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Rommel On The Run (1942)

Bob Schoppe Sandra F. Ligonier Images of America Series. Daniel L Replogle. Susan Rittereiser. Charlie B. Dahan Linda Gennett Irmscher. Many authors describe Rommel as having a reputation of being a chivalrous, humane, and professional officer, and that he earned the respect of both his own troops and his enemies. According to Maurice Remy, orders issued by Hitler during Rommel's stay in a hospital resulted in massacres in the course of Operation Achse , disarming the Italian forces after the armistice with the Allies in , but Rommel treated his Italian opponents with his usual fairness, requiring that the prisoners should be accorded the same conditions as German civilians.

Remy opines that an order in which Rommel, in fact protesting against Hitler's directives, called for no "sentimental scruples" against "Badoglio-dependent bandits in uniforms of the once brothers-in-arms" should not be taken out of context. In the Normandy campaign both Allied and German troops murdered prisoners of war on occasion during June and July It is likely that he had acted similarly in North Africa; [] though this is disputed by historian Szymon Datner , who writes that Rommel may have been simply trying to conceal atrocities of Nazi Germany from the Allies.

Telp states that Rommel by nature was chivalrous and not prone to order needless violence. Historian Richard J.

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Evans has stated that German soldiers in Tunisia raped Jewish women, and the success of Rommel's forces in capturing or securing Allied, Italian and Vichy French territory in North Africa led to many Jews in these areas being killed by other German institutions as part of the Holocaust. However, in view of the Axis' deteriorating situation in Africa it returned to Germany in September.

The Haaretz also remarks that Rommel's influence probably softened the Nazi authorities' attitude to the Jews and to the civilian population generally in North Africa. Historian Martin Kitchen states that the reputation of the Afrika Korps was preserved due to circumstances: the sparsely populated desert areas did not lend themselves to ethnic cleansing; the German forces never reached the large Jewish populations in Egypt and Palestine; and in the urban areas of Tunisia and Tripolitania the Italian government constrained the German efforts to discriminate against or eliminate Jews who were Italian citizens.

At his 17 June meeting with Hitler at Margival he protested against the massacre of the citizens of the French town of Oradour-sur-Glane , committed by the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich , and asked to be allowed to punish the division. Building the Atlantic Wall was officially the responsibility of the Organisation Todt , [] which was not under Rommel's command, but he enthusiastically joined the task, [] protesting slave labour and suggesting that they should recruit French civilians and pay them good wages.

Although they got basic wages, the workers complained because it was too little and there was no heavy equipment. Rommel was himself an eccentric and horrible violinist.

Rick Atkinson criticises Rommel for gaining a looted stamp collection a bribe from Sepp Dietrich and a villa taken from Jews. Curiously, recent research by Norman Ohler claims that Rommel's behaviours were heavily influenced by Pervitin which he reportedly took in heavy doses, to such an extent that Ohler refers to him as "the Crystal Fox" "Kristallfuchs" [] [] — playing off the nickname "Desert Fox" famously given to him by the British.

At the beginning, although Hitler and Goebbels took particular notice of Rommel, the Nazi elites had no intent to create one major war symbol partly out of fear that he would offset Hitler [] [] , generating huge propaganda campaigns for not only Rommel but also Gerd von Rundstedt , Walther von Brauchitsch , Eduard Dietl , Sepp Dietrich the latter two were party members and also strongly supported by Hitler , etc. Rommel's victories in France were featured in the German press and in the February film Victory in the West, in which Rommel personally helped direct a segment reenacting the crossing of the Somme River.

In North Africa, Rommel received help in cultivating his image from Alfred Ingemar Berndt , a senior official at the Reich Propaganda Ministry who had volunteered for military service. He directed Rommel's photo shoots and filed radio dispatches describing the battles.

In the spring of , Rommel's name began to appear in the British media. Toward the end of the year, the Reich propaganda machine also used Rommel's successes in Africa as a diversion from the Wehrmacht's challenging situation in the Soviet Union with the stall of Operation Barbarossa.

The attention of the Western and especially the British press thrilled Goebbels, who wrote in his diary in early "Rommel continues to be the recognized darling of even the enemies' news agencies. The Field Marshal was the German commander most frequently covered in the German media, and the only one to be given a press conference, which took place in October Rommel declared: "Today we He became a symbol that was used to reinforce the German public's faith in an ultimate Axis victory.

In the wake of the successful British offensive in November and other military reverses, the Propaganda Ministry directed the media to emphasize Rommel's invincibility. The charade was maintained until the spring of , even as the German situation in Africa became increasingly precarious. To ensure that the inevitable defeat in Africa would not be associated with Rommel's name, Goebbels had the Supreme High Command announce in May that Rommel was on a two-month leave for health reasons.

After the radio program ran in May , Rommel sent Berndt a case of cigars as a sign of his gratitude. Although Rommel then entered a period without a significant command, he remained a household name in Germany, synonymous with the aura of invincibility. Goebbels supported the decision, noting in his diary that Rommel was "undoubtedly the suitable man" for the task. The propaganda minister expected the move to reassure the German public and at the same time to have a negative impact on the Allied forces' morale.


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In France, a Wehrmacht propaganda company frequently accompanied Rommel on his inspection trips to document his work for both domestic and foreign audiences. When Rommel was seriously wounded on 17 July , the Propaganda Ministry undertook efforts to conceal the injury so as not to undermine domestic morale. Despite those, the news leaked to the British press. To counteract the rumors of a serious injury and even death, Rommel was required to appear at the 1 August press conference.

On 3 August, the German press published an official report that Rommel had been injured in a car accident. Rommel noted in his diary his dismay at this twisting of the truth, belatedly realising how much the Reich propaganda was using him for its own ends. Rommel was interested in propaganda beyond the promotion of his own image. In , after visiting Rommel in France and reading his proposals on counteracting Allied propaganda, Alfred-Ingemar Berndt remarked: "He is also interested in this propaganda business and wants to develop it by all means.

He has even thought and brought out practical suggestions for each program and subject. Rommel saw the propaganda and education values in his and his nation's deeds He also did value justice itself: According to Admiral Ruge's diary, Rommel told Ruge: "Justice is the indispensable foundation of a nation. Unfortunately, the higher-ups are not clean.

The slaughterings are grave sins. What they want is what might be termed a physical contact with him. In moments of panic, fatigue, or disorganization, or when something out of the ordinary has to be demanded from them, the personal example of the commander works wonders, especially if he has had the wit to create some sort of legend around himself.

He protested the use of propaganda at the cost of explicit military benefits though.