Erwin Rommel was a hero of Nazi Germany during World War II. When World War II came knocking, Rommel was one of the veterans of World War I. He had already received Pour le Merite award for his exploits on the Italian front of World War I. He was, for some time, even the favorite of Adolf Hitler. He gained in prominence as the Commander of Panzer Division that had smashed the French resistance during World War II. He was sent to the African front to command the Afrika Korps. The tactical genius and ability to motivate the troops made him an instant hero. When the news of Erwin’s exploits reached the ears of Hitler he wasted no time in elevating him to the post of Field Marshall. Rommel was also place in charge of fortifying the Nazi defenses to repel the invasion by Allied Forces.
But the problem for Erwin Rommel was his mentality. He was not like other Nazi top ranking officers. He was humane and professional. He did what he had to do for his country, but he did not want to participate in the crimes against humanity that Hitler had called. His close associates recall how Rommel kept on neglecting the orders of Nazi hierarchy to kill Jews, Commandos and other Prisoners of War in the African front. Under his command the African front witnessed good treatment of all the captives. One of the witnesses recalls how Rommel was shell-shocked on witnessing the devastation Allied bombers were causing to the German country side. He did not like the sufferings common German population had to endure during World War II. He was also a practical military mastermind, who had understood that waging the war was a futile or crazy thing to do. The chances of Germany winning the war were slim. His faith in the Hitler administration took a severe blow when he learned of the Jewish killings and slave camps. In 1943 Rommel openly criticized the tactics of Hitler in a letter. He even came in contact with an anti-Hitler camp, but did not want to be a part of their conspiracy. All these acts of Rommel had anguished the dictator, Adolf Hitler.
In July 17, 1944 while on a patrol Rommels staff car was bombed by an Allied aircraft. His driver died, but he managed to survive with scars to his face and broken skull. He was taken to a nearby Hospital where he revived quickly. Just three days later Hitler survived an assassination attempt when a bomb exploded at the venue where a Strategy Meeting was to be held. As Rommel had openly criticized Hitler so he was included in the list of conspirators. Hitler was furious and wanted to have Rommel executed then and there. But the problem for him was: Rommel was already a national hero. To kill a national hero would demotivate the common populace. This is why other ways had to be thought.
So, did Hitler forgive Rommel? No, not at all. In the words of Rommel’s son, Manfred who had been a part of the anti-aircraft crew, he was granted a leave all of a sudden to return back to his father in October 14, 1944. The family knew that Rommel was on close watch. His chief of staff and commanding officer had already been executed. While having breakfast young Manfred broke news to his father that some Nazi officers would visit the house to discuss Manfred’s future with his father. Immediately, Erwin understood that he would either be executed or sent on an improbable mission on the frontlines. At mid-day an official car arrived and two officers boarded down. They respectfully asked for permission to speak with Rommel alone.
As per Manfred’s account, after a few minutes Rommel hurried upstairs. He had called his wife to tell that he would be dead soon. He broke the news to other occupants of the house. Rommel said that the house was surrounded by Nazi gunmen and he was being charged for treason by Hitler. Rommel was given two options either to commit suicide using the cyanide capsules which the officers were carrying or to be killed by them. In the event of the latter option, all the family members would be killed along with Rommel. So, Rommel chose the first option.
Rommel said that Hitler had promised that none of the family members would be harmed if he decided to commit suicide as Hitler himself did not want the thing to go public. The script was that Rommel would leave for an important staff meeting and on the way he would have a cerebral attack. After 20 minutes news would be broken from the nearby hospital. He was given ten minutes to speak with his son and then he put on the official dress and jacket, took his stick and entered the car.