Friday, May 06, 2005

Erwin Rommel

"Don't fight a battle if you don't gain anything by winning."
-Erwin Rommel

In recent days I've been reading "Bodyguard of Lies" by Anthony Cave Brown, a fantastic book about covert operations during World War II. As with most of my reading projects, I find myself getting caught up in certain aspects of the story and wishing to learn more about it.

In particular, I've developed a fascination for Erwin Rommel. Yes, he was part of the Nazi army. Yes, he was responsible for the deaths of many Allied troops. But he was also, from the little that I've read, an amazingly chivalrous man and a truly great general.

Rommel was never a member of the Nazi party, and grew increasingly critical of Hitler until he was ultimately suspected in plotting to assassinate him and given the choice of suicide or trial. He chose to end his life with a cyanide capsule, which permitted him to retain his military honor and protected his family from the backlash that a trial (which would inevitably have found him guilty) would have resulted in.

In his actions both on and off the battlefield, Rommel appears to have been a tough taskmaster, both on himself and on his men. Like Che Guevara, Rommel embraced a relentlessly difficult lifestyle, requiring little sleep or food, and expected the same of his men. (Yes, I have just compared Rommel with Guevara. To forestall any criticism of my comparison, I would like to point out that Rommel was an infinitely better military leader and in terms of type of warfare, the two figures are incomparable - as men, however, they had a certain degree of commonality.)

While German figures like Admiral Canaris make me somewhat nervous due to their treachery (as admirable as his covert scheming was, and as insane and demonic as Hitler was, I am always suspicious of military figures who oppose the leadership), Rommel stands out for his integrity both on and off the battlefield. Unlike the sycophants of the SS, he represented the true German military legacy, defined and perfected by the Prussians. Otto would have been proud of him.


Blogger Mr. X said...

Funny. I am always suspicious of officers who blindly follow the leadership, especially in a one-party state.

6:03 PM  

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