Rommel, Erwin Johannes Eugen, born 15-11-1891, Bahnhofstrasse 5 in Heidenheim, Germany,the third of five children of Erwin Rommel Senior (1860–1913), a teacher and school administrator, and his wife Helene von Lutz , whose father headed the local government council. As a young man Rommel’s father had been a leutnant in the artillery. Rommel had one older sister, an art teacher who was his favorite sibling, one older brother named Manfred who died in infancy and two younger brothers, of whom one became a successful dentist and the other an opera singer, wanted to study engineering but his father disapproved so in 1910 he joined the German Army, age 19. He was excellent at mathematics – he memorized the full set of logarithmic tables. He was mechanically minded – he once took his motorcycle apart and put it back together without leaving a single nut, bolt or screw behind. In 1911 he had a relation with the twenty years old daughter of a poverty-stricken family, Walburga Stemmer , but when Walburga was pregnant in 1913, Rommel’s father was against a marriage. Erwin himself with want of money doubt about a marriage, but the outbreak of the first war solved the case as he went to front. His father died three days before the birth of the little Gertrud and here with half brother Manfred
Gertrud was born at Weingarten, a town in Württemberg, in the District of Ravensburg, Germany. She died at the town of Kempten. She married Josef Pan, a fruit vendor, and had three children; Josef, Helga and Anton. Gertrud exchanged hundreds of letters with her famous father. She knitted him a scarf which he wore frequently at the battlefront. Lucie, wife of Erwin Rommel, knew about Gertrud. Lucie explained to her children that Gertrud was their cousin, when she was actually their older half-sister. Gertrud was a frequent visitor to the family of Erwin Rommel and was at Rommel’s hospital bedside after he returned ill from Africa. There, she answered the telephone when a furious Hitler ordered Rommel back to Africa. She stayed close to the family even after her father’s death.
In 1916 during a leave from the front Erwin Rommel met Lucia “Lucie” Maria Mollin , who he knew from Danzig, five years earlier. They married in November 1916 in Danzig, but still took care of Walburga and Gertrud. Walburga kept her love for Erwin in the hope that he once came back to her as Rommel’s marriage remained childless. As Lucie at last after twelve years was pregnant, Walburga two months before the delivery committed suicide, age 36 in 1928. The Rommel couple and her grandmother took care of Gertrud then.
He was mechanically minded – he once took his motorcycle apart and put it back together without leaving a single nut, bolt or screw behind.
At age 18 Rommel joined the local 124th Württemberg Infantry Regiment as a Fahnrich, in 1910, studying at the Officer Cadet School in Danzig .He graduated in November 1911 and was commissioned as a lieutenant in January 1912 and was assigned to the 124th Infantry in Weingarten. He was posted to Ulm in March 1914 to the 46th Field Artillery Regiment, XIII Royal Wurttemberg Corps , as a battery commander. He returned to the 124th when war was declared
By the outbreak of the First World War Rommel had reached the rank of lieutenant. He fought on the Western Front and in January 1915 won the Iron Cross. In 1917 Rommel served on the Italian Front and after leading the attack on Monte Matajur, was promoted to captain. The 1st Italian Infantry Division – 10,000 men – under General Curio Barbasetti surrendered to Rommel. For this and his actions at Matajur, he received the order of Pour le Merite , together with his Regiment commander Theodor Sproesser General Curio Barbasetti died age 68 on 04-12-1953. Soon afterwards Rommel and a small group of men swam the Piave River in order to capture the Italian garrison at Longarone. After the war Rommel was allowed in the new Reichswehr and in 1929 he was appointed an instructor at the Infantry School in Dresden. In October 1935 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and began teaching at the Potsdam War Academy. An good violin player and excellent teacher, Rommel’s lectures were published as a book on infantry tactics in 1937. The book was read by Adolf Hitler. Greatly impressed by Rommel’s ideas Hitler arranged for him to command his HQ staff in Austria and Czechoslovakia. The following year he did the same job in Poland. Rommel was given command of the 7th Panzer Division, nicknamed “Ghost Division” that invaded France in May, 1940. Rommel’s troops moved faster and farther than any other army in military history. After reaching the Channel he turned south and raced along the coast until he reached the Spanish border. By the time of the liberation, some 580.000 French had been killed (Of these 40.000 were killed by the western Allied forces, during the bombardments of the first 48 hours of Operation Overlord. Military deaths were 92.000 in 1939–1940. Some 58.000 died from 1940 to 1945 fighting in the Free French forces. In Alsace Lorraine some province citizens joined the German Army (most of them were forced to). Some 40.000 became casualties. Civilian casualties amounted to around 150.000 (60.000 by aerial bombing, 60.000 in the resistance, and 30.000 murdered by German occupation forces). Prisoners of war and deportee totals were around 1.900.000. Of this, around 240.000 died in captivity. An estimated 40.000 were prisoners of war, 100.000 racial deportees, 60.000 political prisoners and 40.000 died as slave labourers. As a result of his exploits in France he was promoted to the rank of General. When Benito Mussolini asked for help in North Africa Adolf, Hitler (see Did you know) sent Rommel and General Field Marshal der Flieger, Albert Kesselring
to command the new Africa Corps and successfully drove the British 8th Army, nicknamed “The Desert Rats” out of Libya.
Rommel got the nickname “Desert Fox” as a leader and also his uncompromising belief that all prisoners of war should be well looked after and not abused. One story told at the time was that Italian troops took from British POWs’ their watches and other valuables. When Rommel found out, he ordered that they be returned to their owners immediately. To many British “Desert Rats”, Rommel epitomised a gentleman’s approach to a deadly issue – war. He moved into Egypt but was defeated at El Alamein. With the USA Army landing in Morocco and Algeria, his troops were forced to leave Tunisia. The nickname ‘Desert Fox’ was well deserved. Rommel was highly respected even by the British. Casualties of the Africa war, Free French: 16.000 killed, wounded or captured. British Empire: 53.000 killed, wounded, or captured. United States: 2.715 killed, 8.978 wounded, 6.528 missing. Germany: 12.808 killed, unknown wounded 101.784 + captured, Total Axis: 950.000 total casualties, 8.000 aircraft destroyed or captured, 6.200 guns destroyed or captured 2.500 tanks destroyed or captured. Claude Auchenleck and Bernard “Monty” Montgomery, Rommel’s opposites until his sacking by Sir Winston Churchill, sent a memo to his senior commanders in North Africa, to state that it was their responsibility to ensure that their men thought less of Rommel as a ‘super military leader’ and more of him as a normal German commander. Hitler ordered Rommel to fight to the last man and the last bullet. Rommel had far too much respect for his men to obey this command and retreated. The Germans left North Africa in May 1943. The driver of Rommel in Africa was Leutnant Hellmut von Leipzig,
whom describes Rommel as “the craziest passenger ever”, because he always said “Faster!” and when encountering an enemy’s minefield, would insist on going and personally guiding Leipzig around the mines. Leipzig fought in the “Battle of Berlin”, became a POW in 1945 and spent 10 years in Soviet captivity. Leipzig died in Namibia in October 2016 at the age of 95. Despite this refusal to obey Hitler’s command, Rommel did not lose favour with Hitler. Rommel was now sent to head the German Army in France that was preparing for the Allied invasion.
Unable to halt the Allied troops during Operation Overlord, on 15-07-1944, Rommel warned Hitler that Germany was on the verge of defeat and encouraged him to bring the war to an end. He took full responsibility for the Northern French coastline. The beaches at Normandy were littered with his anti-tank traps which were invisible at full-tide. As it was, the planning at D-Day meant that Rommel’s defences were of little problem to the vast Allied attack. At the time of D-Day, Rommel commanded the important Army Group B . On 17-07-1944, Rommel was wounded when strafing in an attack on his car by Allied fighter planes near Vimoutiers, France.
The attack took place near the village Sainte Foy de Montgommery. Eight Spitfires, of the No 602 Squadron , flew in the vicinity. Two Spitfires broke out of the formation when they spotted the staff car. Squadron Leader J.J. Le Roux, DFC, an ace with 23½ destroyed enemy airplanes, took a shot at the staff car. His shells smacked with heavy force into the Horch. In the back were staff members Hauptmann Helmuth Lang , Major Neuhaus and Feldwebel Hoike, who was there specifically as an aircraft lookout. Rommel sat in the front, as was his habit. He liked to keep a map on his knee, so he could do the navigating. At the wheel was his regular driver, Obergefreiter Daniel.and was hit badly in the arm. Rommel was wounded in the face and his skull is fractured in three places. Driver Daniel lost the car and it runs into the verge of the road, hits a tree and the car turns over. Rommel lands unconscious besides the car. Hauptmann Lang escaped unhurt, Neuhaus with minor injuries. Field Marshal Rommel was thrown against the windshield post, sustaining serious head injuries. His career was over. They fear for his life, but Rommel survives the attack. Daniel, his driver dies of his wounds that same night. In the early months 1944 Rommel was approached by Ludwig Beck, about joining the July Plot. Beck was offered to commit suicide. His last words were “I am thinking of earlier times.” Beck then shot himself. In severe distress, Beck succeeded only in severely wounding himself and a sergeant was brought in to administer the coup de grâce by shooting Beck in the back of the neck shot in the Bendlerstrasse headquarter OKW , on 20-07-1944, age 64 and Carl Goerdeler, Goerdeler was executed by hanging on 02-02-1945, age 60, at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin.
Ludwig Beck. Carl Goerdeler. Wilhelm Burgdorf.
Death and burial ground of Rommel, Erwin Johannes Eugen.
His former DAK soldiers raised a monument of tank parts on the same spot later. Rommel was given a state funeral and his family would not be punished for Rommel’s indiscretions after his death Generaloberst Heinz Guderian gave a last speech. Erwin Rommel is buried with his wife Lucie Maria, born Mollin and who died age 77 on 26-09-1971, on the cemetery of Herrlingen near Ulm. His son Manfred Rommel later became the mayor of Stuttgart in 1974. In September 2016 Henny van Loenen reported me that the gravestone of Rommel is changed and sent the new pictures.