Erwin Rommel is often portrayed as the chivalrous Nazi. I've read on the internet that he once proposed to Hitler that a Jew be appointed a Nazi official, but I'm not able to verify that. What were Rommel's views on the murder of civilians during World War II? He took part in the invasion of Poland, during which Polish civilians were murdered indiscriminately. He must have known about it. What did he think about it? Did he ever take any actions to stop the Nazi crimes?

  • Erhard Milch? That wasn't Rommel's doing – DVK May 5 '13 at 12:25
  • @DVK I found the information here. – ymar May 5 '13 at 12:29
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    I've asked a more focused question with a much smaller scope. If it's answered it should prove useful to this one. – Nathan Cooper May 5 '13 at 15:24
  • See also history.stackexchange.com/q/11179/1979 – sds Apr 6 '14 at 22:55

Rommel's men were not accused of war crimes and he regularly ignored orders to execute captured Jewish soldiers and civilians. Wikipedia also states: "Nazi party officials in France reported that Rommel extensively and scornfully criticised Nazi incompetence and crimes." Also, the strongest evidence that Rommel disagreed with the Nazi party was the fact that he was forced to commit suicide after he was involved in a conspiracy to kill Hitler.

In that sense, Rommel was certainly better than most of the German generals, but that doesn't push him into good guy territory. A number of German generals opposed the campaign against the Jews for strictly practical reasons. They felt that it was diverting resources away from the army and hurting Germany's chances of winning the war. That also explains why they have a different opinion of, as you mentioned, the killing of civilians during a military campaign, like Poland. Bombing civilian targets and sowing terror was considered a valid tactic during a campaign. In that sense it's unlikely that Rommel opposed those kinds of measures.

All in all it seems that Rommel avoided war crimes when he could, and when they were excessive. He still had no problem with civilians as collateral damage, though, and he didn't go out of his way to stop other war crimes, he just avoided committing any himself.


Rommel's Wikipedia is a good summary of his attitudes towards the Nazis and his actions during the war.

Steel Fist talks about the development of bombing civilian targets as a wartime strategy, and its use in the Blitzkrieg. It's interesting to note that the strategy was actually originally proposed by the British.

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    Not a bad answer, and it jibes with what I have read about the (non-SS) German military in general, so it sounds quite plausable. Could you perhaps dig up a reference in support of this assertion though? – T.E.D. May 6 '13 at 18:46
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    FYI, Rommel's son Manfred became a highly respected politician in post-war Germany: he served for more than 20 years as mayor of Stuttgart, a major provincial capital; he also published a memoir plus an account of his father's life centered around 1944 (plus at least one book of poems and jokes each). This is perhaps the source I'd consult first for details. – Drux May 7 '13 at 2:05
  • -1 Really unprofessional – mate64 May 7 '13 at 21:01
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    @cept0 - Could you be a bit more constructive? – Odysseus May 7 '13 at 21:25
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    "Bombing civilian targets and sowing terror", i.e. "civilians as collateral damage", were something that people on both sides didn't have much of a problem with. Just for completeness' sake... – DevSolar Apr 8 '14 at 13:32

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