Rommel, Erwin Johannes Eugen

Date of birth:
November 15th, 1891 (Heidenheim/Württemberg, Germany)
Date of death:
October 14th, 1944 (Herrlingen/Württemberg, Germany)
Buried on:
Grave Erwin Rommel
Nationality:
German (1933-1945, German Reich)

Biography

Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel was born in Heidenheim, near Ulm, Germany on November 15th 1891. He dreamed of pursuing a career in technology but instead joined the 124.Infantry-Regiment (6 Wurttemberg) as a cadet in 1910. The following year he was allowed to go to the Officers School in Gdansk and in 1912 returned to his regiment in Weingarten as an officer. Rommel was actively engaged in World War I. He was injured in 1914 and in 1917 was awarded the highest German decoration, Pour le Mèrite, which was usually reserved for generals. At the end of the war, he was employed as a staff officer.

Between the wars Rommel held several military positions. In October 1933 he was promoted to Major and in November 1935 to Lieutenant-Colonel and became a teacher at the Military Academy in Potsdam. In November 1938, he assumed command of the Military Academy at Wiener Neustadt. September 1939 saw him promoted to Major-General and he took command of Hitler's personal guards during the Polish campaign.

In May 1940, during the invasion of France, he was in command of the 7. Panzer-Division, which earned the nickname the "Ghost Division" because of its lightning advances and great victories. January 1941 saw Rommel promoted to Lieutenant-General and placed in command of the newly-established German Afrika Korps (DAK), which left for Tripoli, North Africa on February 12th with the mission of rendering assistance to the Italian forces in their struggle against the British. Initially, he scored great victories over the British, which earned him the nickname "Desert
Fox", and a promotion to General Field Marshall; at the age of 51 the youngest in the Wehrmacht. At El Alamein; however, he had to succumb to the British 8th Army under General Montgomery. His Afrika Korps was driven all the way back to Tunisia and on 19 February 1943, he scored his last great victory in North Africa over the American II Corps at Kasserine.

At the end of February, he named General Hans-Jürgen von Armin as his successor and returned to Germany on sick leave. On March 11th 1943, he was awarded the Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds to his Knight's Cross by Hitler personally.

Following postings in Greece and Italy, where he was succeeded by Albert Kesselring, he was put in command of Heeresgruppe B in Normandy under Oberbefehlshaber West (Commander-in-Chief) Gerd von Rundstedt. After the successful Allied landings of 6 June and the subsequent swift advances, Rommel thought continuation of the war pointless and he wasn't alone. On 20 July, in Hitler’s Rastenburg Headquarters in East Prussia, an unsuccessful assassination attempt was made on Hitler’s life. Three days before, Rommel had been seriously injured in an Allied air attack near Livarot. Rommel had not been actively engaged in the plot against Hitler but he was aware of it and during the interrogation of one of the plotters, Rommel’s name was mentioned. Consequently, Rommel was presented with two choices: either stand trial as a traitor with subsequent grave danger to his family or commit suicide. On October 14th Rommel choose the latter option. He was given a state funeral with full military honors on 18 October and buried in Ulm, Germany.

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Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
May 17th, 1940
Details:
Had already received the Iron Cross 2nd Class on September 30th 1914.
1939 Spange zum Eisernen Kreuzes 2er Klasse 1914
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
May 21st, 1940
Details:
Had already received the Iron Cross 1st Class on March 22nd 1915.
1939 Spange zum Eisernen Kreuzes 1er Klasse 1914
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Generalmajor (Brigadier)
Unit:
Kommandeur 7.Panzer-Divison
Awarded on:
May 27th, 1940
Action:
warded for his swift breakthrough of the French border defenses SE of Maubeuge and the subsequent advance towards Landrecies on 18.05.1940. In the process Rommel and his troops were able to wipe out 2 enemy divisions and take 4000 prisoners.
Details:
43rd Award.
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Generalleutnant (Major-general)
Unit:
Kommandeur 7.Panzer-Division
Awarded on:
March 20th, 1941
Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub
Action:
Awarded for the continued successes of the 7. Panzer-Division during the course of the Battle of France, ending with the capture of the key port of Cherbourg by his troops.
Details:
10th Award.
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Generalleutnant
Unit:
Kampfgruppe DAK
Awarded on:
April 22nd, 1941
Medaglia d'argento al Valore Militare
Details:
Presented by Italo Gariboldi.
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
General der Panzertruppen
Unit:
Befehlshaber der Panzer-Gruppe Afrika
Awarded on:
January 20th, 1942
Action:
Awarded for his masterful leadership during the North African campaign against superior enemy forces. The high water mark during this time for Rommel was the tank battle around Sidi Rezegh on 23.11.1941, where his forces were able to inflict a sharp local victory on the British forces.
Details:
6th Award.
Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
January 15th, 1942
Medaglia al merito della Croce Rossa Italiana - Silver
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
January 15th, 1942
Ordine Militare di Savoia -Grande Ufficiale
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
April 28th, 1942
Colonial Order of the Star of Italy - Cavaliere della Croce Grande
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
June 21st, 1942
Wehrmachtbericht
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Generalfeldmarschall (Fieldmarshall)
Unit:
Oberbefehlshaber der Heeresgruppe Afrika
Awarded on:
March 11th, 1943
Action:
Awarded for his continued accomplishments in the North African campaign, especially his advances during the battle for the Kasserine Pass.
Details:
6th Award.
Ritterkreuz, Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
September 10th, 1943
Wehrmachtbericht
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
July 12th, 1944
Ordinul Mihai Viteazul Clasa 3
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
July 12th, 1944
Ordinul Mihai Viteazul Clasa 2
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
August 7th, 1944
Verwundetenabzeichen 1939 in Gold
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Details:
Silver version.
Panzerkampfabzeichen (ohne Zahl)
Period:
First World War (1914-1918)
Awarded on:
February 25th, 1915
Goldene Militär-Verdienstmedaille
Period:
First World War (1914-1918)
Awarded on:
December 10th, 1917
Pour le Mérite

Sources

  • Photo 1: Willi Schumacher Collection/Norbert Beyerlein
  • Photo: Willi Schumacher Collection
    - Pop-up grave: Norbert Beyerlein
    - Publiek domein
  • - THOMAS, FRANZ & WEGMANN, GÜNTER, Die Eichenlaubträger 1940-1945, Biblio-Verlag, 1998.
    - Kwasny A., Kwasny G., Die Eichenlaubträger 1940-1945 (CD), Deutsches Wehrkundearchiv, Lage-Waddenhausen, 2001
    - Fellgiebel W.P., Elite of the Third Reich, The recipients of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939-1945: A Reference, Helion & Company Limited, Solihull, 2003, ISBN 1-874622-46-9
    - Kursietis A.J., The wehrmacht at war 1939-1945 the units and commanders
    - Wehrmacht Awards