Erwin Rommel quotes

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Erwin Rommel

Birthdate: 15. November 1891
Date of death: 14. October 1944

Johannes Erwin Eugen Rommel was a German general and military theorist. Popularly known as the Desert Fox, he served as field marshal in the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II, as well as serving in the Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic, and the army of Imperial Germany.

Rommel was a highly decorated officer in World War I and was awarded the Pour le Mérite for his actions on the Italian Front. In 1937 he published his classic book on military tactics, Infantry Attacks, drawing on his experiences in that war. In World War II, he distinguished himself as the commander of the 7th Panzer Division during the 1940 invasion of France. His leadership of German and Italian forces in the North African campaign established his reputation as one of the most able tank commanders of the war, and earned him the nickname der Wüstenfuchs, "the Desert Fox". Among his British adversaries he had a reputation for chivalry, and his phrase "war without hate" has been used to describe the North African campaign. He later commanded the German forces opposing the Allied cross-channel invasion of Normandy in June 1944.

Rommel supported the Nazi seizure of power and Adolf Hitler, although his reluctant stance towards antisemitism and Nazi ideology and his level of knowledge of the Holocaust remain matters of debate among scholars. In 1944, Rommel was implicated in the 20 July plot to assassinate Hitler. Because of Rommel's status as a national hero, Hitler desired to eliminate him quietly instead of immediately executing him, as many other plotters were. Rommel was given a choice between committing suicide, in return for assurances that his reputation would remain intact and that his family would not be persecuted following his death, or facing a trial that would result in his disgrace and execution; he chose the former and committed suicide using a cyanide pill. Rommel was given a state funeral, and it was announced that he had succumbed to his injuries from the strafing of his staff car in Normandy.

Rommel has become a larger-than-life figure in both Allied and Nazi propaganda, and in postwar popular culture, with numerous authors considering him an apolitical, brilliant commander and a victim of the Third Reich although this assessment is contested by other authors as the Rommel myth. Rommel's reputation for conducting a clean war was used in the interest of the West German rearmament and reconciliation between the former enemies – the United Kingdom and the United States on one side and the new Federal Republic of Germany on the other. Several of Rommel's former subordinates, notably his chief of staff Hans Speidel, played key roles in German rearmament and integration into NATO in the postwar era. The German Army's largest military base, the Field Marshal Rommel Barracks, Augustdorf, is named in his honour.

„Don't fight a battle if you don't gain anything by winning.“

—  Erwin Rommel

This is cited to to Rommel‎'s Infanterie Greift An [Infantry Attacks] (1937) in World War II : The Definitive Visual History (2009) by Richard Holmes, p. 128, and Timelines of History (2011) by DK Publishing, p. 392, but to George S. Patton, in Patton's Principles : A Handbook for Managers Who Mean It! (1982) by Porter B. Williamson as well as Leadership (1990) by William Safire and Leonard Safir, p. 47
Disputed
Source: Rommel: In His Own Words

„War without Hate“

—  Erwin Rommel

Krieg ohne Haß
In the preamble written by his wife of the 1953 edition published by the publishing house "Heidenheimer Zeitung", she clearly states that all the chapter titles as well as the book title were chosen by the editors, thus not Erwin Rommel himself.

„Mortal danger is an effective antidote for fixed ideas.“

—  Erwin Rommel

Ch. XI : The Initiative Passes, p. 244.
Variant: Mortal danger is an effective antidote for fixed ideas.

„The Italian command was, for the most part, not equal to the task of carrying on war in the desert, where the requirement was lightning decision followed by immediate action. The training of the Italian infantryman fell far short of the standard required by modern warfare. … Particularly harmful was the all pervading differentiation between officer and man.“

—  Erwin Rommel

Ch. XI : The Initiative Passes, p. 262.[[Courage which goes against military expediency is stupidity, or, if it is insisted upon by a commander, irresponsibility.]]
Context: The Italian command was, for the most part, not equal to the task of carrying on war in the desert, where the requirement was lightning decision followed by immediate action. The training of the Italian infantryman fell far short of the standard required by modern warfare. … Particularly harmful was the all pervading differentiation between officer and man. While the men had to make shift without field-kitchens, the officers, or many of them, refused adamantly to forgo their several course meals. Many officers, again, considered it unnecessary to put in an appearance during battle and thus set the men an example. All in all, therefore, it was small wonder that the Italian soldier, who incidentally was extraordinarily modest in his needs, developed a feeling of inferiority which accounted for his occasional failure and moments of crisis. There was no foreseeable hope of a change for the better in any of these matters, although many of the bigger men among the Italian officers were making sincere efforts in that direction.

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„Be an example to your men in your duty and in private life.“

—  Erwin Rommel

Address as Director of the Military School in Weiner Neustadt at the passing out parade of the 1938 class of cadets.
A note by General Bayerlein in the Rommel Papers (1953), edited by Basil Henry Liddell Hart. p. 241.[[War without Hate ]]
Context: Be an example to your men in your duty and in private life. Never spare yourself, and let the troops see that you don't, in your endurance of fatigue and privation. Always be tactful and well-mannered and teach your subordinates to be the same. Avoid excessive sharpness or harshness of voice, which usually indicates the man who has shortcomings of his own to hide.

„In a man to man fight, the winner is he who has one more round within himself.“

—  Erwin Rommel

Den Kampf Mann gegen Mann gewinnt bei gleichwertigen Gegnern, wer eine Patrone mehr im Lauf hat.
Source: Infanterie greift an (1937), p. 62.

„It is during the pursuit, when the beaten enemy is still dispirited and disorganised, that most prisoners are made and most booty captured.“

—  Erwin Rommel

Ch. V : Graziani's Defeat - Cause and Effect, p. 96.
Context: When a commander has won a decisive victory - and Wavell's victory over the Italians was devastating - it is generally wrong for him to be satisfied with too narrow a strategic aim. For that is the time to exploit success. It is during the pursuit, when the beaten enemy is still dispirited and disorganised, that most prisoners are made and most booty captured. Troops who on one day are flying in a wild panic to the rear, may, unless they are continually harried by the pursuer, very soon stand in battle again, freshly organised as fully effective fighting men.

„Gentlemen, you have fought like lions and been led by donkeys.“

—  Erwin Rommel

Said to captured British officers during the Siege of Tobruk, as quoted in The Guinness History of the British Army (1993) by John Pimlott, p. 138

„Better too much spade work than too little! This work saves blood.“

—  Erwin Rommel

Lieber zuviel als zu wenig Spatengebrauch! Diese Arbeit spart Blut.
Source: Infanterie greift an (1937), p. 28.

„Good soldiers, bad officers; however don't forget that without them we would not have any Civilization.“

—  Erwin Rommel

On Italians, sometimes cited to The Rommel Papers (1953) edited by Basil Henry Liddell Hart, but without specific chapter or page citations; it seems to summarize an attitude indicated by Rommel in Ch. 11 of that work, but no published occurrence of this has actually been located.
Disputed

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