View Full Version : Was Erwin Rommel a true Nazi?

09-24-2017, 09:04 AM
I am curious as to whether Erwin Rommel was a Nazi Party member. And if he was, was he truly hardcore in the National Socialist agenda? I've heard differing stories about his politics, but I'd like to know what our members think.


09-24-2017, 11:03 AM
It is believed that he was never a Party Member, and he never used the Roman Salute the Nazi's used that I've ever seen in any of the films or pictures of him. My guess would be no.

09-24-2017, 12:49 PM
Without checking anything, I suspect that Gen. Rommel liked Hitler and saw the resurgence of Germany under the Nazis as generally a good thing. Rommel was also a bit of an opportunist and is criticized by some of his men as being a callous and ruthless ***** for the sake of it as well as a publicity seeker. But I think that no, Rommel was not a diehard Nazi and there are varying reports of him being on-board with the July '44 Coup against Hitler and of course he was forced to commit suicide by the Gestapo as a result. How much was he involved with the coup? I do not know but I think he had prior knowledge and did nothing to stop it after realizing the war was lost and would have offered his services to a post-Nazi gov't --with of course a nice promotion.

Rommel was played up by Nazi propaganda as sort of an anointed golden boy and I think he was very courageous physically and adept at exploiting enemy tactical weaknesses both in France and in North Africa - both of the aforementioned help build his reputation as a 'great' general. On the one hand, Rommel exposed himself to French fire when crossing the Meuse to buck up his faltering men as they were initially being picked apart by accurate fire. On the other hand he left behind one of his wounded Heer colonel-aide behind in Africa after fearing the British were approaching ordering his driver to flee. When he saw the man later in the hospital alive, Rommel was said to have callously and tritely remarked "oh, you're alive".

I think he is a bit overrated in this respect having fought against a series of inept British commanders and he began to falter once his logistics dried up and the Eighth Army began to catch up in the war of maneuver. He also fought a "clean war" in which POW's were generally treated well in Afrika, and this has contributed to his reputation of avoiding the despotic nature of Operation Barbarossa and the extremes of atrocities after being sent on the task force to lead the Afrika Korp. I suspect his hands were not totally clean and perhaps some of his men in the "Ghost Division" may have slaughtered African colonial French troops in France in 1940. But not really sure. So, no, I don't think he was a Nazi. But I don't think he was the genius commander totally unassociated with Nazi war crimes either....

09-27-2017, 08:12 PM
Thanks tankgeezer & Nickdfresh, that's pretty much what I thought. I read somewhere that Rommel hitched his cart to Hitler and the National Socialists because they were rebuilding the German military and Rommel approved. But he never truly embraced their ideaology.

10-18-2017, 08:55 AM
I would certainly agree with Nick's comment.

I would add an observation that Rommel was, at most, something of a "Nazi of opportunity" - but he did take the opportunity. From his WW1 experience, he was an acknowledged, and published expert on infantry warfare. However, he was one of those officers retained in the Reichswehr who was, perhaps, less popular than others as much as a result of his ambitious profile as of his lack of family military background. Consequently, it may not be entirely coincidental that the start of WW2 found him commanding the Fuhrer's personal Army bodyguard, in which role he accompanied Hitler through the Polish campaign. This, in a peculiar way, was the making of him as a WW2 commander.

Rommel had a direct, personable character, seems to have been "politically porous", and was a highly decorated WW1 veteran to boot. He thus became popular with Hitler himself and with his "courtiers". In particular, Joseph Goebbels became his political patron and friend. Members of Rommel's family, interviewed after the war, attributed his appointments thereafter to his political connections. His son Manfred, in particular, opined that in the view of the family, Rommel would have found himself commanding a Mountain Division (something for which he would have been most obviously qualified), rather than the Seventh Panzer Division in France, had it not been for intervention on the part of his political patrons.

Did this make him a dedicated Nazi ? I doubt it. He seems to have been very neutral - even uninterested - on such political matters, but still well willing to take advantage of connections that had fallen his way among the highest political operators in Nazi Germany. Hardly unusual in human history - or indeed in everyday life - I would think. Very best regards, JR.

Rising Sun*
10-18-2017, 09:53 AM
His son Manfred, in particular, opined that in the view of the family, Rommel would have found himself commanding a Mountain Division (something for which he would have been most obviously qualified), rather than the Seventh Panzer Division in France, had it not been for intervention on the part of his political patrons.

This is obviously tangential to the original topic, but I have often wondered about what, if anything, the children of historical figures have to contribute to an understanding of their parents' beliefs and actions.

I don't know for certain how my father voted in any election, or even what political party he supported, assuming he even consistently supported the same party. There were aspects of him which contradicted the party he might have been expected to support. I never had a serious political discussion with him, as distinct from his brief dismissals or criticisms of my views on various matters as a young adult. Like most people, he wasn't one dimensional and, in the era I knew him as a child and teenager in the 1950s and 1960s, there was a gulf between parents and children / teenagers on just about everything apart from the notion that children / teenagers were expected to obey parental orders and discipline and just shut up if they couldn't agree with their parents. From what I know of my contemporaries, they generally had similar relationships with their parents, although there were certainly some who were pretty much bred and trained to follow their parents' political views and voting intentions.

I have difficulty believing that a child of some German or any other nation's prominent (or even just average) soldier or politician during WWII, especially when the child was anywhere between 5 and 12 years old at the end of the war, or even in mid or late teens at war's end, had been the recipient of their parent's or parents' clearly and deeply expressed political views and a clear exposition of the parent's views on the complex political and military situations which evolved during the war, and especially for Germany and its Axis allies.

Manfred Rommel was about 17 years old when the the war ended and about one year younger when his father was forced to commit suicide. No doubt he was scarred by these events, but does that automatically make him an authority on his father's political and other views? And to what extent does it, by normal human nature, result in Manfred or any other child remembering, or even reinventing, their parent in a more favourable light?

10-19-2017, 04:39 AM
Great response, JR! I appreciate your insight. I especially like the part about Rommel possibly serving with the gerbigsjaegers instead of the panzers. Good stuff.