Erwin Rommel

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: World War II

Erwin Rommel
15 November 1891 - 14 October 1944
Image:Rommel portrait.jpg
Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel in 1942
Nickname Desert Fox
Place of birth Heidenheim, Germany
Place of death Herrlingen, Germany
Allegiance Germany
Years of service 1911 - 1944
Rank Field Marshal
Unit Alpen Korps
Commands 7th Panzer Division
Afrika Korps
Commander in chief North Italy
Army Group E, Greece
Army Group B
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
-Fall of France
- North African Campaign
-Battle of Normandy
Awards Pour le Mérite
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oakleaves, Swords, and Diamonds

Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel ( listen ) ( 15 November 1891 – 14 October 1944) was one of the most distinguished German field marshals of World War II. He was the commander of the Deutsches Afrika Korps and also became known by the nickname The Desert Fox (Wüstenfuchs, listen ) for the skillful military campaigns he waged on behalf of the German Army in North Africa. He was later in command of the German forces opposing the Allied cross-channel invasion at Normandy.

Rommel is often remembered not only for his remarkable military prowess, but also for his reputation for chivalry towards his adversaries - being one of the German commanders who disobeyed the commando order. He is also noted for possibly having taken part in a plot to assassinate Hitler, for which he was forced to commit suicide before the war's end.

Early life and career

Rommel was born in Heidenheim, Germany, approximately 45 kilometres from Ulm, in the state of Württemberg. He was baptised on November 17, 1891. He was the second son of a Protestant headmaster of the secondary school at Aalen, Prof. Erwin Rommel the elder and Helene 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 fourteen, Rommel and a friend built a full-scale glider that was able to fly, although not very far. Young Erwin considered becoming an engineer and would throughout his life display extraordinary technical aptitude; however, at his father's insistence, he joined the local 124th Württemberg Infantry Regiment as an officer cadet in 1910 and, shortly after, was sent to the Officer Cadet School in Danzig.

While at Cadet School, early in 1911, Rommel met his future wife, 17-year-old Lucia Maria Mollin (commonly called Lucie). He graduated in November 1911 and was commissioned as a Lieutenant January 1912. Rommel and Lucie married in 1916, and in 1928, they had a son, Manfred, who would later become the mayor of Stuttgart. Scholars Bierman and Smith argue that, during this time, Rommel also had an affair with Walburga Stemmer in 1913 and that relationship produced a daughter named Gertrud. ( 1 p. 56).

World War I

During World War I, Rommel fought in France, as well as in Romania (see: Romanian Campaign) and Italy (see: Italian Campaign) as part of the elite Alpen Korps. While serving with that unit, he gained a reputation for making quick tactical decisions and taking advantage of enemy confusion. He was wounded three times and awarded the Iron Cross; First and Second Class. Rommel also received Prussia's highest medal, the Pour le Mérite - an honour traditionally reserved for generals only - after fighting in the mountains of west Slovenia Battle of the Isonzo – Soca front. The award came as a result of the Battle of Longarone, and the capture of Mount Matajur, Slovenia, and its defenders, numbering 150 Italian officers, 7,000 men and 81 pieces of artillery. His battalion also played a key role in the decisive victory of the Central Powers over the Italian Army at the Battle of Caporetto. Interestingly, Rommel for a time served in the same infantry regiment as Friedrich Paulus, both of whom were to preside over catastrophic defeats for the Third Reich in their own markedly different ways.

Inter-war years

After the war, Rommel held battalion commands and was an instructor at the Dresden Infantry School from 1929 to 1933 and the Potsdam War Academy from 1935 to 1938. Rommel's war diaries, Infanterie greift an ( Infantry Attacks), published in 1937, became a highly regarded military textbook, and attracted the attention of Adolf Hitler, who placed him in charge of the War Ministry liaison with the Hitler Jugend's Headquarters of Military Sports, the Hitler Jugend branch involved with paramilitary activities: terrain exercises and marksmanship. Rommel applied himself energetically to the new task. The army provided instructors to the Hitler Jugend Rifle School in Thuringia, which in turn supplied qualified instructors to the HJ's regional branches. In 1937 Rommel conducted a tour of HJ meetings and encampments, delivered lectures on German soldiering while inspecting facilities and exercises. Simultaneously he was pressuring Baldur von Schirach, the Hitler Jugend leader, to accept an agreement expanding the army's involvement in Hitler Jugend training. Schirach interpreted this as a bid to turn the Hitler Jugend into an army auxiliary, a "junior army" in his words. He refused and Rommel, whom he had came to dislike personally and apparently envy for his "real soldier"'s appeal to the youngsters, was denied access to the Hitler Jugend . An army-Hitler Jugend agreement was concluded, but on a far more limited scope then Rommel had sought; cooperation was restricted to the army providing personnel to the Rifle School, much to the army's chagrin. By 1939 the Hitler Jugend had 20,000 rifle instructors. Simultaneously Rommel retained his place at Potsdam. In his class Rommel was awarded the highest war ribbons for excellent performance.

In 1938, Rommel, now a colonel, was appointed commandant of the War Academy at Wiener Neustadt ( Theresian Military Academy). Here he started his follow-up to Infantry Attacks, Panzer greift an (Tank Attacks, sometimes translated as The Tank In Attack). Rommel was removed after a short time however, to take command of Adolf Hitler's personal protection battalion (FührerBegleitbataillon), assigned to protect him in the special railway train (Führersonderzug) used during his visits to occupied Czechoslovakia and Memel. It was at this period that he met and befriended Joseph Goebbels, the Reich's minister of propaganda. Goebbels became a fervent admirer of Rommel and later he would see to it that Rommel's exploits would be celebrated in the media

World War II

Poland 1939

Rommel continued as FührerBegleitbataillon commander during the Polish campaign, often moving up close to the front in the Führersonderzug, and seeing much of Hitler. After the Polish defeat, Rommel returned to Berlin to organise the Führer's victory parade, taking part himself as a member of Hitler's entourage. During the Polish campaign Rommel was asked to intervene on behalf of one of Lucie's relatives, a Polish Priest who had been arrested. He has been criticised for not doing enough on the man's behalf, though he did at least apply to the Gestapo for information, only to be, inevitably, brushed off with the reply that no information on the man existed.

France 1940

Rommel asked from Hitler command of a panzer division and, on 6 February 1940 only three months before the invasion, Rommel was given command of the 7th Panzer Division for Fall Gelb ("Case Yellow"), the invasion of France and the Low Countries. This string-pulling provoked resentment among fellow officers, the more so as Rommel, remarkably, had no experience with armour whatever. He showed considerable skill in this operation, repulsing a counterattack by the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) at Arras. 7th Panzer was later nicknamed Gespenster-Divisionen (the "Ghost Division"), due to the speed and surprise it was consistently able to achieve, to the point that even the German High Command lost track of where it was. 7th Panzer was one of the first German units to reach the English Channel (on 10 June) and captured the vital port of Cherbourg on 19 June. Rommel's success owed partially to his misappropriating supplies and bridging tackle belonging to the neighbouring divisions. His commander Hermann Hoth considered court-martialing him for this, but was dissuaded by his own commander Gunther von Kluge. The fame gained by Rommel during the campaign made a court martial, or even a reprimand, impractical. Rommel's reward for his success was to be promoted and appointed commander of the 5th Light Division (later reorganized and redesignated the 21st Panzer) and of the 15th Panzer Division, which were sent to Libya in early 1941 to aid the hapless and demoralized Italian troops, forming the Deutsches Afrika Korps ( listen ). It was in Africa where Rommel achieved his greatest fame as a commander.

Africa 1941-43

Erwin Rommel, 1941
Erwin Rommel, 1941

His campaign in Africa earned Rommel the nickname "The Desert Fox". He spent most of 1941 building up his forces, the Italian component of which 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 out of Libya. Though ordered not to advance beyond the oasis of Maradah, Rommel disobeyed and was shortly stalled exactly on the Egyptian border at Helfaya pass, after he, disregarding the objections of his staff and divisional commanders, ordered that the important port of Tobruk, be outflanked, hoping thus to trap the bulk of the enemy force in Tobruk. This outflanking could not be carried out as rapidly as was necessary due to logistical overstretch, the road parallel to the coastal road not reconnecting to the coastal road, spoiling flank attacks from Tobruk and before long a sand storm. Although surrounded, Tobruk was still held by Allied forces under the Australian General, Leslie Morshead. The Allied Commander-in-Chief, General Archibald Wavell made two unsuccessful attempts to relieve Tobruk ( Operation Brevity and Operation Battleaxe). Both easily defeated as they were hastily prepared due to Churchill's impatience for speedy action. The assault on Tobruk, whose capture was logistically imperative, was a failure which imperilled Rommel's career. Impatient to secure success Rommel ordered repeated, barely prepared, small-scale attacks which were easily gobbled up by the defenders. Before long his logistically strapped forces became so weak that a break-out from Tobruk could most likely have reached El Adem, sever the Afrikakorps' communications and topple it. Very luckily, Morshead was misled by intelligence overestimates of the German forces opposing Tobruk, thus Rommel was saved. Reflecting on this period, Kircheim, the then commander of the 5th light division said: "I do not like to be reminded of that time because so much blood was needlessly shed". At this time Rommel also began clamouring for reinforcements which the High Command then completing the preparations for Operation Barbarossa could not spare, and which, in any event, could not be logistically sustained as Halder had already pointed out to him. Halder sarcastically commented: "now at last he is constrained to state that his forces are not sufficiently strong to allow him to take full advantage of the 'unique opportunities' offered by the overall situation. That is the impression we have had for quite some time over here". Angry that his order, not to advance beyond Maradah, had been disobeyed and alarmed at mounting losses, Halder, never an admirer of Rommel, dispatched Friedrich Paulus to "head off this soldier gone stark mad" in Halder's words. Upon arrival Paulus soon forbade Rommel from undertaking any more small-scale assaults, but to plan a systematic all-out one. His composure restored, Rommel complied. His elaborately prepared great assault scheduled for 21 November was not to take place.

Following the costly failure of Battleaxe, Wavell was relieved by Commander-in-Chief India, General Claude Auchinleck. Auchinleck launched a major offensive to relieve Tobruk ( Operation Crusader). Initially Crusader appeared as doomed as Brevity and Battleaxe. The British (including Commonwealth troops) deeply outflanked the German defences along the Egyptian frontier with a left hook through the desert, and reached a position whence they could strike at both Tobruk and the coastal road, "Via Balbia". The Germans were then supposed to counter-attack so as to drive the British back. This, as a result of British numerical superiority in both planes and tanks, would result in the Germans' annihilation. The Germans, confident in the strength of the defences covering the Via Babia did not oblige but stayed put waiting on the Allies’ next move. The baffled British, whose plan did not provide for this eventuality, felt compelled to attack and try to relieve Tobruk and sever the Via Balbia. They were cut to pieces in an effort for which they had neglected to bring the necessary heavy artillery and because British breakthrough tactics comprised a headlong charge with the tanks in the lead, paying little or no attention to mine fields and anti-tank guns. The problem was that Rommel, drunk with victory, tried to over-exploit this success and, against the advice of his officers, resolved to drive the British further than their start line and himself outflank the border positions through the desert. According to Bernd Stegmann, Rommel knew his forces were incapable of driving such an effort home, but believed that the British, traumatised by their recent debacle, would abandon their defences along the border at the mere appearance of a German threat to their rear. If so his contempt for the enemy proved excessive and the gamble failed. His forces suffered heavy losses from British anti-tank guns and, as they dispersed over the desert, the RAF, unscathed by the earlier fighting. Losses which, unlike the British they could not replace, and soon were unable even to hold their initial positions. During the confusion caused by the Crusader operation, Rommel and his staff found themselves behind Allied lines several times. On one occasion, he visited a New Zealand Army field hospital that was still under Allied control. "[Rommel] inquired if anything was needed, promised the British [sic] medical supplies and drove off unhindered." (General Fritz Bayerlein, The Rommel Papers, chapter 8.)

Crusader was a defeat for Rommel. After several weeks of fighting, Rommel ordered the withdrawal of all his forces from the area around Tobruk ( 7 December 1941) towards El Agheila. The Allies followed, attempting to cut off the retreating troops as they had done in 1940, but Rommel's counter-attack on 20 January 1942 mauled the Allied forces. The Afrika Korps retook Benghazi and the Allies pulled back to the Tobruk area and commenced building defensive positions.

On 24 May 1942 Rommel's army attacked. In a classic blitzkrieg, he outflanked the Allies at Gazala, surrounded and reduced the strongpoint at Bir Hakeim and forced the Allies to quickly retreat, in the so-called "Gazala Gallop", to avoid being completely cut off. Tobruk, isolated and alone, was now all that stood between the Afrika Korps and Egypt. On 21 June 1942, after a swift, coordinated and fierce combined arms assault, the city surrendered along with its 33,000 defenders. By then the able troops who had defended Tobruk in 1941, had been dispatched to the Pacific at the insistence of the Australian Government. Only at the fall of Singapore, earlier that year, had more British Commonwealth troops been captured. Hitler made Rommel a field marshal. (Rommel later told his confidante, Hans von Luck, that he would have preferred the Führer gave him another division.) Within weeks, the Allies were pushed back far into Egypt.

Rommel's 21st Panzer Division was eventually stopped at the small railway town of El Alamein, just sixty miles from Alexandria.

With Allied forces from Malta interdicting his supplies at sea, and the enormous distances supplies had to travel to reach his forward troops, Rommel could not hold the El Alamein position forever. Still, it took a large set piece battle, the Second Battle of El Alamein, to dislodge his forces and even this British attack would not have pushed the Germans further than Fuka had Hitler not forbidden a retreat, during a lull in the battle, that was already in progress with his infamous "victory or death" stand fast order.

In September, he took sick leave in Italy and Germany, but immediately returned when news of the battle reached him. After the defeat at El Alamein, Rommel's forces managed to escape by using all the Italian transports. 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 defeat on the American forces at the Battle of 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. At the end of January 1943, the Italian General Giovanni Messe was appointed the new commander of Rommel’s Panzer Army Africa, which was now renamed 1st Italo-German Panzer Army (in recognition of the fact that it consisted of one German and three Italian corps). Though Messe was to replace Rommel, he diplomatically deferred to the German, and the two co-existed in what was theoretically the same command until 9 March, when Rommel finally departed Africa. Rommel's departure was kept secret on Hitler's explicit orders, so that the morale of the Axis troops could be maintained and respectful fear by their enemies retained. The last Rommel offensive in North Africa occurred on 6 March 1943, when he attacked Montgomery's 8th Army at the Battle of Medenine with three panzer divisions (10th, 15th and 21st). Decoded Ultra intercepts allowed Montgomery to deploy large numbers of anti-tank guns in the path of the offensive. After losing 52 tanks, Rommel was forced to call off the assault. On 9 March he handed over command of Armeegruppe Afrika to General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim and left Africa, because of health reasons, never to return. On 13 May 1943, after the collapse of the 5th German Army, the fall of Tunis and the surrounding of the 1st Italian Army, still holding the line at Enfidaville, Giovanni Messe formally surrendered the remnants of Army Group Afrika to the Allies. On 12 May, one day before the surrender, Messe was promoted to the rank of field marshal.

Some historians contrast Rommel's withdrawal back to Tunisia against Hitler's wishes with Friedrich Paulus's obedience of orders to have the German 6th Army stand its ground at the Battle of Stalingrad, which resulted in its annihilation. Field Marshal Albert Kesselring appointed overall axis commander in North Africa saw things differently. He believed the withdrawals, some of which were carried out against his orders, unnecessary and ruinous since they brought forward British airfields ever closer to the port of Tunis. As far as he was concerned Rommel was an insubordinate defeatist and string-puller. The increasingly acrimonious relations between the two did nothing to enhance performance.

Some sources state that during this period, there was a failed Allied attempt to capture Rommel from his headquarters, 250 miles behind enemy lines.

France 1943-1944

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (centre) discusses the expected Allied invasion of France with Colonel General Johannes Blaskowitz and Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt.
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (centre) discusses the expected Allied invasion of France with Colonel General Johannes Blaskowitz and Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt.

Back in Germany, Rommel was for some time virtually "unemployed". On 23 July 1943 he moved to Greece as commander of Army Group E, to defend the Greek coast against a possible allied landing that never happened, only to return to Germany two days later, upon the overthrow of Mussolini. On 17 August 1943, Rommel moved his headquarters from Munich to Lake Garda, as commander of a new Army Group B, created to defend the north of Italy. After Hitler gave General Albert Kesselring sole Italian command, on 21 November, Rommel moved Army Group B to Normandy, France, with responsibility for defending the French coast against the long anticipated Allied invasion. Dismayed by the situation he found, the slow building pace, and fearing he had just months before an invasion, Rommel reinvigorated the whole fortification effort along the Atlantic coast. Under his direction, work was significantly sped up, millions of mines laid, and thousands of tank traps and obstacles set up on beaches and throughout the countryside. Instead of helping, Hitler and his officers under him decided to strengthen the defences in Calais thinking the Allies would attack there since it is closer to England. Rommel disagreed, saying the enemy wanted the Führer to strengthen the defences in the wrong place and that they would attack Normandy instead. He was right.

After his battles in Africa, Rommel concluded that any offensive movement would be nearly impossible due to overwhelming Allied air superiority. He argued that the tank forces should be dispersed in small units and kept in heavily fortified positions as close to the front as possible, so they would not have to move far and en masse 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 cut off the Allied troops. When asked to pick a plan, Hitler vacillated and placed them in the middle, far enough to be useless to Rommel, not far enough to watch the fight for von Rundstedt.

During D-Day, several tank units, notably the 12th SS Panzer Division, were close enough to the beaches to create serious havoc. Hitler refused however to release the panzer reserves as he believed the Normandy landings were a diversion. Hitler and the German High Command expected the main assault in the Pas de Calais area, thanks to the success of a secret Allied deception campaign ( Operation Fortitude). Facing only small-scale German attacks, the Allies quickly secured a beachhead.

The plot against Hitler

A memorial at the site of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel's suicide outside of the town of Herrlingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany (west of Ulm).
A memorial at the site of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel's suicide outside of the town of Herrlingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany (west of Ulm).

On 17 July 1944, Rommel's staff car was strafed by an RCAF Spitfire piloted by Charley Fox; he was hospitalized with major head injuries. (Although the Americans claimed to have hit the vehicle as well, many German reports specifically mentioned a Canadian Spitfire as the sole attacker). In the meantime, after the failed July 20 Plot against Adolf Hitler a widespread investigation was conducted to identify possible participants in the plot. Rommel was identified in some of the coup ringleaders’ documentation as a potential supporter and an acceptable military leader to be placed in a position of responsibility should their coup succeed. No evidence was found that directly linked Rommel to the plot, nor that he had been contacted by any of the plot ringleaders. At the same time, local Nazi party officials reported on Rommel's extensive and scornful criticism of Nazi incompetent leadership during the time he was hospitalized. 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. It has been stated that Rommel wanted to avoid giving future generations of Germans the perception that the war was lost because of backstabbing, the infamous Dolchstoßlegende, as was commonly believed by some Germans of World War I. Instead, he favoured a coup where Hitler would be taken alive and made to stand trial before the public. Hard evidence exists only that he sought to arrange his forces' illicit surrender to the western allies.

Because of Rommel's popularity with the German people, Hitler gave him the option of committing suicide with cyanide or facing a trial before Roland Freisler's " People's Court" and the murder of his family and staff. Rommel ended his own life on 14 October 1944, and was buried with full military honours. After the war, an edited version of his diary was published as The Rommel Papers. He is the only member of the Third Reich establishment to have a museum dedicated to him. His grave can be found in Herrlingen, a short distance west of Ulm.


  • Battle of Caporetto (1917)
  • Battle of Arras (1940)
  • Siege of Tobruk (1941)
  • Battle of Gazala (1942)
  • Battle of Bir Hakeim (1942)
  • First Battle of El Alamein (1942)
  • Battle of Alam Halfa (1942)
  • Second Battle of El Alamein (1942)
  • Battle of Medenine (1943)
  • Battle of the Kasserine Pass (1943)
  • Battle of Normandy (1944)

Popular perception

Rommel was in his lifetime extraordinarily well known, not only with the German people, but also with his adversaries. Popular stories of his chivalry and tactical prowess earned him the respect of many opponents, particularly the British. Claude Auchinleck, Winston Churchill, George S. Patton, and Bernard Montgomery are all on record as having both positive and negative things to say about the "Desert Fox." Rommel, for his part, was complimentary towards and respectful of his foes. Hitler considered Rommel among his favourite generals.

Rommel himself would refer to the fighting in North Africa as "Krieg Ohne Hass"- "War Without Hate", the war in North Africa would be described by both sides as one of the last to possess any pretense of chivalry. No war crimes charges were ever brought against the Afrika Korps, and to this day Rommel's gravesite is visited by British Africa veterans. It was also during his time in North Africa that Rommel would disobey Hitler's infamous Commando Order to execute captured Allied commandos, and also an order from Hitler to execute Jewish soldiers who had been taken prisoner.

Tempering this favourable view of Rommel are the facts that he did loyally serve Hitler and the Nazi government if not throughout his life at least until 1944, that he never publicly disagreed with any Nazi actions or goals during his lifetime, and the fact that contemporaries who had to work with him under adversity had few kind words to say about him and his abilities. Following Paulus' return from his inspection of Rommel's doings in North Africa and also considering the reports submitted by Alfred Gause, Halder concluded: "Rommel's character defects make him very hard to get along with, but no one cares to come out in open opposition because of his brutality and the backing he has at top level" and yet his military colleagues would also play their part in perpetuating his legend. His former subordinate Kircheim though critical of Rommel's performance nonetheless observed: "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" (in a letter to Streich another former subordinate).

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 (however accurate or inaccurate this depiction may be). 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.

In fiction

He has been portrayed by:

  • Erich von Stroheim in the 1943 film Five Graves to Cairo
  • James Mason in both the 1951 The Desert Fox and the 1953 The Desert Rats
  • Werner Hinz in 1962's The Longest Day
  • Karl Michael Vogler in the 1970 Patton, starring George C. Scott
  • Wolfgang Preiss in the 1971 Raid on Rommel
  • Hardy Kruger in the 1988 television miniseries War and Remembrance
  • Michael York in the 1990 TV-movie Night of the Fox
  • Kevin Peckenpaugh, Union Pines production of Kill Hitler

In Philip K. Dick's alternative history novel The Man in the High Castle, Rommel is the Nazi-appointed president of the United States of America in the early 1960s.

In Douglas Niles's and Michael Dobson's alternative history novel Fox on the Rhine ( ISBN 0-8125-7466-4), Hitler is killed by the bomb plot of 20 July 1944. This leads to Rommel's survival, and a different quick offensive strike. This is repelled and the book ends with his surrender to the Americans and British, in the belief that the Germans would be better off with the western powers than with the Soviets. Fox on the Rhine was followed by a sequel, Fox at the Front ( ISBN 0-641-67696-4).

In Donna Barr's novel Bread and Swans, the historical Rommel shares his concerns and career with a fictitious younger brother, Pfirsich, also known as The Desert Peach. Both Rommels also appear as focal characters of Barr's long-running comic strip series about "The Peach".

During the 1980's, there was a popular arcade tank-based game called Rommel's Revenge which found its way to the home computer market.

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 would say:
    • "We have a very daring and skilful 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. He seemed to know what the enemy were like and how they would react."


  • "Sweat saves blood, blood saves lives, and brains save both."
  • "Mortal danger is an effective antidote for fixed ideas."
  • "The best form of welfare for the troops is first-rate training."
  • "Don't fight a battle if you don't gain anything by winning."
  • "In a man-to-man fight, the winner is he who has one more round in his magazine."
  • "Courage which goes against military expediency is stupidity, or, if it is insisted upon by a commander, irresponsibility."
  • "In the absence of orders, find something and kill it."
  • Referring to Italians: "Good troops, bad officers. But remember that without them we wouldn't have civilization."
  • "Training errors are recorded on paper. Tactical errors are etched in stone."
  • "There is one unalterable difference between a soldier and a civilian: the civilian never does more than he is paid to do."
  • "Men are basically smart or dumb and lazy or ambitious. The dumb and ambitious ones are dangerous and I get rid of them."
  • "Be an example to your men, in your duty and in private life. Never spare yourself, and let the troops see that you don't in your endurance of fatigue and privation. Always be tactful and well-mannered and teach your subordinates to do the same. Avoid excessive sharpness or harshness of voice, which usually indicates the man who has shortcomings of his own to hide."
  • "This business with the Jews has got to stop."
  • "I know I haven't offered you much; sand, heat, scorpions ... but we've shared them together. One more last push, and it is Cairo. And if we fail, ... well, we tried, ... together"*
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