Essay Preview: Erwin Rommel
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In the year 1944, Germany was fighting a war that could not be won. Many Germans thought that Adolph Hitler needed to begin peace negotiations with the allies, while Germany still had the leverage to negotiate with. Hitler would not hear of such “defeatism” from his Generals. Some German officers began planning a coup from the Fuhrer. Those conspirators looked to Hitlers most trusted General and hero of Germany, General Erwin Rommel, to become Germanys savior. Rommel was widely popular with the German people, and he was in prime position to take over leadership of the Gestapo and begin negotiations with the allies. Rommel was the perfect candidate. Although Rommel did not want to assassinate Hitler, those acting on Rommels behalf implicated him in the conspiracy which ultimately led to Rommels death. Rommel was such a successful General, had the assassination worked, Rommel would have become the leader of Germany and history would be forever changed.
Rommels military career began at an early age. Born in Heidenheim in 1891 to a middle class family, Rommels father wanted his son to have a stable career and encouraged him to join to army. During WWI, Rommels military leadership was already apparent. In one battle, he suggested his CO withdraw and attack through concealing woods on the French flank. Retreat was punishable by death. The CO listened anyways and did what Rommel advised. The result was the German 2nd Battalion captured 50 prisoners, a couple machine guns, and even French field kitchens with the food ready-to-eat. The Germans only had four casualties and eleven wounded. Not a bad start for the future General. Rommels actions in WWI would earn him the Iron Cross first and second class.
Following the First World War, Rommel was placed in charge of the Infantry School in Dresden as a junior instructor. As an interesting aside, there was another instructor who liked to play tricks on Rommel. His name was Schoenerer. He would place silverware in Rommels pockets on formal occasions. Then when Rommel stood up, the silverware would fall out on the floor to his embarrassment. Rommel became one of the most popular instructors. His lectures would later form the basis of his book published in 1937, Infantry Attacks (Infanterie greift an). This book would later catch the eye of Adolph Hitler, and most of Germany. In 1939, Europe was fighting WWII and Hitler needed protection, Rommel became Hitlers right hand man. During the early years of the war, Rommel and Hitler were inseparable. Some speculated that Rommel was Hitlers protÐ”©gÐ”©. Then came Rommels big break, in February of 1940 Hitler gave Rommel a Panzer division.
Rommel quickly perfected the Blitzkrieg and France fell within weeks. The Germans held Europe. Then the Italians had to muddle up Africa and get involved with Greece. Hitler sent Rommel to Mussolinis aid. Rommel formed the Afrika Korps and with his tactics earned the nickname the “desert fox.” In Africa, Rommel frequently became ill and his battalion would suffer heavy loses in his absence. German forces were stretched too thin and Hitler refused to retreat or supply Rommel with the troops and fuel that he required. In 1942 Rommel had to withdraw from Africa. Hitler summoned Rommel to his headquarters, called the “wolfs lair,” where Hitler admitted that Germany needed to make peace, but Hitler said, “I know it is necessary to make peace with one side or the other, but no one will make peace with me.” Rommel thought Hitler was unable to distinguish between his own interests and those of the German people.
D-Day. Rommel had been in charge of the defenses of the Atlantic Wall. Although a defensive position was not in Rommels character, he managed to get the Atlantic Wall defenses in top shape. Rommel believed that the first 24 hours of an invasion were the most important. He wanted to destroy the invaders while they floated because once they secured a beach-head they would be impossible to drive back. Hitler disagreed. He thought after the landing, a strong defensive position would cut-off the infantry and then be easily eliminated. Hitler again stood in the way of Rommels