The Desert Fox

This book, the movie and the man caused so much controversy. When Winston Churchill gave him a glowing tribute in parliament, Churchill was rounded upon by MP’s even from his own party, for giving praise to the enemy. The book was written by a British general who had at one time been captured by Rommel, and sought to find out the truth behind the man he greatly admired, despite being enemies. The movie was roundly criticised for portraying Rommel in a sympathetic light, despite his death being caused by his opposition to Hitler, and his involvement with plots to overthrow the Nazis.

Erwin Rommel was one of a group of like minded military leaders in various countries who after World War I, rose to the top of their country’s military establishment because they saw the value of the tank in any future war. In 1942 Hitler sent Rommel to run the desert campaign in North Africa. With less men and supplies, his tactical ability bedeviled the Allied command until The Second Battle of El Alamein.

The film starts with Rommel as desert warfare genius and then when he does become ill and is invalided out of North Africa, the Allies regain the initiative and beat his famed Afrika Korps. Rommel is then sent to Western Europe to supervise the defenses on the Atlantic.

Rommel is regarded as a chivalrous and humane officer because his Afrikakorps was never accused of any war crimes. Soldiers captured during his Africa campaign were reported to have been treated humanely; furthermore, he ignored orders to kill captured commandos, Jewish soldiers and civilians in all theaters of his command.

Late in the war, Rommel was convicted of joining the conspiracy against Adolf Hitler. Throughout the war, Rommel remained one of the last great heroes of Germany, the legendary Desert Fox. Because the German people still saw Rommel as a hero, Hitler chose not to publicly try and execute him. Instead, he was convinced to commit suicide under threat of persecution of his family. The reason for Rommel’s death only emerged at the Nuremberg Trials. Rommel’s decision to turn and become involved in the plot to kill Hitler and overthrow the government is what most of the film deals with.

With more information available on Hitler, the Nazis and Rommel, this movie is probably dated in its accuracy, but still a good B&W classic.

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