Admire Hitler why
Erwin Rommel and Adolf Hitler
Under the spell of the "Führer"
As early as 1935, Erwin Rommel praised the "ingenious measures taken by the Führer" in a speech on "Heroes' Remembrance Day" in Goslar, including, above all, the reintroduction of general conscription, the elimination of unemployment and the establishment of a "national community".
In Hitler's "National Socialism" project, he affirmed above all the strong position of the military in society, Hitler's struggle against the Versailles Treaty and Germany's "rehabilitation", not least because it opened up new career opportunities for Rommel and many other officers.
But Rommel was also drawn to Hitler's personality. He succumbs to Hitler's charm and "magnetism", and far beyond what his military oath requires, he ties himself personally to the "Führer". His constant campaigning for Hitler's trust, his constant endeavor to justify this trust through military success, show a person for whom the pursuit of recognition and distinction is a central motive of his actions.
Hitler sees Rommel as an exemplary soldier
For Hitler, Rommel is above all an exemplary soldier. This can be seen, for example, in March 1939, when Hitler visited Prague, which was forcibly occupied by the Germans. Rommel secures the trip militarily. When Hitler hesitates to go up to Prague Castle because his SS escorts have not yet arrived, Rommel urges him to act. "You have no other choice. The only way for you, my guide, is the way to the heart of the country, to the capital, to the castle of Prague," a friend of Rommel claims to have heard.
The incident shows what Hitler mainly likes about Rommel: his direct, hands-on, risk-taking manner that makes surprise coups possible. For this, Rommel had already been awarded the Pour le Mérite order of bravery in the First World War.
What Hitler also likes about Rommel is that he does not belong to the group of aristocratic Prussian general staff officers who are viewed with suspicion, but that he comes from the middle class and worked for himself as a career. Rommel's origins, his military abilities and successes, as well as the admiration he shows Hitler, are the basic requirements for Hitler to promote Rommel and, as Goebbels writes, feel "human" connected to him.
Rommel owes his career to Hitler
Rommel's meteoric rise in the Wehrmacht would not have been possible without Hitler's personal support: The major in the Reichswehr and teacher at the Dresden War School (1933) became lieutenant colonel (1935), major general (1939) and lieutenant general (1941) in just a few years. Rommel is in personal contact with Hitler.
In 1939, on the occasion of a visit to the front in invaded Poland, Hitler appointed him in command of the Fuehrer's headquarters and drew him into his inner circle. The proximity to the dictator enables Rommel to personally ask Hitler after the victory over Poland to be allowed to lead a tank division. Hitler granted his wish, and when Rommel was militarily successful not only in the French campaign, but also in the subsequent war in Africa, he accelerated Rommel's rise through quick promotions.
After the conquest of Tobruk in June 1942, Rommel was appointed Field Marshal General as one of the youngest officers by Hitler and thus reached the zenith of his career. Hitler not only promotes Rommel's professional advancement, but also his media career. He sees in him the ideal type of the modern, agile front officer. He therefore welcomes Rommel's strong presence in the newsreel and personally contributes to his becoming the legendary and probably most popular German field marshal of the Second World War.
The great agreement is cracking
At the meetings between Hitler and Rommel there was a long cordial understanding. But in November 1942 Rommel was forced to act against the dictator's orders.
When Rommel's German-Italian units found themselves in a hopeless situation near El Alamein in November 1942, Rommel gave the Wehrmacht High Command a corresponding situation report and wrote at the end: "The army is preparing to fight back step by step from November 3rd onwards, faced with superior enemy pressure . "
Hitler, who found out about it the next day, was outraged. He orders Rommel "not to take a step". Rommel initially obeys and stops. But he has doubts. Should he sacrifice his soldiers or circumvent Hitler's orders? The question haunts him for 24 hours. Then, without waiting for further instructions, he orders the withdrawal. Hitler, who in the meantime had been informed personally about the situation in Africa by Rommel's orderly officer Alfred-Ingemar Berndt, approved Rommel's decision hours later.
Rommel's withdrawal is not only a militarily sensible decision, but also a courageous one because it ultimately circumvents Hitler's orders. But Rommel's behavior is neither an act of resistance, nor does it lead to a break with Hitler. Hitler gives in, which shows the high regard he held for Rommel.
However, there are also general differences between Hitler and Rommel. Retreat is fundamentally not provided for in Hitler's warfare; his worldview only allows for attack and expansion. Especially in the East he calls for unrestrained fanaticism and gives criminal orders to destroy the enemy.
Rommel, on the other hand, is not a "Weltanschauung warrior" and he is not waging a war of extermination in Africa. He is a pragmatic "war craftsman" who obeys the international rules of martial law. He derives his plans and decisions solely from the changing military situations.
The break between Hitler and Rommel
After initial successes in the African campaign, defeats follow. The celebrated "desert fox" threatens to become a depressed loser. March 1943: Hitler recalled Rommel from Africa, but he stuck to him and sent him to Austria for a cure.
In May 1943 he came close to Hitler again and received new orders. On the French Atlantic coast, Hitler expects an Allied invasion. Rommel, the attacker, is supposed to drive the enemy into the sea. Rommel stood up once more with all his might. But the British and American invasion on June 6, 1944 succeeds.
The situation at the front is deteriorating every hour for the German troops. The collapse of the western front threatens. Field Marshal Rommel drives to Hitler with Commander-in-Chief West to present the desolate situation to him without make-up. Rommel does not get through to Hitler.
After the successful Allied invasion, Hitler saw in Rommel more and more a pessimist, a field marshal who showed nerves. Nevertheless, he does not turn away from him at first. That changed after the Hitler assassination attempt on July 20, 1944.
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