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I've heard that he was not. Latter I've heard that he would have joined the fray if not because of political consideration.

I forgot the source.

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During his life-time, Rommel would most likely not have been seen as an anti-semite. This is evidenced by his general humanism, see sds's answer. However, he also accepted Hitlers and societies general anti-semitism and continued to serve in the military under an anti-semite regime. Today that likely be enough to brand you an anti-semite. So was he an anti-semite or not? It's a matter of opinion. "Anti-semite" needs to be defined for this question to be answerable without being opinion-based. – Lennart Regebro Dec 23 '13 at 8:44
Contains related link: How successful were Einsatzkommando Tunis and how much was Rommel complicit?. The one about his promised cooperation with Einsatzkommando Egypt. – Nathan Cooper Dec 30 '13 at 22:04
See also history.stackexchange.com/q/8620/1979 – sds Apr 6 '14 at 22:57
up vote 6 down vote accepted

All of Western European culture, world-wide, was anti-Semitic at that time. Germany itself was extremely anti-Semitic, even more so than Europe as a whole. I do not hesitate to state that even that handful of Germans who risked their lives to save Jewish friends, would have to be regarded as anti-Semitic in regard to Jews who were not personally well-known to them.

However, what the Nazis' engaged in went far beyond every-day anti-Semitism. So far past everyday anti-Semitism that it gave anti-Semitism itself a bad name, so that it became unfashionable for the first time in over a millennium. Permanently unfashionable.

The movie A Gentlemen's Agreement could not have been made in 1937. Jewish refugee ships were still being refused entry to Montreal and New York and even Haifa. But by 1947, with the horrors of the Holocaust really starting to sink in, it almost had to be made.

So in this context, I think it is necessary to say "Of course Rommel was anti-Semitic - all of Germany was. All of North America was." However, there is a world of difference between run-of-the-mill anti-Semitism and support of the Holocaust.

I cannot truly be 100% certain that on an anti-Semitism scale of 1 to 10,000, where Hitler rates a 9,999.9 and a 0 rating is earned only by someone who can vote on his club membership without the slightest thought of religion, that Rommel isn't a 0.

However in a world and time where even Churchill and FDR were more likely to rate 100 or so than 0, it is almost impossible to believe that Rommel was a 0. Being a tiny bit anti-Semitic; a little too complacent in the anti-Semitism of one's colleagues; a little too eager to laugh at a Jewish joke if only to hide one's own Italian, or Irish, or Spanish, or Polish, or Dutch, or Balkan, or Catholic, or Baptist, or Orthodox, or other heritage; was just too easy. It was very difficult, and conspicuous, to rate a 0 in those times; and for an ambitious general in Nazi Germany looking to make his reputation in a world war, not being just a tiny bit anti-Semitic, passively, almost seems too much to ask.

In this context, I find the question almost unfair. It really should not attempt to look into the deepest recesses of Rommel's heart to judge the presence or absence of anti-Semitism. It should rather confine itself to solid evidence on his actions in regards to Jews, and judge him on this basis alone: To what extent was he willing to stand up and obstruct the Nazi extermination of the Jews, at risk to life, limb, prosperity and family.

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You can not just put every one in Europe or even Germany in one bucket like that. There were plenty of people who were not anti-semites also back then. – Lennart Regebro Dec 23 '13 at 3:58
@LennartRegebro: Nothing is ever 100%, I agree; but the norms of these societies were truly so saturated with low-level not in my country club, not on my block, anti-Semitism that a greater tan 99% compliance really does seem most likely. I accept downvotes from those who disagree, but I truly believe this is a truth that must be faced if we are to prevent another such horror from ever occurring. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 23 '13 at 4:05
@LennartRegebro: Only when the citizenry of a nation are wiling to stand up, and risk life and limb, to protect the very weakest members, can that society ever truly call itself free. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 23 '13 at 4:08
That is is likely that he was an anti-semite does not make him a anti-semite. That's the sort of collectivist thinking that lies behind both anti-semitism and anti-liberalism. I'm sure you know better than this. – Lennart Regebro Dec 23 '13 at 4:18
@LennartRegebro: Agreed now - that was the distinction I was attempting to make by putting the key sentences in quotes. Obviously not clearly enough. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 23 '13 at 4:22

I am not sure what you mean by "joined the fray", but it does appear that Rommel did not share Hitler's antisemitism despite being relatively close to him throughout the 1930-ies. Rommel admired Hitler for his success in dismantling the Versailles regime, but ...

During Rommel's time in France, Hitler ordered him to deport the country's Jewish population; Rommel disobeyed. Several times he wrote letters protesting against the treatment of the Jews. He also refused to comply with Hitler's order to execute Jewish POWs.

EDIT: as so well expounded in the other answer, the non-antisemitism of Rommel was relative, i.e., compared to the rest of Germany he appeared to be gentleman - while serving the Nazi regime.

In the absolute terms one can say with confidence that due to Rommel's actions (his successes on the battlefield) the war lasted longer and many more innocents (Jews, Gypsies, Russians, Poles &c) were murdered. It does appear that these deaths were not to his liking, but they did happen.

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True, but all those instances can be explained using practical arguments, not empathy with the Jews. The treatment of the Jews caused tension, requiring more police and military to be set aside for things other than the military campaign. Deportation ditto would require a large investment in scarce manpower and vehicle resources. Wholesale execution of POWs would enrage any professional soldier worth the name, and Rommel was a professional soldier before all else. That's not to say he was an anti-semite, pretty much all of Europe was at the time (and most of the US as well). – jwenting Dec 23 '13 at 6:06
@jwenting: However, to stand up to Hitler and say "Those Jewish POW's have the same rights as other POW's." does demonstrate a degree of moral courage that was absent from, for example, Auschwitz guards. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 23 '13 at 6:17
@PieterGeerkens yes, it does. And no doubt Rommel's personal relation with Hitler and his position high in the command hierarchy (as well as his military successes, which gave him leverage) helped him there. He was later disgraced, accused of plotting to kill Hitler, and ordered to commit suicide. – jwenting Dec 23 '13 at 6:20
Due to Roosevelt's actions, tons of Jews died. Does that mean that FDR was as antisemitic as Rommel? How about David Ben-Gurion, because of whose actions Jews died as well? – DVK Dec 23 '13 at 20:22
@DVK - I had added the last sentence to exclude the implication you are imputing. Are you sure I was that unclear? (I hope that you will excuse my not explicitly answering your rhetorical question). – sds Dec 23 '13 at 20:57

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