Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel (15 November 1891 – 14 October 1944) was a German Field Marshal and commander of the Deutsches Afrika Korps in World War II, widely referred to as The Desert Fox (Der Wüstenfuchs). Regarded as a humane and professional officer and one of the most skilled commanders of the German army, he earned the respect of both his own troops and his enemies. Linked to a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was ordered to commit suicide with a cyanide pill, in return for assurances that his family would not be persecuted following his death.
- In a man to man fight, the winner is he who has one more round in his magazine.
- Infanterie greift an (1937), translated as Infantry Attacks (1979); edited by Lee Allen, p. 60
- Krieg ohne Haß
- The art of concentrating strength at one point, forcing a breakthrough, rolling up and securing the flanks on either side, and then penetrating like lightning, before the enemy has time to react, deep into his rear.
- Strategies he promoted which have been called Blitzkrieg (Lightning War), as quoted in Europe Since 1914 (1966) by Gordon Alexander Craig
- The German soldier has impressed the world, however the Italian Bersagliere soldier has impressed the German soldier.
- On the plaque dedicated to the Bersaglieri that fought at Mersa Matruh and Alamein.
- One must not judge everyone in the world by his qualities as a soldier: otherwise we should have no civilization.
- As quoted in Dirty Little Secrets : Military Information You're Not Supposed To Know (1990) by James F. Dunnigan and Albert A. Nofi, p. 50
- Gentlemen, you have fought like lions and been led by donkeys.
- Said to captured British officers during the Siege of Tobruk, as quoted in The Guinness History of the British Army (1993) by John Pimlott, p. 138
- Be an example to your men in your duty and in private life. Never spare yourself, and let the troops see that you don't in your endurance of fatigue and privation. Always be tactful and well-mannered, and teach your subordinates to be the same. Avoid excessive sharpness or harshness of voice, which usually indicates the man who has shortcomings of his own to hide.
- As quoted in Quotations for Martial Artists : Hundreds of Inspirational Quotes to Motivate and Enlighten the Modern Warrior (2003) by John Moore, p. 46
The Rommel Papers (1953)
- The Rommel Papers (1953) edited by Basil Henry Liddell Hart
- Mortal danger is an effective antidote for fixed ideas.
- Ch. 11 : The Initiative Passes, p. 244
- The Italian command was, for the most part, not equal to the task of carrying on war in the desert, where the requirement was lightning decision followed by immediate action. The training of the Italian infantryman fell far short of the standard required by modern warfare. … Particularly harmful was the all pervading differentiation between officer and man. While the men had to make shift without field-kitchens, the officers, or many of them, refused adamantly to forgo their several course meals. Many officers, again, considered it unnecessary to put in an appearance during battle and thus set the men an example. All in all, therefore, it was small wonder that the Italian soldier, who incidentally was extraordinarily modest in his needs, developed a feeling of inferiority which accounted for his occasional failure and moments of crisis. There was no foreseeable hope of a change for the better in any of these matters, although many of the bigger men among the Italian officers were making sincere efforts in that direction.
- Ch. 11 : The Initiative Passes, p. 262
- Courage which goes against military expediency is stupidity, or, if it is insisted upon by a commander, irresponsibility.
- Letter (9 November 1942), Ch. 16 : The Great Retreat, p. 347
- In Tunisia the Americans had to pay a stiff price for their experience, but it brought rich dividends. Even at that time, the American generals showed themselves to be very advanced in the tactical handling of their forces, although we had to wait until the Patton Army in France to see the most astonishing achievements in mobile warfare.
- Ch. 23 : The Sky Has Grown Dark, p. 523
Quotes about Rommel
- Alphabetized by author
- He was a tactician of the greatest ability, with a firm grasp of every detail of the employment of armour in action, and very quick to seize the fleeting opportunity and the critical turning point of a mobile battle. I felt certain doubts, however, about his strategic ability, in particular as to whether he fully understood the importance of a sound administrative plan. Happiest while controlling a mobile force directly under his own eyes he was liable to overexploit immediate success without sufficient thought for the future.
- British General Harold Alexander, commander, Allied forces in the Middle East, as quoted in London Gazette (3 February 1948)
- There exists a real danger that our friend Rommel is becoming a kind of magical or bogey-man to our troops, who are talking far too much about him. He is by no means a superman, although he is undoubtedly very energetic and able. Even if he were a superman, it would still be highly undesirable that our men should credit him with supernatural powers.
I wish you to dispel by all possible means the idea that Rommel represents something more than an ordinary German general. … I am not jealous of Rommel.
- He was a splendid military gambler, dominating the problems of supply and scornful of opposition … His ardor and daring inflicted grievous disasters upon us, but he deserves the salute which I made him — and not without some reproaches from the public — in the House of Commons in January 1942, when I said of him, "We have a very daring and skillful opponent against us, and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great general."
He also deserves our respect because, although a loyal German soldier, he came to hate Hitler and all his works, and took part in the conspiracy to rescue Germany by displacing the maniac and tyrant. For this, he paid the forfeit of his life. In the sombre wars of modern democracy, chivalry finds no place … Still, I do not regret or retract the tribute I paid to Rommel, unfashionable though it was judged.
- Rommel was jumpy, wanted to do everything at once, then lost interest. Rommel was my superior in command in Normandy. I cannot say Rommel wasn't a good general. When successful, he was good; during reverses, he became depressed.
- Sepp Dietrich, to Leon Goldensohn (28 February 1946)
- Rommel's presence, as ever, acted as a tonic on his troops. Anybody who once came under the spell of his personality, a brother officer wrote, turned into a "real soldier". However tough the strain Rommel seemed inexhaustible, seemed to know exactly how the enemy would probably react. The same officer wrote that Rommel had an exceptional imagination, seemed to know no fear whatsoever, and that his men "idolized him".
- David William Fraser, on Rommel's role on the battlefields of World War I, in Knight's Cross : A Life of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (1994), Ch. 3, Gebirgsbataillon, p. 40
- Until I delved into Rommel's own papers I regarded him as a brilliant tactician and great fighting leader, but did not realize how deep a sense of strategy he had — or at any rate, developed in reflection.
- Basil Henry Liddell Hart, in The Rommel Papers (1982), p. xv
- He was the best leader of fast-moving troops but only up to army level. Above that level it was too much for him. Rommel was given too much responsibility. He was a good commander for a corps of army but he was too moody, too changeable. One moment he would be enthusiastic, next moment depressed.
- Albert Kesselring, to Leon Goldensohn (4 February 1946)
- Self-restraint, even chivalry... distinguished the combatants on both sides throughout the North Africa campaign... The leading exemplar of this code was Rommel himself. When orders from Hitler mandated the execution of captured British commandos, Rommel tossed the document in the trash. He insisted that the Allied prisoners receive the same rations he was given. He even wrote a book about the conflict called Krieg ohne Haß (War Without Hate). Memoirs of the North Africa campaign attest that, fierce and brutal as much of the fighting was, relations between individual enemies retained a quality of forbearance that seems, today, almost impossible to imagine.
- Steven Pressfield, in Killing Rommel (2009), p. 7
- Rommel had gained the world’s respect for his military genius. He was a legend. … Rommel was reminiscent of the more romantic, chivalrous days of old — and was a genuinely humane military officer. Rommel was Germany’s best General. You have to remember all of Europe was in Nazi hands at the time. The Americans hadn't entered the war yet. Russia was being attacked by 166 Nazi divisions. Things were grim. And Rommel, the greatest desert fighting general of all time, and his Africa Korps, were kicking the British's butt, pushing them back to Cairo. It became a case where the war might have been lost right there.
- He was ordered several times by Hitler to "Stand and Die." To fight to the last bullet, the last man. To execute and torture prisoners. He defied those orders.
- Steven Pressfield, in "Leaders with Character, Chivalry and Courage – Relics of the Past?" at Knol
- Rommel had a feel for the battlefield like no other man.
- At about twelve o'clock a dark-green car with a Berlin number stopped in front of our garden gate. The only men in the house apart from my father, were Captain Aldinger [Rommel's aide] , a badly wounded war-veteran corporal and myself. Two generals — Burgdorf, a powerful florid man, and Maisel, small and slender — alighted from the car and entered the house. They were respectful and courteous and asked my father's permission to speak to him alone. Aldinger and I left the room. "So they are not going to arrest him," I thought with relief, as I went upstairs to find myself a book.
A few minutes later I heard my father come upstairs and go into my mother's room. Anxious to know what was afoot, I got up and followed him. He was standing in the middle of the room, his face pale. "Come outside with me," he said in a tight voice. We went into my room. "I have just had to tell your mother," he began slowly, "that I shall be dead in a quarter of an hour." He was calm as he continued: "To die by the hand of one's own people is hard. But the house is surrounded and Hitler is charging me with high treason. 'In view of my services in Africa'," he quoted sarcastically, "I am to have the chance of dying by poison. The two generals have brought it with them. It's fatal in three seconds. If I accept, none of the usual steps will be taken against my family, that is against you. They will also leave my staff alone."
"Do you believe it?" I interrupted. "Yes," he replied. "I believe it. It is very much in their interest to see that the affair does not come out into the open. By the way, I have been charged to put you under a promise of the strictest silence. If a single word of this comes out, they will no longer feel themselves bound by the agreement."
I tried again. "Can't we defend ourselves…" He cut me off short. "There's no point," he said. "It's better for one to die than for all of us to be killed in a shooting affray. Anyway, we've practically no ammunition."
- Manfred Rommel, on his father's decision to choose death by cyanide, rather than one involving the threatened persecution of his family and staff, after he was implicated in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, as quoted in "The Forced Suicide of Field Marshall Rommel, 1944"
- Rommel was a miltary phenomenon that can occur only at rare intervals; men of such bravery and daring survive only with exceptional fortune. He was as brave on the battlefield as Ney, with much better brains; as dashing as Murat, with better balance; as cool and as quick a tactician as Wellington.
- Field Marshal Archibald Wavell, as quoted in Discovering the Rommel Murder (1994) by Charles Marshall, p. 1
- Anybody who came under the spell of his personality turned into a real soldier. However tough the strain he seemed inexhaustible. He seemed to know just what the enemy were like and how they would probably react. His plans were often startling, instinctive, spontaneous and not infrequently obscure.
- Theodor Werner, an officer who, during World War I, served under Rommel, as quoted in The Trail of the Fox (1977) by David Irving, p. 15