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915606

Erwin Rommel

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Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel, 1891-1944.  Brilliant German Field Marshal known as the “Desert Fox.”  World War II-dated Typed Document Signed, Rommel, two pages (recto and verso), quarto, May 3, 1942.  In German.

In this document, which he has signed with his distinctive signature as commander of the German Panzer army in Africa, Rommel awards two soldiers, ages 20 and 21, the distinguished service cross, second class, with swords. 

The special service medal came either with or without swords, depending upon the type of service involved.  The medal that Rommel awards here, with swords, went only to soldiers who had experienced enemy fire or had otherwise rendered special service in military warfare.  This document does not say, but Rommel could have awarded these medals for action in Cyrenaica, the eastern costal area of Libya, against the British in November and December, 1941, or during the German counteroffensive against Britain on January 21, 1942.

Hitler appointed Rommel to command his bodyguard as Germany annexed the Sudetenland, and Rommel remained on his staff during the invasion of Poland.  Later Rommel commanded the 7th Panzer Division, which served with distinction in the battle for France, and thereafter commanded the Afrika Korps, opposing the British forces in North Africa.  His brilliance in battle, driving Allied forces back hundreds of miles, earned him a promotion to Field Marshal and the nickname the “Desert Fox.”  Eventually British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, with more and better equipped troops, forced Rommel out of Africa.

Rommel served briefly in Italy before going to France, where he strengthened the German defenses against the anticipated Allied invasion of Normandy.  He planned to hold the Allies on the beach until he could counterattack.  But when the time for the counterattack came, Rommel could not convince Hitler to release the forces with which to do it before it was too late.

Rommel became convinced that Germany needed a change in leadership.  Although he did not intend to kill Hitler, he did hope to remove him from power.  But on July 20, 1944, Hitler was nearly killed in an assassination attempt, the result of a conspiracy among many high-ranking German Army officers.  Hitler, acting through the Gestapo, took revenge.  Rommel was implicated in the plot, but the Nazis sought to avoid a public trial of a popular hero.  So Rommel was given a choice:  He could face a public trial, but if he would commit suicide his family would not be harmed.  Rommel chose suicide and was given a state funeral.

This document is in fine condition, with only normal file holes in the margin well removed from Rommel’s signature.  Rommel has boldly signed in pencil, which he used because of the difficulty of using fountain pens in the African heat. 

While we reject Nazism and all that it represented, we offered this document because of the role that Nazi Germany played in 20th Century history.

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