and fans from about November 1942 to February 1943. Also included are letters from Berndt to Lucie Rommel relating to Rommel s alleged depression.
A typed transcript of tho letters in item 3 above. The pagination is identical to the pagination of the original.
Rommel Diary, 9th May to 6th September, 1943. This is a typed copy made by David Irving.
Rommel Diary 21st November, 1943 to 22nd February, 1944.
Rommel Diary for April-May 1944 kept by his Ordonnanz-Offizier, Hauptmann Hellmuth Lang.
In closing, perhaps it is only fitting that someone on UHangnail has memorialised the life of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in pictures, to the syrupy lieder of Schubert!
[all text-rights reserved & all other rights revert to holders
[14 October 2009]