They say the most painful betrayal comes from the one you most trusted.

Hitler knew exactly how that felt when he discovered that his most favorite and trusted general Erwin Rommel was part of the conspirators who wanted him dead. While Erwin Rommel was often depicted as one of the “good Nazis” because of the assassination attempt, his story and Third Reich journey were far from being as simple as the guy who realized the barbarity of Nazism and ended up turning his back against his once-beloved Fuhrer.

Hitler Was a Fan

Johannes Erwin Rugen Rommel was born to a humble family in Southern Germany on November 15, 1891. His journey began when he joined the local Infantry Regiment when he was 18, and it turned out he was good at that. Rommel was already an established war hero when Adolf Hitler rose into power— he was an Iron Cross recipient during World War I. Thus, he was known as one of Germany’s most outstanding military leaders. One time, he was leading with a mere 150 men against several thousands of Italian forces, yet they managed to capture 9,000 of them while only losing 6 of his men.

Erwin Rommel.
Erwin Rommel. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J16362 / Winkelmann / CC-BY-SA 3.0CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons)

Hitler was a comprehensive reader, and one of the books on his bookshelf was a copy of Rommel’s Infantry Attacks. It was a military textbook first published in 1937 and was highly regarded. So it was unsurprising that Hitler included him in his team when he gained power. At first, his task was to train the Hitler Youth, but when the invasion of Poland started, he was assigned to look after the Fuhrer’s headquarters.

Soon enough, Rommel was in charge of the military strategies, bodyguards, and the defenses of the Nazis during the D-Day Invasion of the Allied forces. Rommel was also there during the planning of the France invasion. He was with the Nazis on the French coast. Rommel was committed to helping Nazi Germany become a world leader, if anything else.

Not only did he gain Hitler’s respect, but the British called him a gentlemanly soldier and dubbed him the “Desert Fox” for treating his enemies as humanely as possible. Prime Minister Winston Churchill praised Rommel once, saying, “We have a very daring and skillful opponent against us and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great general.”

This, of course, was not to discredit the fact that he was still a Nazi who was well aware of all the atrocities committed against the Jews. According to historian Wolfgang Proske,

Rommel was a deeply convinced Nazi and, contrary to popular opinion, he was also an anti-Semite… It is not only the Germans who have fallen into the trap of believing that Rommel was chivalrous. The British have been convinced by these stories as well.