Rommel was one of the most highly regarded German generals of the Second World War, and this account of his military career is built around his own writings, giving us an interesting insight into how Rommel saw his own activities.
We start with an account of his early life that Rommel had to produce during his military education. The material on his First World War experiences come from Rommel’s own book, ‘Infantry Attacks’, and were thus meant for public consumption.
Rommel didn’t survive to produce Second World War memoirs, so this section is based on a mix of letters home and official reports, some produced while the campaigns in question were still under way and others produced in the aftermath of Rommel’s removal from command in North Africa. These documents thus vary from the entirely private to ones that were meant to have a fairly large audience, at least within the German army. The private letters come across as the most honest, and include Rommel’s concerns and worries and his opinions about his colleagues and superiors. In contrast the final report on North Africa was written after Rommel had been defeated, so is somewhat coloured by his knowledge of what happened next.
Not all of the chapters actually include Rommel’s own writings. The chapters covering the interwar period and his brief time in command in northern Italy are both biographical essays, filling gaps in his own writings.
One minor quibble is that the author doesn’t make it clear where each extract comes from. In some cases it is obvious - his letters home all start ‘Dear Lu’, but it isn’t always clear when a letter ends and an official report begins. The work would really benefit from simple references for each section, as it’s important to know when a particular comment was written, and who its intended audience actually was. The author does comment on some of the problems with Rommel’s work, including his tendency to over-play the role of his own units during the campaign of 1940.
Despite this minor flaw, this is a valuable collection of Rommel’s writings, giving us an insight into his methods, his problems in North Africa and his attempts to defend the French coast in 1944.
1 - Young Rommel
2 - Mountain Warrior
3 - Inter-War Years
4 - Rommel's Ghosts
5 - Storm in the Desert
6 - Desert Magician
7 - Triumph and Attrition
8 - The Fox at Bay
9 - Afrika Korps in Retreat
10 - Italian Interlude
11 - Defence of the West
Editor: Dr John Pimlott