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Other than the slightest hint of cover creasing, the book is in excellent condition. There are no rips, tears, markings, etc. Check my feedback to see that I sell exactly as I describe. Like New. Seller: Barbarossa Books Ltd.


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Good in Good dust jacket. A few short tears to dust jacket edges, internally tape repaired. Mass Market Paperback. The binding is smudged and bumped with creasing to the corners, fore edges, hinges, and spine. The pages of this book are clean and unmarked, besides a few dog ears. Irving spent many years collecting thousands of original documents spanning Rommel's entire career.

Contents, p. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Includes index. Bibliography: p. First Edition, Second Printing. Hard Cover. Second Printing. A couple of very short tears at bottom of jacket spine, other minor edgewear to jacket. Jacket has light edgewear.

Boards have minor shelfwear. Pages are clean, text has no markings, binding is sound. Third Printing. Top edge soil. Dutton C, Disclaimer:A copy that has been read, but remains in clean condition. All pages are intact, and the cover is intact. The spine may show signs of wear.

ROMMEL: The Trail of the Fox (hardback)

Pages can include limited notes and highlighting, and the copy can include previous owner inscriptions. Dust jacket quality is not guaranteed. Futura Publications, Disclaimer:A readable copy. Pages can include considerable notes-in pen or highlighter-but the notes cannot obscure the text. May have used stickers. Experience and defeat in Africa made Rommel relied more on strategy and intelligence as the war progressed, which both helped and hindered later battles.

It hardly helped the German cause when the very German officers Rommel most trusted were, in fact, secretly working against Hitler at Normandy, providing incorrect intelligence of enemy buildup, keeping troops out of battle, and delaying information from Berlin or the front that Rommel depended upon for defense of the Normandy coastline. Part of Rommel's legend was that, in the end, he plotted to kill Hitler. Hitler did order Rommel's death, but I found the real story of Rommel's relationship to Hitler more fascinating.

The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (James Mason - 1951)

Again, I wish my dad were alive to ask how this book affected his personal admiration of Rommel. Regardless of how controversial Irving may be, he is a very good writer. The writing in this book is top-notch. I doubt anyone else could write a book on Rommel that is both this interesting and informative.

The book covers Rommel's private life as well as his military career and gives great coverage into his views on Hitler and Nazism. It covers his quirks, character flaws and failings. Although the book focuses on him in World War II, it also covers his exploits during the First World War as we Regardless of how controversial Irving may be, he is a very good writer. This is a first rate treatment on Rommel. Jun 17, Robert rated it really liked it. A mountain of work. It changed my outlook on Rommel forever, and I am always glad when someone comes along albeit in !

Rommel was not the universal, one hundred percent of the time hero. The book delves into that, shattering the view that Rommel was neutral about the Nazi party, and showing how petty Rommel could be. Other lessons include how revenge is not just executed on the local gangster level but went all the way up to Martin Bormann and his long A mountain of work.

Other lessons include how revenge is not just executed on the local gangster level but went all the way up to Martin Bormann and his long, hateful memory. Was it Hitler's fault that Rommel overextended while the seeds of defeat were being planted in Russia, or should Rommel have just followed orders and not gone too far east?

Did Rommel truly have no idea that other theaters mattered? There's a good case made for him being just a tactician and not a strategist. The author also left me with the thought that if the Reich itself had not overextended in Italian misadventures, Rommel would have shown that winning is the ultimate strategy regardless. Even so, the outcomes of many of these battles were not the foregone conclusions I had thought.

He had the remarkable ability to endear himself to the soldiers he put at incredible risk while annoying his immediate superiors and inferiors. Rommel inadvertently Enigmaed himself into further destruction and made himself the fall guy for the assassination attempts. The book successfully captures the ironies of the man, his career, his legacy as well as the rot that was all through the Reich and the Axis. The volume of research and personal interviews was incredible.

I was glad to read it - and glad to have some of my historical knowledge overturned. Published as a freely-downloadable ebook in ; thanks, Focal Point Publishing! Jun 28, Miltiadis Michalopoulos rated it it was amazing. Vivid, thorough and fascnating. This is by far the best biography of Rommel, and one of the best accounts of the war in Africa. This is David Irving at his best! Sep 27, Hunger Artist rated it it was amazing. No matter what people think of Mr. David Irving, but when the history of the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler is a subject of discussion,there's no one parallel to David Irving.

The mystery over his alleged part in 20 July, assassination plot is finally debunked. Erwin Rommel, an excellent soldier, if not a field marshal who s No matter what people think of Mr. Erwin Rommel, an excellent soldier, if not a field marshal who served his fatherland all his life with great sense of honor and patriotism had to die for something he had no knowledge of. Feb 25, Charles rated it liked it Shelves: nonfic-history.

I didn't think it was the best book about Rommel, who is a fascinating character, but it's pretty good and an enjoyable read. An inclusive insightful look into Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox. David Irving's depiction is of a man who was egotistical, a man who thrived on approval he was a real medal chaser , and had an unnatural sense of predicting where the enemy was going to attack him from.

Rommel was a brilliant tactician who was so respected and admired by his enemies that some British commanders even hung his picture in their quarters. And being the solider gentleman he was, he reciprocated his admiration for the a An inclusive insightful look into Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox. And being the solider gentleman he was, he reciprocated his admiration for the allied commanders. He seemed to be an eternal thorn in the side to British commander, Bernard Montgomery, but one can't help but think with the modicum of chivalry that existed back then, the two chaps, were one to capture the other wouldn't offer a cold beer and a respectful chat.

This book does well in portraying Rommel's adoration for his Fuhrer that eventually turns to uncertainty and finally the grim reality that Adolf Hitler became unfit. Rommel was the German peoples' hero, and he was chosen to replace Hitler. Irving points out Rommel's involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler was not an involvement at all; he merely agreed to helm the reigns of a country fighting a futile war. Like the desert, Rommel was both romantic and fierce, the book's tagline states.


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Maybe there really is truth in advertising. Jul 18, Panos rated it it was amazing. Something more than just a biography. By reading this book , somebody feels tranfered in the battlefields of north Africa and the everyday life of Rommel, even the very personal one from his letters and diaries. Great book. My first military history book.

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After this, it was good bye to fiction for a long, long time. Jul 10, Michael Clayton rated it it was amazing. The most powerful man in the fight in North Africa I couldn't put it down. Aug 23, John Somers rated it really liked it Shelves: wordsworth-military-library , history , military-history , world-war-2 , non-fiction , 20th-century , afrika-korps , biography-autobiography-memoir , world-warblitzkrieg , world-warmediterranean-n-africa.

This book is a must read for anyone who enjoys reading about WW2. How can anyone honestly contravene Irvings research? The extent this author goes to ascertain information is awe-inspiring. And using his wit to view documents never seen before by any historian personal letters to his wife Lucie. All I want to know, is what really happened and Irving not just provides this to the reader but also touches on th This book is a must read for anyone who enjoys reading about WW2. All I want to know, is what really happened and Irving not just provides this to the reader but also touches on the man.

Mar 28, Amit rated it it was amazing Shelves: rommel. As per Irving, Rommel had following traits, 1. Cocky, ambitious and a gentleman. Of average physique. Practitioner of solitude. Very impressed by Hitler's ideologies. Subject for Nazi propaganda. Enjoyed Nazi fraternity but never acclaimed their perspective.

Given his consensus to July 20 conspirators, for post Hitler-death support but no direct support. His death was utilized as a propaganda by both axis and allies. Not a long stayer, as per Hitler's observation; which seems to As per Irving, Rommel had following traits, 1. Not a long stayer, as per Hitler's observation; which seems to be true from his campaigns. His approach created lots of enemies among fellow officers. Registered his cleverness in Africa, by moving and attacking very fast.

Follower of uncompromising war ethics. Perfectly aware of his fault and eminent death after failed 20 July plot. Could have avoided his death, the same way Hans Speidel has saved his ass. Used in good sense of humor by Churchill. Many British took interest in him e.

Most of their radical slogans left him unmoved. When Manfred once pointed to the hooked nose of the Goslar battalions medic, one Doctor Zechlin, and innocently asked, Papa, is he a Jew?

Rommel: The Trail of the Fox

Rommel was highly indignant. Like most of his brother ocers, he loathed the brown-shirted bullies of Ernst Rhms Sturmabteilung, the SA-the private army of two million men who had strutted and persecuted as they policed the Nazi rise to power. The regular army, of only Ioo,ooo professional soldiers, had good cause to fear the SA now that Hitler was in power: there were signs everywhere by early I,, that Rhm was preparing a take-over.

Rommel could see the SAs preparations right under his nose in Goslar. The entire army hailed Hitlers strike with relief, and Rommel was relieved, too, although to his adjutant he privately expressed criticism of the actual massacre. The Fhrer did not have to do that, he said. He doesnt realize how powerful he is, otherwise he could have exercised his strength in a more generous and legitimate way.

Still, according to Manfred his fathers tolerant attitude toward the Nazis-to put it no higher-can be traced back to that date. Manfred was only six at the time, but his father obviously discussed it quite openly with him in later years. I tried hard to establish the date of their rst meeting-Hitler and Rommel. In his early biography of Rommel, Brigadier Desmond Young ascribed it to Sep- tember :,,,, but all the sources, including Young, agree that the occasion was when Hitler came to Goslar to meet a farmers delegation before the annual Harvest Festival, a huge open-air rally of a million farm workers from all over Germany.

My researches indicated that they in fact met on September ,o, :,,,-from Martin Bormanns diary we know that there was no other date when Hitler visited Goslar at a time when Rommel still commanded the Jger battalion. I put the question to Manfred the next time I visited him. Manfred said, I think I can settle that right away.

He went upstairs and returned with a framed photograph of the event. It bore the pencil inscription: :,,,. It shows Hitler inspecting the battalions guard of honor at the Kaiserpfalz castle, with Rommels surprisingly small gure at his side. Rommel is wearing a steel hel- met that looks as large as a coal scuttle, and polished riding boots. Their meet- ing was in fact only formal, and we have no evidence of Rommels impressions that day. One year later, in I,,,, he was posted to Potsdam, the cradle of Prussian milita- rism.

I have been earmarked as a full-blown instructor at the new Potsdam school of infantry, he wrote delightedly to Lucie. Top secret! So make tracks for Potsdam! But keep it under your hat! The Kriegsschule was alive with activity. In March of I,,, Hitler had deantly proclaimed the expansion of the Wehrmacht and the reintroduction of con- scription.

Thousands of new army ocers were undergoing training. Two hun- dred at a time, the cadets marched into the academys Hall of Field Marshals and listened spellbound to Rommels lectures, while the oil paintings of forty German and Prussian eld marshals looked down approvingly from the walls. Rommel emphasized the need for physical tness. When Cadet Hellmuth Freyer-asked for his views in I,,,-respectfully submitted: Two hours early morning PT is too much, we are too tired afterward to follow the lectures prop- erly, Rommel barked at him to be about his business.

Most of the cadets liked his style and individuality. They adored his disrespectful attitude toward the i red-trousered General Sta ocers. Those men are like marble, he told Kurt Hesse, who lectured on the history of Prussia. They are smooth, cold, and black at heart. When his cadets quoted Clausewitz at him-Clausewitz was the sta ocers military gospel-Rommel would snap back: Never mind what Clausewitz thought, what do you think?

His idol was Napoleon, a man of ac- tion. As a lieutenant he had bought an engraving of Napoleon on Saint Helena, gazing out to sea, and hung it on the wall. It took Lucie to bring a portrait of a German military hero, Frederick the Great, into their matrimonial home. Erwin and Lucie lived very quietly near the Potsdam academy and did not mingle with Berlin society or the new elite. Unlike other war heroes, Rommel did not frequent the luxurious restaurants such as the leather-paneled Horchers. He kept t, went riding, practiced his hobbies. He memorized the table of loga- rithms, no small feat as mathematicians well know, and could thus perform astounding mental calculations like extracting the seventeenth root of any given number.

He tried to interest Manfred in mathematics too; indeed, he spent the last days of his life vainly trying to explain dierential calculus to his willfully uncomprehending son. My father, says Manfred now, had three ambitions for me: he wanted me to become a ne sportsman, a great hero and a good mathematician. He failed on all three counts. Rommel naturally tried out his own dogmas on Manfred. Courage is easy, was one of them. You just have to overcome fear for the rst time. Manfred still winces when he recalls how his father tried that idea on him when he was eight. I found myself marching gamely at his side to the Potsdam swimming pool, Manfred said, clutching his hand, with a big rubber swimming ring un- der my other arm.

He made me go up to the top diving board and told me to jump. Thats when I discovered theres a big dierence between theory and prac- tice. My father had collected all his cadets to watch. I said, Im not going to jump. He asked why not, and I shouted back down to him, Because I value my life. I cant swim. My father reminded me that I was wearing the ring. What if the ring bursts, said I, and my father reddened and shouted back that then he would jump in and save me. Youre wearing riding boots! I pointed out, and he replied that he would take them o if the need arose.

Take them o now, I challenged him. My father looked around at all the cadets, and refused. So I climbed back down the ladder. One might say that Manfred had inherited and employed the strategy of the indirect approach many years before his father rst used it to brilliant eect in his own campaigns. His feet were tucked into the stirrup straps, since his legs were too short to reach the stirrups. The horse bolted and dragged the boy for a hundred yards by one leg.

Manfreds head was gashed, and Rommel was horried. He pressed a coin into the boys hand. If you tell your mother you fell downstairs, when you get home, you can keep this! At home the wound was bathed in iodine. Manfred howled with pain. Rommel furiously demanded his money back-but Manfred was a good Swabian and had already tucked the coin away.

Colonel Rommel did not let him ride again. Very early in my researches, I turned to the thousands of letters exchanged be- tween Rommel and Lucie during their years together. The letters had been taken from the family by the Americans in :,,, but were eventually returned intact-except for a few written early in :,,,, in which Rommel, somewhat prematurely, questioned the ability of certain U.

I learned that the letters are now in an archive in Germany-but closed until the coming century. Then I discovered that the Americans had made a microlm copy, and that it was in the National Archives in Washington. But this copy was locked away too. No one was allowed to see it. I appealed to Lucie.

She gave me a handwritten letter of access, and the ocials in Washington nally produced the lm from their safe. Erwins letters display what had by now become large, ourishing penman- ship. He dashed them o once and sometimes twice a day on whatever paper came to hand in his oce or battle headquarters. Lucies are carefully composed in a tight and regular hand. Her later letters were typewritten; her former man- servant Rudolf Loistl told me, She was a real night bird. I used to hear her typing until two or three in the morning, letters to him.

Her letters show shrewd- ness and perception unusual for a soldiers wife. Although she was initially a rather more uncritical admirer of Adolf Hitler than her husband, some of her letters after :,,, show that nonetheless she was concerned about Germanys future. Erwins letters sometimes disappoint.

Their language is often dull; their gram- mar is unsteady; they are repetitive and even philistine. His only cultural refer- ence in them is to a visit to the ballet it had bored him. He was in fact a single- minded army ocer, wrapped up in army life. I cant recall that i there was ever any discussion of religion or philosophy. Yet their value as bio- graphical documents is undeniable. There are snap judgments on contempo- raries, there are lines written with casual disregard for secrecy. Above all, they are reliable as source material where, for instance, war diaries are not.

Diaries can always be backdated or altered to their authors advantage, but letters once consigned to the mailbox are beyond the correcting hand guided by hindsight. To read everything that a man writes over thirty years to his wife is to gain some insight into that mans soul-his inner torments and ambitions, his moods and intimate beliefs.

The sheer frequency with which certain ideas recur in Rommels letters is a guide to his inner imperatives. The letters show him well endowed with all the traditional Swabian characteristics-thrift, frugality, home- sickness, loyalty, industry. They show him hungry for responsibility and greedy for medals and acclaim. Rommel relished rivalry and made no attempt to set aside old feuds or restore broken friendships. He bore a fashionable contempt for the privileged classes and the nobility. When he learned in :,,, of an em- bezzlement scandal involving an aristocratic cavalry captain, Rommel trium- phantly wrote to Lucie: And he had married a countess too!

C now agrees that my views on the aristocracy have proved more accurate than his own. It was September I,,o before Hitler really noticed Rommel. He had been at- tached to Hitlers escort for the Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg, a fairly routine job which made Rommel responsible for little more than security arrangements.

Rommel: The Trail of the Fox by David Irving

One day Hitler decided to go for a drive, and instructed Rommel to ensure that no more than half a dozen cars followed. At the appointed hour Rommel found the road outside Hitlers quarters seething with ministers, generals, gauleiters and their cars, all jostling for a place in Hitlers excursion. Rommel let the rst six pass, then stepped into the road and halted the rest. The party notables loudly swore at him. This is monstrous, colonel, I intend to report this to the Fhrer. Rommel replied that he had stationed two tanks farther down the road to block it.

Hitler sent for Rommel that evening and congratulated him on executing his orders so well. Another matter soon brought Rommel to Hitlers attention again. While senior instructor of the A Course at Potsdam, Rommel had taken his lecture notes, dramatically rewritten them in the present tense, edited them into a taut, exciting book and submitted it to a local publisher, Voggenreiters. Hitler certainly read it, and it was probably one of the best infantry manuals ever written.

It attracted 1ni ixs1vut1ov o 1ni 1v:ii oi 1ni iox wide acclaim and went into one edition after another. Rommel confessed to his fellow instructor, Kurt Hesse, Its astounding, the money there is to be made from such books. I just dont know what to do with all the cash thats ooding in. I cant possibly use it all, Im happy enough with what Ive got already. And I dont like the idea of making money out of writing up how other good men lost their lives. For tax reasons too, the royalties were an embarrassment. In I,,o the Stuttgart revenue oce returned his old tax les to the family-and these indicate just how he contrived to conceal his considerable literary income from the Reich scal authorities.

Perhaps it was sheer innocence, but more probably it was the foxy cunning that marked Rommel out even among Swabians: he simply di- rected Voggenreiters to pay to him each year only I,,ooo Reichsmarks from the accumulating fortune and to keep the rest on account for him, gathering inter- est. On his tax returns, Rommel declared only the I,,ooo Reichsmarks. As Rommels book became a best seller, Germanys youth came to worship him, and he liked it. Working with the lads here is a real joy, he had written to his adjutant from Dresden in I,,I. His views about youth were conservative.

Once he told an army ocer he met skiing in the mountains, I regard it as my job to combat the mood of modern youth-against authority, against their par- ents, against the church and against us too. This sort of attitude won favor with the Inspector of War Schools, Lieutenant General Georg von Kchler, who wrote a report noting that Lieutenant Colonel Erwin Rommel was a senior instruc- tor with a particularly powerful inuence on youth.

Somebodys ears evidently pricked up at this last sentence, because in February I,,, Rommel was assigned an unusual new job-the War Ministrys special liaison ocer to Baldur von Schirach, leader of the Hitler Youth. At twenty-nine, Schirach was leader of ,,oo,ooo boys. His organization gave them sport, culture and the Nazi philosophy. The War Ministry had decided that they must receive paramilitary training too. Had not the Battle of Kniggrtz been won in the classrooms of Prussias elementary schools?

The Fhrer him- self had written in Mein Kampf, The army is to be the ultimate school for pa- triotic education, and had stated, In this school the youth shall turn into a man. The liaison was doomed to failure. Schirach was eleven years younger than Rommel, handsome and westernized his mother was American. Rommel was so Prussian that Schirach was astounded to hear him talk in the Swabian tongue when they rst met in April in the Youth leaders lakeside home. Rommel stayed : to supper, Schirach recalled. My wife drew his attention to the beautiful view onto the Bavarian mountains from our window.

This cut no ice with him. Thank you, but Im very familiar with mountains, he said, without even so much as glancing out of the window. Henriette had unintentionally given our guest his cue, because Rommel had received the Pour le Mrite in I,I, for storming some mountain or other in the Julian Alps. He now held forth on this for two hours. I found his story quite interesting, but to Henriette all such military matters were anathema and she nearly fell asleep. A month later Schirach reluctantly introduced Rommel to ,,ooo Hitler Youth leaders during a camp at Weimar.

At about this time Rommel produced a startling plan: the Wehrmachts young bachelor lieutenants should be brought in to train the Hitler Youth. Schirach said he strongly doubted that young army ocers had nothing better to do with their free weekends than drilling hordes of boys in how to stand at atten- tion. Rommel replied, They will just be ordered to. Schirach fobbed him o. Rommel was put out by this, said Schirach. He then journeyed up and down the country a lot, speaking to my Hitler Youth leaders. The content of his speeches was always the same, how he had stormed Monte Mataiur.

Willing to hero worship though they were, my more intelligent leaders took umbrage and pro- tested to me. Rommel, moreover, was propagating some kind of premilitary education, which would have transformed my Hitler Youth into some kind of junior Wehrmacht. Rommel himself virtually admitted as much in a private letter to a general in August I,,8: In my view postenlistment training should be left mostly to those SA [Brownshirt] leaders whose own service record shows they are well prepared for the nations greatest testing time-by which I mean war.

Schirachs bitterness toward Rommel did not lessen. At a gala theater per- formance he sat in the rst row and put Rommel in the second. Rommel point- edly moved forward into an empty seat next to him, loudly announcing: I rep- resent the Wehrmacht, and in this country the Wehrmacht comes rst. The chief of the Wehrmachts national defense branch, Alfred Jodl, sadly noted in his diary that Schirach was trying to break up the close cooperation initiated between the Wehrmacht and the Hitler Youth by Colonel Rommel.

Eventually, Schirach succeeded. But the clash with Hitlers favorite, Schirach, did not blight Rommels career. On the contrary, he was suddenly selected to act as temporary commandant of the Fhrers headquarters. At Munich on Sep- tember ,o the Great Powers had forced Czechoslovakia to cede to Germany the disputed Sudeten border territories, and Hitler had decided to tour the ancient 1ni ixs1vut1ov i 1ni 1v:ii oi 1ni iox German cities there.

Rommels job would be to command the military escort. For an ambitious ocer, the posting was a godsend-it catapulted him into the very highest company overnight. In Washington, D. These bloodless Nazi victories impressed Rommel as they did millions of other Germans. He saw for himself the liberated German communities of Asch, Eger and Carlsbad turning out in their thousands to cheer the Fhrer. Twice-in Austria in March and now here in September-the man of action had been proved right and the General Sta pessimists confounded.

It is a certainty that by I,,8 Hitler was a man greatly to Rommels own liking. While many of his brother ocers still hesitated to commit themselves to the Nazi philosophy, Rommels conversion was undoubtedly complete. Even in private postcards to his friends, he now signed o: Heil Hitler! Yours, E. In January I,,, and again one year later he had attended nine-day Nazi in- doctrination courses for the Wehrmacht. After listening to Hitler speak in se- cret in the Big Hall of the War Ministry on December I, I,,8, Rommel approv- ingly noted down two sentences that had particularly struck him: Todays sol- dier must be political, because he must always be ready to ght for our new policies; and, The German Wehrmacht is the sword wielded by the new Ger- man Weltanschauung [philosophy of life].

The extent of his dedication to Nazi ideals is evident, for instance, from the report he submitted to Berlin a few days later, after lecturing in various Swiss cities on his war exploits at the invitation of Swiss army ocers. Although Swiss army ocers emphasized in conversa- tion with me their desire for independence and the need for a national defense, Rommel wrote, they show that they are strongly impressed by the momentous events in Germany. The younger ocers, particularly, expressed their sympa- thies with our New Germany. Individuals among them also spoke with remark- able understanding of our Jewish problem.

A new posting awaited him now that Hitler had annexed Austria: comman- dant of the ocer cadet school at Wiener Neustadt, near Vienna. He arrived on November Io, I,,8-the day after an orgy of anti-Jewish looting and destruc- tion in the Reich. He, Lucie and Manfred lived in a charming bungalow in a large garden not far from the Maria-Theresia Academy, the mighty castlelike structure that housed the school. Rommels ambition was to make this the most modern Kriegsschule in the Reich.

Distant though he was from Berlin, he could not escape the pull exerted from Hitlers Chancellery. Twice in March I,,, the Fhrer again sent for him to command his mobile headquarters-during the occupation of Prague on the fteenth, and once again on the twenty-third when Hitler sailed into the Baltic port of Memel to supervise its voluntary return by Lithuania to Germany. The invasion of Prague in mid-March showed Rommel that Hitler had physi- cal courage, and that impressed him. The elderly Czech president Emil Hacha-who, under threat of air bombardment, had signed the invitation to the Wehrmacht to invade-was still in Berlin when Hitler left for the frontier.

Rommel met him in a blizzard at the Czech border. The SS escort was late, but the panzer corps commander, General Erich Hoepner, proposed nonetheless that Hitler drive on into Prague to show who was now the boss. Himmler and the other generals were horried at the idea. Rommel later bragged to his friend Kurt Hesse, I am the one who persuaded Hitler to drive on-right to Hradcany Castle-under my personal protection.

I told him he had no real choice but to take that road right into the very heart of the country, the very capital, to the citadel of Prague. To a certain extent I made him come with me. He put himself in my hands, and he never forgot me for giving him that advice. That night Rommel wrote to Lucie from Prague, Alls well that ends well. Our bigger neighbors are putting a very sour face on things. This was a refer- ence to Poland and France, who had both lost Czechoslovakia as an ally. Rommel added: Thank goodness you packed enough warm underwear for me. Hitler now raised claims on Poland, too, for the return of former German territories.

At rst Rommel was condent that Hitler would get his own way. But as he followed in the Nazi newspapers the growing clamor against Poland-the reports of border incidents-and saw Polands intransigence, he realized that Hitler was going to have to invade. It would be idle to pretend that Rommel did not share the relish with which virtually every red-blooded Ger- man army ocer looked forward to attacking Poland. His own aection for the disputed city of Danzig was as strong as Lucies. It had been German when they met there and fell in love and for centuries before, becoming a free city only after World War I.

Rommel did not expect it to be a long war. Early in August I,,, he was given a typhus vaccination, which conrmed his expectations. On August :: he was summoned to Berlin and briefed about the new job awaiting him. My guess was right, he tersely informed Lucie on a postcard postmarked Berlin. He was to command the Fhrers war headquar- ters during the attack on Poland.

He had formally reported to Hitler as commandant of the Fhrers head- quarters at ,:, v. Berlin sweltered in a heat wave. Just forty-three minutes earlier, Hitler had stepped out of a conference with foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and announced that he was going to attack Poland at dawn. At :, v. The battalion had a total of sixteen ocers, ninety-three noncommissioned ocers and :, enlisted men. It was equipped with four ,,-millimeter antitank guns, twelve :o-milli- meter ak antiaircraft guns and other weapons.

He wrote ingenuously that day to Manfred, now eleven: What do you make of the situation? His next letters laid bare his own robust optimism: he be- lieved that the war would last only fourteen days; that Hitler was doing what was best for Germany; that Britain and France would keep out-and that even if they did not, Germany could easily deal with them too. Perhaps he was dazzled by his own promotion; in fact, Hitler had instructed that Rommels promotion should be backdated to June I, a great sign of his favor.

I nd that very decent, Rommel wrote, and displayed a sneaking pleasure that Schoerner, his rival from , the Italian campaign, had been promoted only to honorary colonel. A proud letter composed two weeks later tells much about his character: Im together with the F[hrer] very often, even in the most intimate discussions. It means so much to me that he condes in me-far more than being promoted to general. When Rommel arrived at Bad Polzin that evening, he learned that the Reich Chancellery had phoned an hour before: the invasion of Poland had been sud- denly postponed.

Rommel was baed. We now know that during the after- noon all Hitlers political assumptions had proved wrong. Britain had rmly ratied its treaty with Poland, and Italy had refused to declare war at Germanys side. For a week there was an extraordinary stalemate, while Hitler hedged and hesitated. Rommels troops helped local farmers with the harvest while he and many other generals chafed at the bit. He ew to Berlin on the twenty-seventh to nd out what was happening.

Apart from the privilege of lunching at the Fhrers table, there was little new, he conded to Lucie. The troops are waiting impatiently for the order to advance, but we soldiers must just be patient. There are some snags, and theyll take some time to straighten out. The Fhrer will obviously reach whatever decision is proper. Four days later Rommel went farther than that: Im in- clined to believe it will all blow over and well end up getting back the [disputed Polish] Corridor just as we did the Sudeten territory last year.

If the Poles, Brit- ish and French really had the guts to act, then these last few days were far and away the best time for them to do so. Later that day, August ,I, I,,,, he added, Waiting is a bore, but it cant be helped. The Fhrer knows whats right for us. Almost at once the telephone call came, ordering him to stand by. That evening, the phone rang again in the railroad station waiting room where he had set up his oce.

The invasion begins tomorrow, :,o.. Thus the Second World War began. Nobody, least of all Erwin Rommel, could foresee that the military operations that began on September I, heralded by a ranting and self-justicatory Reichstag speech by the Fhrer, would inexo- rably involve one country after another; would last six years; would leave o million dead and all Europe and half Asia ravaged by re and explosives; would destroy Hitlers Reich, ruin the British Empire and end with the creation of new weapons, new world powers and a new lawlessness in international aairs.

Rommel wrote excitedly next day, What do you make of the events of Sep- tember I-Hitlers speech? Isnt it wonderful that we have such a man? But Lucies feelings were mixed-part those of a woman, wife and mother, part those of a fanatical follower of Hitler who now asked her friends and visitors, Do ni1iivs cixiv:i o 1ni 1v:ii oi 1ni iox you too say a prayer for the Fhrer every night? Despite everything, she wrote to Erwin on September from Wiener Neustadt, we were all hoping to the very end that a second world war could be avoided-we all hoped that reason would prevail in Britain and France.

Now the Fhrer has left last night for the Polish front. May the dear Lord protect him, and you too, my beloved Erwin. She mentioned that she had discussed Hitlers speech with all her friends and shopkeepers, and all agreed that he had done the only proper thing. All of them beg me to ask you to plead with him not to expose himself to unnecessary dan- gers. Our nation cannot possibly aord to lose him. One shudders at the very thought! At I:,o.. Fifteen minutes later Heinrich, the headquarters train of Himmler and the senior Nazi ministers, also arrived.

Rommels troops put on their Fhrers HQ brassards. A security cordon was thrown around the station, and the antiair- craft guns were manned. Rommel had expected Hitler to pay only a formal courtesy visit to the front. But the Nazi dictator stayed for three weeks. Almost every day he climbed into an armored half-track and drove forward-through forests still infested with Polish snipers, along roads blazing with the wreckage of Polands antiquated army, to the very banks of the San to watch his storm troops force the river crossing.

Rommels eyes also were everywhere, watching, assessing, absorbing-learning the paraphernalia and techniques of a kind of warfare un- known to him during his own exploits, such as the employment of fast-moving tank units and assault troops and the use of dive bombers in close support. One after the other, Hitlers secret predictions to his sta were dramatically fullled. Britain and France had so far not red one shot for Poland, just as he had maintained.

I think the whole war will peter out, once Poland is done for-and that wont be long now, wrote Rommel on the sixth. Three days later he stuck his neck out farther: I think Ill be home before winter. The wars going just the way we planned, in fact its exceeding even our boldest expectations. The Russians will probably attack Poland soon. Two million men!

Every evening theres a long war conference here. Im allowed to attend it and even chip in from time to time. Its wonderful to see the rmness in the way [Hitler] deals with problems. The Fhrers in the best possible mood, he wrote just after they had visited the Warsaw front. I have quite frequent chats with him now, we are on quite close terms. By September I, it was virtually all over. Hitler ceremonially entered Danzig and broadcast to the Reich-and to the world-from the ports Artushof Guildhall building, erected by German craftsmen in the fourteenth century.

Today sees our entry into magnicent Danzig, Rommel jotted down. The Fhrer will be speaking to the entire world. I was able to talk with him about two hours yester- day evening, on military problems. Hes extraordinarily friendly toward me. I very much doubt that I will still be at the Kriegsschule much longer, when the war is over. When Hitler visited the Polish port of Gdynia, there was an incident that knocked the rst nail into Rommels con.

After a desperate battle, the last Polish stronghold had just fallen and Hitlers party decided to drive down to the waters edge. The street was narrow, and the descent was steep. Again playing the role of trac controller, Rommel brusquely ordered: Only the Fhrers car and one escort car will drive down. The rest wait here! As at Nuremberg he stepped into the road to make sure his order was obeyed. The third car moved forward, then halted. Bormann gesticulated and shouted but Rommel refused to budge. I am headquarters commandant, he announced. This is not a kindergarten outing, and you will do as I say!

Bormann purpled under the snub and waited ve years to take his revenge. In his exuberance over victory, Rommel turned a blind eye to the grimmer aspects of Polands defeat. On the eleventh, he blandly observed that there were masses of Poles everywhere in plain clothes: Most are probably soldiers who have managed to organize civilian clothes after the tide of battle turned against them. Theyre already being rounded up by our police and deported.

A few days later he amplied this observation: Guerrilla warfare wont last much longer in Poland. All able-bodied men are being rounded up and put to hard labor under our supervision. The fate of the Poles once deported did not occur to him. Once Lucie wrote asking him to trace a particular Pole who had vanished. Erwin replied that the inquiry must go through proper Party channels.

Im getting similar requests every day. After that the priest vanished without a trace. This time Rommel did ni1iivs cixiv:i 8 1ni 1v:ii oi 1ni iox write, on May I, I,o, to Himmlers adjutant for information. Months later an SS letter informed General Frommel in cold terms that all inquiries about the priest had drawn a blank. The possibility must be faced that he has fallen vic- tim to the vagaries of war or to the cruel winter.

In fact the priest was probably liquidated like thousands of other Polish intellectuals by the SS task forces, a horror of which Rommel learned only four years later. By September :,, I,,,, Poland was nearly nished. Only Warsaw was still holding out, under terric Luftwae and artillery bombardment. The Fhrers in a relaxed mood, Rommel contentedly informed Lucie. We eat at his table twice a day now-yesterday evening I was allowed to sit next to him.

Soldiers are worth something again. But his rise in Hitlers esteem attracted the envy of the dictators sta, and Colonel Rudolf Schmundt-three years Rommels junior and Hitlers chief Wehrmacht adjutant-made no secret of it. Rommel returned with Hitler to Berlin on the twenty-sixth and conded to Lucie next morning: At present, relations with Schmundt are strained. Dont know why: apparently my position with F[hrer] is getting too strong.

Not impossible that a change will be insisted on from that quarter. Of course I want to know just where I stand. Ive no desire to be pushed around by younger men. He went on leave to Wiener Neustadt with his family. On October : he ew to Warsaw to prepare Hitlers victory parade. After the brief respite with Lucie, the Polish capital was a horrifying, stinking nightmare. He returned to Berlin and dined that evening with Hitler at the Chancellery.

Warsaw has been badly damaged, Rommel wrote to Lucie. One house in ten is burst to a shell. There are no shops left. Their showcases are smashed, the shopkeepers have boarded them up. There has been no water, power, gas or food for two days. The main streets were blocked o by barricades, but these stopped all civilian movement too and often exposed the public to a bombardment from which they then couldnt escape.

The mayor puts the dead and injured at o,ooo. The people are probably relieved weve come and put an end to it all. After the armys two-hour victory parade on the fth-the newsreels show General Rommel standing right in front of Hitlers tribune-he returned to the boredom of barracks life in Berlin. Next day Hitler again made a fabulous speech to the Reichstag, this time formally oering peace to Britain and France now that Poland no longer existed.