Erwin Rommel was born on October 15th 1891 in Germany. During World War I, Rommel fought in France, where he gained tactical experience and respect on the battlefield. After the war, between 1935 and 1945, the Nazi regime ruled over Germany with many ex-soldiers and youths siding with their power. One of the ex World War I soldiers was Erwin Rommel. After fighting in World War I, Rommel became a military instructor until in 1938 he joined Hitler’s forces as a General. After the invasion of Poland, Rommel moved on to commanding the 7th Panzer Division in France, the Nazi invasion of Egypt and the armies in the Netherlands. Rommel’s involvement in the army, witnessing the battles Germany had lost, allowed him to witness that Germany no longer had the upper hand in battle. This doubt lead Rommel into writing his letter to Hitler.
In the letter, Rommel talks about the depletion of the supplies and lack of experience of the new soldiers; the downfall of transportation due to air raids and the Allies more advanced air travel; and the casualties in Normandy as well as the weakening front in France. Rommel’s concern for the German troops showed that many were losing hope of the Wehrmacht’s ability to win the war. Rommel wrote his letter on July 15, 1944, just a few days before the assassinated attempted against Hitler. Rommel’s superior Field Marshal Gunther von Kluge gave Hitler the letter, making both Hitler and Kluge suspicious of Rommel’s actions. Rommel’s document was kept preserved in case Rommel was going to agree to go trial. By the time the war ended the letter was sent to Bundesarchiv Militararchiv (German Military Archives) where Peter Hoffmann, the editor of Behind Valkyrie document book, found the letter and added it to his book3. Although Rommel never joined Operation Valkyrie he still held doubt about the Wehrmacht, giving enough suspicion that Rommel might later become a threat.
Unfortunately, after the letter was written, Rommel was injured by a fighter plane in battle, two days after writing the letter. Then on July 20, 1944 Operation Valkyrie occurred in Hitler’s layout the Wolf’s Lair, located in East Prussia. After the deed all of the immediate conspirators were shot that same night; after, anyone who was remotely involved in the plots was also arrested, put to trial, and executed. In October, SS guards came to Rommel’s house, while he was still recovering from his injuries and told him he had a choice of whether to commit suicide and be honored as a war hero or to be put on trial and lose his honor. Rommel died on October 14, 1944, deciding to take his life in order to protect his family, and was decorated at his funeral as a war hero.
I found this video on a Youtube channel which was supported by a company called Critical Past, a historical channel that retains and sells vintage videos on DVDs. This footage was preserved in an archive and then transferred in order to be seen on modern screens. In the footage you see Rommel’s casket with military officials, his wife and son in the church; citizens outside the church paying respects to him; and army soldiers saluting to him as his casket is taken away. Rommel was very much respected in the end of his days, at least to the publics eyes. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s right wing and propaganda minister, was the head of all media while Hitler was in power. Though the filmmaker is unknown, Rommel’s funeral was filmed for Die Deutsche Wochenschau, the German newsreels. In the newsreel, they told the population that Rommel died from his injuries and was fully honored in Nazi attire.
Around the time Rommel’s funeral and the July 20th plot, Italy announced its surrender in October 1943, Monte Cassino monastery fell to the Allies in January 1944, and Normandy was invaded on D-Day showed that the Axis powers were slowly losing the war. The July 20th plot, was taken place near the end of the war and the attempt on Hitler’s life would cause more fear and doubt to soldiers, generals, and citizens. Thought Goebbels did not want to advertise that. Rommel’s suspensions were suppressed6. The huge assassination attempt just occurred only a few months ago and Germany was trying to cover everything to make sure everything looks fine.
During World War two, it was bad to publish failures happening in the war. In other newsreels and war films, the filmmakers tried to show the support and prosperity of the German people. However, many who were involved in resistance groups was a part of the older generation, citizens who were over the age of 18 before 1935. All of the top conspirators of Operation Valkyrie were in their 40s to 60s. Children born during the Nazi regime grew into the Nazi ideology verses adults who grew up in the earlier 20th century, experiencing different ideology. Though groups like the White Rose, a non violent resistance group created of Munich University students, whose members were around the ages of 15 to 17 around 1935, by that age kids have already created a sense of identity and morals. It is much easier to influence young children than adults. After the defeat of World War I along with the poor economy and debit, Hitler’s influence and encouragement helped Germany rally towards moving towards a better future. Ex-soldiers like Rommel at the time, realized the war was no longer in their favor and were motivated to prevent Hitler from continuing the war effort. To the resistance group, they knew deep down that what they were doing was wrong and they new that Hitler had to serve justice for leading Germany astray.
AENT UK. “Erwin Rommel.” March 10, 2015. Accessed November 15, 2015. http://www.history.co.uk/biographies/erwin-rommel.
A+E Network. “Joseph Goebbels – World War II.” history.com (HISTORY.com) 2010,. Accessed November 15, 2015. http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/joseph-goebbels.
Bhalla, Shalu. Quotes of Ghandi. n.p.: UBS Publishers, 1995.
Hoffman, Peter, ed. Jantzen, Kyle, Kenneth Reynolds, Katharine Sams, and Andrew Szanajda, trans. Behind Valkyrie: German Resistance to Hitler: Documents. Montreal, Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011.
Stock Footage – Nazi Leaders in the Funeral of General Erwin Rommel in Herrlingen, Germany. 1944. Posted November 24, 2015. http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675030671_General-Erwin-Rommel_wreath-over-coffin_Field-Marshall-Karl-Von-Rundstedt.
Trueman, C N. “Erwin Rommel.” April 20, 2015. Accessed November 24, 2015. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-two/military-commanders-of-world-war-two/erwin-rommel/.
Trueman, C N. “The July Bomb Plot.” May 18, 2015. Accessed May 18 2015.