It’s said, “a soldier never quits until he’s dead. But, truth be told, maybe not even after he’s dead.
For a soldier is essentially the perfect- if there’s such a thing- embodiment of fighting spirit. And of values that uphold the love for motherland!
Just that in the Heidenheim-born’s case it was love for the Fatherland.
Well that’s not why the name of Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel is remembered even today long after he’s gone while his superiors have been forgotten.
And make no mistake, the Field Marshal has been gone for no fewer than 78 years.
Though, in truth, the man described widely as the Desert Fox lives today in minds and hearts where misconceptions, regardless of how promising they may seem, have little or no space in judging a soldier’s life.
Here’s a fact.
Rommel was not a Nazi. Fundamentally speaking, he was a revered figure serving the Fatherland during the time of the Nazis.
There’s no valid or proven account anywhere despite attempts and speculations to tarnish the Baden Württemberg man’s reputation in the light of Nazi Germany’s war crimes.
For in reality, Rommel, one of the most recognised and decorated faces of Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic, was considered a clean soldier.
A soldier who upheld perhaps that very value or sentiment of the army that inspires envy: chivalry.
Some are just born with that trait. It appears, Erwin Rommel, who was respected by those on his side and even those against him, was that.
For had that not been the case he would not have been admired- not worshipped, of course- by his very enemies; many of which enjoyed overwhelming superiority on the battlefield over the German field marshal.
That’s even as the two hardly came together in a face-off at North Africa, the unforgettable American legend Patton (and George C. Scott as Patton in the movie is highly recommended) for example.
He studied Rommel’s war tactics and executed them to perfection in the desert.
Take Monty aka the great legend Bernard Montgomery, who eventually turned out to be the perfect foil for the charismatic German soldier, as another example.
Take Sir Winston Churchill, one of the most revered figures of Great Britain, as being the biggest.
The following is what Churchill exclaimed in January 1942, “his ardour and daring inflicted grievous disasters upon us. But he deserves the salute, which I made him in the House of Commons. He also deserves our respect because although a loyal, though 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,” added the man widely recognised for smoking that irreplaceable pipe.
But it’s what Churchill said in the end of a decoration that may seem like the Brits saluting their most dreaded enemy that’s most striking:
“In the somber wars of modern democracy, there is little place for chivalry!” This is when he is known to have said in an earlier speech of which Rommel was a part, “May I dare say across the havoc of war, we have amidst us a darn fine German.”
But over the years, twisted narratives, notions and revisionists who ply their trade by changing the course of history have managed to undermine the Desert Fox’s image somewhat.
What appears sullen even today, decades after the end of the bloodiest battle on the face of the modern world, is the fact that Rommel is considered a Nazi, when in reality he was anything but.
For sure there could be some according to whom Claus von Stauffenberg (subject of myriad movies, including Tom Cruise in and as Valkyrie) a dreadful figure. When, literally speaking, he stood up against Hitler, but not before placing the bag (filled with explosives) sheepishly under the table where elite Nazis gathered to discuss the further course of action of WWII at the Wolf’s Lair, East Prussia.
But is he the only one who stood up to tackle a figure who, perhaps contemporary Germany would hang its head in shame thinking, was once a corporal in the German Army?
Whether Rommel participated in the 20th July plot to eliminate Hitler or if not, had an idea about what might the actual course of events be, is a mystery he’s taken to his grave, one that even today, is visited by countless from across the world.
But as the saying goes that you live by the sword and you die by it, Rommel perished all at the hands of the very regime, which looked at him as more of an asset for propaganda than an actual star. When in reality, he was the latter, a soldier who, in the words of George Lane, of the British Army Officer in the Second World war, spared him his life despite being held captive.
When Rommel could so easily have shot dead a prisoner of war like how most Nazis engaged in cold-blooded murder would, he spared the life of an Englishman. Lane lived long enough to spread the truth about one of Germany’s great sons, albeit one scarred by misbeliefs and one admired just as passionately as one relishes beer during the Oktoberfest!
But what a shame it is that the the man presented to the Germans as a heroic figure for his leadership of the 7th Panzer Division in North Africa ended up taking his own life. And that too, at the orders of the Bohemian Nazi who was anything but a leader, though one who many in Asia and even in present-day Germany ‘admire!’
Who knows whether it is really a right-winger ideology or an anti-leftist stance or just the indescribable penchant towards psychopaths and a liking for hatred that still makes one utter words such as, “I like the Nazis,” a phrase quite common across the world even today.
True for Jamel, a municipality in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where DW.com’s Mariel Muller uncovered a telling story of a village that admires and adores the Nazis. Forget not the sieg-heiling Malaysian neo-Nazis, who are interested in keeping a ‘pure‘ Malay community.
While many in present-day Germany have either turned their backs on Field Marshal Rommel and if not, just don’t care and you cannot blame them for the post-war guilt sticks on even today, here’s a humble submission:
Rommel, described passionately as the Desert Fox for his scrupulous reading of the enemy position and the infallible tactics deployed during his time in command in North Africa was perhaps a Wolf.
For akin to the hound known for its fierce loyalty, Rommel committed to take his own life thus saving that of his own wife Lucie’s and son Manfred’s (who later became the mayor of Stuttgart).
Now let us ask ourselves- would a career-hungry man who liked decorations and considered success at any cost as the most prized victory over anything have done such a thing?
|Furthermore, Sweat Saves Blood, Blood Saves Lives- A famous quote of Erwin Rommel, in some ways buries the notion that Rommel was a fan of needless bloodshed!|