Notícia

General alemão Erwin Rommel chega à África

General alemão Erwin Rommel chega à África

O general alemão Erwin Rommel chega a Trípoli, na Líbia, com o recém-formado Afrika Korps, para reforçar a posição dos italianos sitiados.

Em janeiro de 1941, Adolf Hitler estabeleceu o Afrika Korps com o propósito explícito de ajudar seu parceiro italiano do Eixo a manter ganhos territoriais no Norte da África. “[P] por razões estratégicas, políticas e psicológicas, a Alemanha deve ajudar a Itália na África”, declarou o Fuhrer. Os britânicos vinham desferindo golpes devastadores nos italianos; em três meses, eles expulsaram os italianos do Egito enquanto feriam ou matavam 20.000 soldados italianos e faziam outros 130.000 prisioneiros.

Depois de comandar uma divisão panzer nas bem-sucedidas campanhas da França e dos Países Baixos da Alemanha, o general Rommel foi despachado para a Líbia junto com o novo Afrika Korps para assumir o controle da deterioração da situação. Até então, o general italiano Ettore Bastico era o comandante geral das forças do Eixo no Norte da África - que incluía uma divisão panzer alemã e a divisão blindada italiana. Rommel deveria comandar apenas seu Afrika Korps e um corpo italiano na Líbia, mas acabou comandando toda a campanha do Norte da África.

Os soldados alemães do Afrika Korps acharam a adaptação ao clima do deserto inicialmente difícil; Rommel também achou difícil comandar suas tropas italianas, que estavam acostumadas com um comandante italiano. Quando Hitler, preocupado com seus planos para a invasão soviética, finalmente deu o sinal verde para uma ofensiva contra as posições britânicas no Egito, as forças de Rommel foram paralisadas e então forçadas a recuar. Na famosa batalha de El Alamein, o Oitavo Exército britânico - começando em 23 de outubro de 1942 - surpreendeu o comandante alemão com sua resolução bruta e empurrou-o com seu Afrika Korps de volta para o norte da África. (Ironicamente, os árabes celebraram Rommel, chamado de "Raposa do Deserto", como um libertador do imperialismo britânico.)

Retirada após retirada, Rommel finalmente retirou-se inteiramente do Norte da África e retornou à Europa em março de 1943, deixando o Afrika Korps em outras mãos.


Afrika Korps

o Afrika Korps ou Corpo Alemão da África (Alemão: Deutsches Afrikakorps, DAK ouço (ajuda · informação) ) foi a força expedicionária alemã na África durante a Campanha do Norte da África na Segunda Guerra Mundial. Enviado pela primeira vez como uma força de contenção para apoiar a defesa italiana de suas colônias africanas, a formação lutou na África, sob várias denominações, de março de 1941 até sua rendição em maio de 1943. O comandante mais conhecido da unidade foi o marechal de campo Erwin Rommel.


Juventude e carreira

O pai de Rommel era professor, assim como seu avô, e sua mãe era filha de um oficial sênior. A carreira de oficial do exército começou a estar na moda, mesmo entre os alemães do sul de classe média, após o estabelecimento do Império Alemão em 1871, portanto, apesar da ausência de tradição militar em sua família, Rommel em 1910 ingressou no 124º Regimento de Infantaria de Württemberg como um oficial cadete.

Na Primeira Guerra Mundial, Rommel lutou como tenente na França, Romênia e Itália. Seu profundo conhecimento de seus homens, sua coragem incomum e seu dom natural de liderança desde cedo mostraram a promessa de uma grande carreira. No exército prussiano-alemão, uma carreira no estado-maior geral era o caminho normal para o avanço, mas Rommel recusou-se a seguir esse caminho. Tanto no Reichswehr da República de Weimar quanto na Wehrmacht de Adolf Hitler, ele permaneceu na infantaria como oficial da linha de frente. Como muitos grandes generais, ele possuía um talento pronunciado para o ensino e, portanto, foi nomeado para cargos em várias academias militares. O fruto de suas experiências de batalha na Primeira Guerra Mundial, combinado com suas idéias sobre o treinamento de jovens soldados no pensamento militar, formaram os principais componentes de seu livro militar, Infanterie Greift an (1937 “Ataques de infantaria”), que recebeu alta estima inicial.

Em 1938, após a anexação da Áustria pela Alemanha, o coronel Rommel foi nomeado comandante da escola de oficiais em Wiener Neustadt, perto de Viena. No início da Segunda Guerra Mundial, ele foi nomeado comandante das tropas que guardavam o quartel-general do Führer e tornou-se conhecido pessoalmente por Hitler. A chance de Rommel de provar a si mesmo como comandante veio em fevereiro de 1940, quando ele assumiu o comando da 7ª Divisão Panzer. Ele nunca havia comandado unidades blindadas antes, mas rapidamente compreendeu as tremendas possibilidades de tropas mecanizadas e blindadas em um papel ofensivo. Sua incursão na costa do Canal da França em maio de 1940 forneceu a primeira prova de sua ousadia e iniciativa.


Derrotado em El Alamein, Erwin Rommel da Alemanha nazista iniciou uma retirada histórica da África

A derrota do Afrika Korps em El Alamein deu início a uma longa retirada e eventual rendição das forças do Eixo.

Tobruk, o porto marítimo vital da Líbia na costa da Cirenaica, caiu para o General Erwin Rommel e seu vitorioso Afrika Korps em menos de 24 horas após um ataque aéreo, blindado e de infantaria inesperado e devastador em 21 de junho de 1942.

Em cativeiro foram o comandante da guarnição de Tobruk, o general sul-africano Bernard Klopper, 13.400 soldados sul-africanos, 2.500 indianos e gurkhas e 19.000 soldados e marinheiros britânicos. Apenas cerca de mil membros da guarnição conseguiram escapar para se juntar ao Oitavo Exército britânico, caindo de volta em Mersa Matruh 220 milhas ao leste e bem dentro do Egito. O Exército Privado de Popski, liderado pelo tenente-coronel Vladimir Peniakoff (apelidado de "Popski") e o menor dos destacamentos das forças especiais britânicas que operam no deserto, ajudou alguns dos fugitivos a sair de Tobruk. Muitos meses depois, enquanto operava atrás das linhas alemãs na Itália, Popski e seu exército privado resgataram o general Klopper que havia escapado de um campo de prisioneiros de guerra e estava, nas palavras de Popski, "vagando".

Abrindo o caminho para o Egito

A vitória de Rommel recebeu grande publicidade na Alemanha e na Itália. Rommel, berraram as manchetes, abriu o caminho para o Egito, Alexandria, Cairo, o Canal de Suez e além. Hitler o promoveu a marechal de campo, e Mussolini voou para Trípoli com seu cavalo branco e uniformes de gala para liderar as tropas italianas em um desfile da vitória no Cairo.

Três dias depois, 24 de junho, usando caminhões, gasolina, óleo, munição e alimentos capturados em Tobruk e no forte Capuzzo de estilo Beau Geste, Rommel avançou em Mersa Matruh, onde o Oitavo Exército, severamente atacado, havia interrompido sua retirada e se preparava para fazer uma posição. Neste ponto, o comandante-em-chefe britânico no Oriente Médio, general Sir Claude Auchinleck, assumiu o comando pessoal no campo. Ele decidiu não lutar por Mersa Matruh e ordenou que o Oitavo Exército iniciasse uma retirada imediata para El Alamein. Naquela noite, Rommel lançou seu ataque a Mersa Matruh.

A Divisão da Nova Zelândia, cercada por panzergrenadiers em uma escarpa ao sul de Mersa Matruh e sem apoio blindado, estourou em um ataque noturno selvagem com baionetas fixas, gritando gritos de guerra Maori e matando granadeiros enquanto tentavam se render. Quase 10.000 neozelandeses conseguiram escapar, mas quando a batalha por Mersa Matruh acabou, os alemães mantiveram outros 6.000 prisioneiros ilesos do Oitavo Exército.

Rommel dirigiu implacavelmente atrás do cansado Oitavo Exército no que se tornou uma corrida para El Alamein, 109 milhas a leste ao longo da costa. El Alamein para Rommel foi “o último obstáculo ao nosso avanço sobre Alexandria. Depois de passar, nosso caminho para o Nilo está livre. ” Para Auchinleck, El Alamein era "a posição defensiva de último recurso". As tripulações e infantaria dos tanques alemães e italianos, exaustos e com falta de suprimentos capturados em Tobruk, perderam a corrida.

Ataques através de campos minados e tempestades de areia

Em El Alamein, Auchinleck reagrupou suas forças, incluindo a recém-chegada 9ª Divisão Australiana, em uma linha que se estende de El Alamein, uma estação ferroviária isolada a uma milha do mar, 40 milhas ao sul até os penhascos ao norte da Depressão de Qattara, um Uma bacia de um pântano salgado incrustado de areia, com quase dois quilômetros quadrados, quase intransponível para qualquer tipo de veículo. Ancorada no mar ao norte e na Depressão Qattara ao sul, a linha Alamein não poderia ser flanqueada. Qualquer ataque na linha teria que ser frontal, negando aos panzers de Rommel a vantagem da mobilidade.

Entre El Alamein e a Depressão Qattara havia três cristas baixas e estreitas que corriam quase paralelas à costa e batizavam de oeste a leste Miteiriya, Ruweisat, e de longe a maior, Alam el Halfa. Auchinleck implantou alguma infantaria e artilharia nessas cristas e montou seu quartel-general tático avançado na parte oriental de Ruweisat. Como não havia tropas suficientes para manter a linha continuamente, vários pontos fortes, ou “caixas”, foram montados ao longo da linha com a maior parte da armadura posicionada atrás deles. O major-general alemão Fritz Bayerlein descreveu toda a área como "um deserto pedregoso e sem água, onde afloramentos desolados de rocha seca se alternavam com trechos de areia esparsamente coagulados com matagal de camelo sob o impiedoso sol africano".

Em 1o de julho de 1942, o Afrika Korps enfrentou os campos minados britânicos e o fogo de artilharia assassino da linha Alamein. Nas palavras de Rommel, "Sob um peso tão esmagador de poder de fogo, nosso ataque foi interrompido."

No dia seguinte, após alguma reorganização, Rommel atacou novamente com as Divisões Panzer 15 e 21 avançando para o norte da linha. A armadura do Oitavo Exército se abaixou e cambaleou, fingiu uma retirada e, em seguida, atingiu os panzers em seu flanco sul desprotegido. Eles logo estavam na defensiva e superados em número pelos tanques do Oitavo Exército, e com uma tempestade de areia soprando, os blindados recuaram.

Durante a tempestade de areia, a 90ª Divisão Ligeira de Rommel, que tinha mais veículos blindados e infantaria mecanizada do que tanques, inesperadamente tropeçou na 3ª Brigada Sul-africana. Em uma exibição atípica da divisão veterana, ele entrou em pânico e disparou. Ao mesmo tempo, a Divisão Blindada Ariete italiana desmoronou sob um ataque dos neozelandeses, que capturaram 30 armas e fizeram 400 prisioneiros.

O contra-ataque aliado

Quando a tempestade de areia diminuiu, Rommel tentou por vários dias quebrar a linha do Oitavo Exército, mas seus ataques foram interrompidos e repelidos por artilharia e bombardeio aéreo. Auchinleck retaliou com vários contra-ataques generalizados. Seus alvos eram italianos em um esforço para forçar Rommel a usar o combustível de sua armadura para ajudar seus aliados. No quinto dia, Rommel ordenou uma pausa para descansar suas tropas exaustos e absorver os reforços da infantaria alemã que chegavam de Creta. Ele pretendia retornar ao ataque, mas Auchinleck o adiantou.

Durante os primeiros seis meses de 1942, o adido militar dos EUA no Cairo tinha enviado relatórios regulares e abrangentes sobre a ordem de batalha britânica e as intenções britânicas para Washington em um código que a inteligência alemã havia quebrado. Tinha sido uma valiosa fonte de informação para Rommel até que o vazamento foi descoberto por interceptações ULTRA e foi conectado. Sem aviso prévio das intenções britânicas, Rommel agora era obrigado a lutar contra o inimigo em pé de igualdade.

Às 5h do dia 10 de julho, os canhões de Auchinleck dispararam em um pesado bombardeio na extremidade norte da frente. Isso foi seguido por um ataque montado na estrada costeira pela 9ª Divisão Australiana. Os australianos colocaram a Divisão Sabratha italiana em fuga, levando 1.550 prisioneiros, e em Tel el Eisa, a Colina de Jesus, eles capturaram a Unidade de Reconhecimento Sem Fio 621 de 100 fortes de Rommel. Esta estação móvel de interceptação de rádio estava recebendo relatórios de espiões alemães em Cairo e espionagem nas comunicações de rádio militares britânicas. A inteligência tática coletada foi de vital importância para Rommel e sua perda foi outro golpe sério para ele. Para os britânicos, foi um bônus porque eles fizeram um bom uso dos rádios e de outros equipamentos.

Rommel estava na extremidade sul da linha quando soube do ataque australiano. Ele correu para o norte com parte da 15ª Divisão Panzer para fechar a lacuna, e por vários dias uma batalha violenta foi travada por Tel el Eisa. Durante um ataque panzer, o cabo James Hinson chegou perto o suficiente de um tanque líder para eliminá-lo com uma bomba “pegajosa” que ele anexou a ele. Hinson foi premiado com uma Medalha de Conduta Distinta. Durante um ataque de infantaria, o cabo Victor Knight e suas quatro metralhadoras Vickers resistiram ao ataque por três horas, os soldados de infantaria urinando nos canos das armas para resfriá-los e derramando óleo nas partes de trabalho, mantendo as armas disparando continuamente. Os alemães, o 104º Regimento de Infantaria recém-chegado de Creta, sofreram 600 baixas, mais de 50 por cento do número, devido às metralhadoras e alguns tiros durante o ataque. Knight também recebeu uma Medalha de Conduta Distinta.

Os piores dias de Rommel

Em 14 de julho, uma luta selvagem estourou em torno de Ruweisat Ridge, mantida pelos neozelandeses, quando foi atacada pela 15ª Divisão Panzer e pela Divisão de Infantaria Italiana Brescia. A luta continuou até o dia seguinte. Em uma ação, o capitão Charles Upham foi premiado com sua segunda Victoria Cross. Ele foi ferido duas vezes enquanto liderava um ataque noturno contra a infantaria mecanizada e se aproximou o suficiente de um caminhão cheio de panzergrenadiers para matar a maioria deles com granadas. Ele foi ferido novamente, mas participou de outro ataque ao amanhecer.

Quatro postes de metralhadoras, apoiados por tanques, impediram o ataque e Upham atacou. Ferido mais uma vez, ele foi capturado. Ele fez várias tentativas de fuga e encerrou a guerra no Castelo Colditz, a prisão de segurança máxima dos alemães. Ele foi apenas o terceiro homem na história da Victoria Cross a recebê-la duas vezes, e o único a sobreviver. Quando a batalha por Ruweisat Ridge terminou, os neozelandeses continuaram na posse dela.

Por volta dessa época, os britânicos montaram vários ataques fortes, ferindo severamente as divisões de infantaria italianas de Brescia, Trieste e Pavia e forçando as unidades blindadas alemãs a usarem combustível escasso para vir em seu auxílio. Em 17 de julho, Rommel escreveu à esposa: “Está indo muito mal para mim. A infantaria superior do inimigo está eliminando uma unidade italiana após a outra. Unidades alemãs fracas demais para detê-las sozinhas. Me faz chorar!" E no dia seguinte ele escreveu: “O dia passado, crucial, foi particularmente ruim para nós. Mais uma vez, escapamos. Não pode durar muito mais ou a frente está perdida. Militarmente, estes são os piores dias que já vivi. ”


Última ofensiva de Erwin Rommel no Norte da África

Para seus admiradores, o marechal de campo Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel mostrou um lampejo de sua antiga forma na Tunísia. Se recuperando de um retiro de 1.500 milhas de El Alamein em novembro de 1942, ele lançou seu Afrika Korps sobre o recém-chegado Exército dos EUA em meados de fevereiro de 1943 e se chocou com a passagem de Kasserine, administrando uma derrota chocante para as tropas americanas verdes e seu comandante ineficaz, o general Lloyd R. Fredendall.

A situação imediata alarmou tanto os comandantes aliados que eles enviaram um apelo urgente ao nêmesis de Rommel em El Alamein, o general Bernard Law Montgomery do Oitavo Exército britânico, para aliviar os americanos aumentando a pressão na Linha Mareth, fortificações construídas pelos franceses no sul da Tunísia que enfrentavam leste em direção ao antigo território italiano da Tripolitânia. As perspectivas de longo prazo, entretanto, eram mais críticas para o Eixo do que para os Aliados. Para começar, Rommel havia caído em desgraça com o alto comando do Eixo depois de El Alamein. O resultado foi uma liderança dividida. Rommel comandou as forças alemãs e italianas no sul, curiosamente chamado de Primeiro Exército Italiano, enquanto o General Jürgen von Arnim liderou o Quinto Exército Panzer no norte.

Enquanto os dois exércitos que lutavam costas com costas na Tunísia teriam lucrado com o controle unitário de uma única autoridade, o aristocrático general von Arnim e Rommel, um marechal de campo de origem burguesa da Suábia, desprezavam-se. O marechal de campo Albert Kesselring supervisionou os assuntos de Comando Supremo na Itália, mas era um arranjo complicado. Por exemplo, von Arnim estava pessimista e cético sobre a investida de Rommel através do Passo de Kasserine e, embora Kesselring o tenha induzido a passar a maioria de seus tanques para Rommel, von Arnim conteve suas armas mais poderosas, recém-entregues tanques Mark VI Tiger.

Kesselring tentou resolver as coisas criando o Grupo de Exércitos da África, com Rommel no comando geral. Naquela época, porém, o sentimento geral era de que Rommel, vencido por licença médica na Alemanha, era apenas uma figura de proa.

Como se para confirmar isso, von Arnim voou para Roma sem o conhecimento de Rommel e garantiu a permissão de Kesselring para lançar um novo ataque no norte em 26 de fevereiro. Toda aquela operação, apropriadamente nomeada Oschenkopf ("Cabeça dura"), conseguiu sacrificar 71 tanques - incluindo 15 Tigres - contra uma perda dos Aliados de apenas 16 e causar um sério atraso nos planos de Rommel para atacar Montgomery. Quando soube disso, Rommel expressou como ficou pasmo com os "idiotas" em Comando Supremo enquanto cuidava de suas forças na Linha Mareth.

Naquela época, Montgomery também estava em uma posição precária, com a maior parte de seu Oitavo Exército mal esgotado. Todo o X Corps estava a 1.600 quilômetros de distância, em Benghazi. A formação grande mais próxima que poderia ser criada para reforçar suas unidades de liderança foi a 2ª Divisão da Nova Zelândia em Trípoli. “Monty” tinha apenas duas divisões voltadas para a Linha Mareth, 25 milhas ao sul, em uma vila obscura e empoeirada chamada Medenine. Com o usual eufemismo britânico, ele comentou mais tarde: “Não há dúvida de que entre 28 de fevereiro e 3 de março eu estava definitivamente‘ desequilibrado ’”.

Se Rommel tivesse atacado naquela época, poderia ter sido desastroso para o vencedor de El Alamein, mas os generais alemão e italiano não conseguiram chegar a um acordo sobre o que fazer. Em 28 de fevereiro, Rommel convocou seus generais para um conselho de batalha. Ele propôs um ataque de pinça, enviando as 10ª e 21ª divisões Panzer ao norte ao longo da costa e fazendo com que o 15º Panzer e parte da 164ª Divisão Ligeira avançassem das colinas ao sul. Ele argumentou que um ataque do norte pegaria Montgomery de surpresa.

O esquema desencadeou um debate furioso. Um comandante alemão declarou que o Eixo havia colocado milhares de minas ao norte. “Nós os prendemos para evitar sua remoção”, disse ele. “Se os explodirmos, isso dará ao inimigo um aviso prévio de que estamos chegando.”

Naquele ponto, o general Giovanni Messe, agora comandante do Primeiro Exército Italiano sob Rommel, propôs cruzar as cordilheiras das montanhas no sul, alegando que as fotografias aéreas mostravam que os britânicos haviam colocado a maioria de seus canhões entre Medenine e a costa. As discussões duraram cinco horas, e Rommel, estranhamente, deixou que Messe elaborasse os planos para o que foi apelidado de Operação Capri. Messe ordenou o ataque com gancho de direita.

O comportamento estranhamente passivo de Rommel pode estar em grande parte ligado à sua saúde. Após dois anos de batalha quase incessante no deserto do Norte da África, ele sofreu de desmaios, pressão baixa, reumatismo e problemas cardíacos. Sua pele estava amarelada de icterícia e seu rosto e pescoço estavam manchados de furúnculos.

Enquanto isso, Montgomery, prevenido pelos decifradores do código Ultra britânico e pelo reconhecimento aéreo, havia enviado reforços para a frente de Medenine há dias. Em 4 de março, ele tinha quatro divisões no local e estava preparado para cobrir ambos os flancos, com quase 400 tanques, 350 canhões de campanha e cerca de 470 canhões antitanque no local. Os últimos eram principalmente de 57 mm de 6 libras, mas havia alguns de 76 mm de 17 libras e canhões antiaéreos de 3,7 polegadas. Essa formidável matriz aguardava Rommel quando ele atacou em 6 de março, uma semana depois, com as divisões Panzer 10, 15 e 21. A essa altura, as tropas de Monty haviam aprendido um fato importante sobre armas antitanque. Em vez de inseri-los para proteger a infantaria, eles posicionaram seus batedores de 6 libras à frente, camuflados e cavados, com a função específica de tomar os tanques inimigos em enfileiramento a curta distância. Atrás deles, a infantaria britânica estava escondida em encostas reversas, assim como Arthur Wellesley, duque de Wellington, fizera para proteger suas tropas da artilharia francesa na Espanha 130 anos antes. Apoiando os canhões de 6 libras estavam os canhões de 17 libras montados na parte inferior e de grande impacto. Por ordem de Montgomery, seus tanques não foram comprometidos, mas conservados para operações posteriores, como haviam sido no Alam Halfa em setembro de 1942.

Às 6 da manhã. Os tanques de Rommel, envoltos em uma névoa densa de uma noite chuvosa, saíram de seus wadis, precedidos por uma enxurrada de Nebelwerfer foguetes e projéteis de artilharia. A ineficácia deles sugeriu aos britânicos que os alemães, tendo cometido o erro primário de não conduzir um reconhecimento prévio, não sabiam exatamente onde os britânicos estavam. Rommel viu o ataque da Colina 713, a cerca de 24 quilômetros de distância, outro sinal de declínio no homem que sempre pregou e praticou que um comandante lidera pela frente.

O Brigadeiro Howard K. Kippenberger, comandando a 5ª Brigada, 2ª Divisão da Nova Zelândia, avançou com seu batalhão Maori e foi tratado com o que mais tarde chamou de a visão de sua vida. Cerca de 50 tanques da 10ª Divisão Panzer avançavam em empresas, lado a lado, com centenas de caminhões atrás deles, cheios de Panzergrenadiers. Kippenberger ficou surpreso com a falta de coordenação do avanço, pois normalmente a infantaria inimiga deveria estar de perto, apoiando os tanques contra defesas preparadas e embutidas. A artilharia britânica abriu fogo contra a infantaria que desmontava dos caminhões, e os canhões antitanque dispararam uma fuzilaria nos flancos da armadura, interrompendo o ataque.

Em outro lugar, a 21ª Divisão Panzer errou na frente de um estratagema britânico. Os soldados colocaram fileiras de latas de bullying para simular minas cinco milhas a oeste de Medenine. Os panzers desviaram para a esquerda para evitá-los, apenas para expor sua blindagem lateral relativamente fina a canhões antitanque escondidos, que deixaram uma dúzia de tanques em chamas. Hermann Frömbigen, do 21º Panzer, ficou a 1.000 metros das colinas baixas ligeiramente a noroeste de Medenine quando os tanques foram sufocados por fogo de artilharia pesada de canhões localizados 40 jardas atrás de manequins abandonados às pressas. Ao mesmo tempo, caças voando baixo da Força Aérea Real lançaram foguetes contra os panzers e metralharam a infantaria.

Os Argyll e Sutherland Highlanders, bem escavados, avistaram um campo de matança. “Eles eram uma mistura de alemães com o uniforme cáqui da Afrika Korps e italianos em suas túnicas verde-escuras ”, relatou um escocês. “Eles avançaram por seção em formação cerrada e ofereceram um alvo admirável. Eu mesmo assumi o controle de uma arma Bren e, gritando para os outros pararem de atirar, esperando até que estivessem a quatrocentos metros, dei o sinal e deixamos que eles pegassem carregador após carregador & # 8230. Então, as seções inimigas pararam, vacilou, quebrou em um duplo e seguiu em frente, parou novamente e finalmente mergulhou para se proteger entre algumas oliveiras espalhadas. Eles devem ter sofrido baixas terríveis. ”

Os artilheiros antitanque também seguraram o fogo com frieza até que os tanques alemães estivessem próximos. Uma equipe defendeu uma colina crítica chamada Tadjera Khir, que dominava todas as defesas do XXX Corpo de exército. Ele nocauteou um panzer que se aproximava, mas um segundo tanque acertou um tiro que feriu a camada da arma em seu olho direito. Imperturbável, ele simplesmente continuou mirando com o olho esquerdo e nocauteou um terceiro tanque.

Por volta das 10h, o avanço de Rommel havia parado. “Foi um presente absoluto”, escreveu Montgomery depois, “o homem deve estar louco”.

Ao meio-dia, o general Hans Cramer, que assumira o comando do Afrika Korps no dia anterior, informou a Rommel que seus tanques estavam parados. Rommel suspeitou que oficiais italianos traíram a operação - ele não poderia ter percebido que Monty soube da Operação Capri por decifradores do Ultra e por sua própria inteligência.

A força do Eixo lançou um segundo ataque às 14h30. Desta vez, a infantaria precedeu os tanques, mas todo um corpo britânico lançou uma barragem de artilharia contra eles. Highlanders chamou de "tiro maravilhoso", com as tropas cinza "caindo como nove pinos". Referindo-se a Rommel, Montgomery comentou: “O marechal enlouqueceu”.

Ao cair da noite, Rommel cancelou o ataque, tendo perdido 52 tanques - mais de um terço de sua armadura - e 635 homens. Montgomery teve 130 baixas, mas não perdeu um único tanque. Praticamente todos os blindados alemães destruídos foram vítimas de fogo antitanque, exceto sete nocauteados por um esquadrão de Shermans, os únicos tanques britânicos comprometidos com a batalha.

O general-de-divisão Francis Wilfred de Guingand, chefe do estado-maior de Montgomery, chamou a batalha defensiva perfeitamente travada de Medenine de "um pequeno clássico por si só". Winston Churchill declarou: “Nada como este exemplo do poder da artilharia antitanque em massa já havia sido visto contra blindados”.

Para Rommel, Medenine foi uma catástrofe. “Uma grande escuridão caiu sobre todos nós”, escreveu ele mais tarde. “Para o Grupo de Exércitos permanecer mais tempo na África agora era puro suicídio.” Três dias depois, o Desert Fox entregou as rédeas a von Arnim e voou para Roma em licença médica, para nunca mais retornar ao Norte da África.

Publicado originalmente na edição de agosto de 2006 de História Militar. Para se inscrever, clique aqui.


Como o general Erwin Rommel e Afrika Korps # 039s ganharam sua infâmia

Ponto chave: Rommel era um comandante muito bom e seus oponentes o temiam. Aqui está como ele foi capaz de se manter na guerra no deserto.

Em 15 de abril de 1942, o Generaloberst (Coronel General) Erwin Rommel convocou seus comandantes subordinados do Panzerarmee Afrika para uma conferência para delinear seus planos para a próxima ofensiva contra o Oitavo Exército britânico. As apostas eram altas, suas propostas não eram isentas de riscos, mas, como de costume, Rommel exalava confiança. Ele era uma figura familiar para seus oficiais reunidos, com seu cabelo cortado rente, olhos penetrantes, nariz comprido e lábios estreitos, um rosto bonito e militar que era um espelho perfeito de uma personalidade que podia ser séria, mas também tinha uma grande dose de bom humor. Ele estava vestido com seu uniforme Afrika Korps, jaqueta bege com abas vermelhas de general no colarinho, Cruz de Cavaleiro da Cruz de Ferro em sua garganta.

Rommel ligou para ajudar os italianos

Na primavera de 1942, os alemães e seus aliados italianos travaram uma batalha gangorra pelo Norte da África, uma luta que começou em 1940, quando as forças do ditador italiano Benito Mussolini atacaram o Egito controlado pelos britânicos a partir de suas bases na Líbia. A ofensiva italiana foi um fiasco, e os britânicos logo ganharam a vantagem. Os italianos morderam mais do que podiam mastigar e, em um esforço para tirar as castanhas de seu colega ditador do fogo, Adolf Hitler despachou Rommel e várias unidades alemãs, conhecidas coletivamente como Afrika Korps, para o Norte da África em fevereiro de 1941.

Rommel iniciou uma ofensiva que empurrou os britânicos de volta às fronteiras do Egito e, embora seus sucessos tenham sido temporários, suas manobras brilhantes foram o início de sua lenda como a "Raposa do Deserto". No final de 1941, os alemães foram repelidos por uma contra-ofensiva britânica, mas na primavera de 1942 Rommel estava pronto mais uma vez para tentar a vitória.

Alemães enfrentaram a formidável linha Gazala

Na verdade, o Panzerarmee Afrika estava enfrentando um desafio formidável. O Oitavo Exército britânico foi implantado em uma série massiva de defesas conhecida como linha Gazala, batizada em homenagem a uma cidade na costa do Mediterrâneo. Estendendo-se por cerca de 40 milhas de Gazala a Bir Hacheim ao sul, a linha Gazala apresentava um “arquipélago” de pontos fortes conhecidos como caixas, ilhas independentes de resistência colocadas em um mar de minas terrestres e protegidas por emaranhados de arame farpado. Cada caixa tinha infantaria apoiada por artilharia e tanques, nozes totalmente difíceis de quebrar.

Plano de assalto visa enganar britânico

Mas isso não foi tudo que os alemães tiveram que enfrentar. O general Neil Ritchie, comandante do Oitavo Exército britânico, colocou unidades blindadas e motorizadas logo atrás da linha Gazala, em teoria uma defesa móvel rápida que poderia conter qualquer ataque alemão. Rommel tinha duas opções: ele poderia lançar um ataque frontal no norte do centro da linha Gazala, ou ele poderia tentar flanquear para o sul. Um movimento de flanco sul foi mais para os gostos pessoais e inclinações do Coronel General que ele poderia girar em Bir Hacheim (no processo tomando esse ponto-forte), em seguida, varrer para o norte atrás da linha Gazala.

À medida que a conferência prosseguia, Rommel explicou que faria um ataque frontal à linha Gazala - mas que o ataque seria apenas uma finta. Logo atrás da linha Gazala estava Tobruck, uma fortaleza / porto que havia sido um espinho para Rommel na campanha do ano anterior. Um ataque frontal no norte seria o caminho mais curto para Tobruck, um prêmio muito procurado. Rommel esperava poder enganar os britânicos, levando-os a pensar que seu principal esforço seria no norte, enquanto na realidade a principal ofensiva seria um envolvimento surpresa no flanco sul britânico.

Embora fosse verdade que o fracasso de Rommel em tomar Tobruck em 1941 foi uma pílula amarga, ele não estava tão obcecado com sua captura a ponto de perder de vista o quadro estratégico geral. Na verdade, ele queria deixar claro que Tobruck não era o único objetivo. “Die Englischer Feldarmee, ” Rommel declarou, olhando atentamente para os rostos de seus oficiais, “Muss vernichtet werden, und Tobruck muss caído!” (O exército de campo inglês deve ser totalmente destruído e Tobruck deve cair!) Rommel sabia que provavelmente estava em menor número que os britânicos em tanques, mas confiava que as táticas alemãs superiores - e, com sorte, ataques inimigos mal coordenados - restaurariam o equilíbrio. A conferência foi concluída e os preparativos foram feitos para a próxima ofensiva, apesar do calor intenso do deserto.

Rommel admirado por seus homens

Rommel já era famoso na primavera de 1942 e estava a caminho de se tornar uma lenda. Seus homens o idolatravam porque, embora fosse um capataz severo, tinha um afeto genuíno por suas tropas e cuidava de seu bem-estar. Certamente, se ele era duro com eles, era igualmente duro consigo mesmo. Ele compartilhou suas dificuldades e nunca pediu que fizessem nada que ele mesmo não estivesse disposto a fazer. De sólida origem de classe média, Rommel tinha pouca ligação com os esnobes aristocratas da classe alta que se associam ao corpo de oficiais alemão. Embora ele ingenuamente pensasse que Hitler era o salvador da Alemanha, ele era apolítico e certamente não era nazista.

Como general, Rommel tinha um excelente domínio de estratégia e tática. Um mestre em manobras, ele sabia como impulsionar um exército em golpes rápidos. Ele foi uma inspiração para seus homens, freqüentemente estimulando-os pelo exemplo pessoal. Rommel também era flexível, uma das características de um grande general. Se os eventos provassem que seus planos originais eram defeituosos, ele era capaz de mudá-los com rapidez para atender às mudanças nas condições. Em um nível pessoal, Rommel possuía um alto grau de integridade. He bore the British no personal animosity, and stories of his fair treatment of prisoners are legion. Rommel’s fame was just as great among the “Tommies” as among the Germans, and it was his British enemies who gave him the sobriquet “Desert Fox.”

Beyond Tobruck, Rommel Eyes The Mid East Oil

In the spring of 1942 Rommel was looking beyond Tobruck, and even beyond the possible seizure of the Suez Canal in Egypt. The German general was a fierce partisan of the so-called “Plan Orient,” a geopolitical strategy bold in concept and intercontinental in scope. In early 1942 Hitler’s armies were in the Soviet Union, about to conduct a drive into the Caucasus to seize vital Russian oilfields. Plan Orient was an even bolder concept, calling for the Panzerarmee Afrika to seize not only Alexandria and the Suez Canal, but to continue on and roll through Palestine and the rest of the Middle East. Oil-rich Persia (Iran) and Iraq might fall, and the Panzerarmee would link up with German armies fighting in Russia.

In essence, then, Panzerarmee Afrika would be the southern arm of a great pincers movement, the German army in Russia comprising the northern arm. Once Germany was in control of Middle Eastern oil reserves, the war would be more than half won. It was a good plan on paper, but it presupposed continued German success in Russia and Axis control of the Mediterranean—two very tall orders indeed. In any case Plan Orient didn’t seem a pipe dream in the spring of 1942 even the British feared such a scenario.

Rommel’s Panzerarmee was a mixed force of both German and Italian units. Probably the most famous was the Deutsches Afrika Korps, or DAK, a formation whose name is indelibly linked to Rommel’s. In early 1942 the DAK was commanded by General Walter Nehring and consisted of two major formations, the 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions. Another German unit was the 90th Light Division. Sources seldom agree on specific numbers, but probably some 90,000 Axis troops faced 100,000 British. Rommel’s equipment was as multinational as his troops. Besides German and Italian weapons, he incorporated captured British guns and vehicles into the Panzerarmee Afrika. Rommel was even sent Soviet 50-mm and 76.5-mm artillery captured on the Russian front.

Tanks and armored vehicles were going to play an important role in the upcoming Gazala operations. The backbone of the German Panzer divisions was the Mark III tank, boasting thick armor but armed with a short 50-mm gun. Rommel also had 19 Mark III Specials with face-hardened armor and a hard-hitting long-barrel 50-mm gun more powerful than the short-barrel version. Italian tanks were obsolescent nightmares more lethal to their crews than to the enemy. With a delicious sense of irony Italian tank crews called their machines “self-propelled coffins.”

The British had several different kinds of tanks, including Matildas, Valentines, and Crusaders. The Crusader was armed with a two-pounder gun (named after the weight of the shell) but was plagued by mechanical troubles. The Valentine was an infantry support tank, but the queen of British armor was the Matilda Mark II. It was a strongly protected tank, with armor up to three inches thick, and was armed with a two-pounder gun.

In the desert war both sides had to battle the climate as well as the enemy. Even in May the heat was terrible, with temperatures soaring to 120°F. Water was scarce, and fierce dust storms scoured the desert floor with choking clouds of reddish grit. On May 5, while deep into the preparations for the coming offensive, Rommel took the time to note in a letter to his wife, “Hardly a day without a sandstorm.”


German General Erwin Rommel arrives in Africa - HISTORY

By Zita Ballinger Fletcher

The name Field Marshal Erwin Rommel—associated with tank warfare in Europe and North Africa during World War II—might conjure up mental images of the famous “Desert Fox” riding in a panzer, reviewing maps, or commanding battles. What one might not imagine is that in the midst of commanding frontline troops, Erwin Rommel toted a camera and wielded a lens with artistic imagination and precision amid gunshots and shell bursts. In fact, he created thousands of striking war photos prior to his death in 1944.

Rommel’s photography shows that the field marshal had an eye for irony, great attention to detail, an attraction to flowers, and a daring streak—he often tempted mortal danger to snap dramatic action pictures during battles. He was also keenly interested in his fellow soldiers. An overwhelming majority of Rommel’s photographs document simple and poignant moments in the everyday lives of his men—as well as their final resting places. Rommel went out of his way to photograph the makeshift battlefield graves of soldiers who fought alongside him and under his command. Rommel’s war photos included images he wished to publish as documentation of his campaigns as well as many private mementos. He labeled many of his pictures with handwritten captions.

Rommel took the majority of his wartime pictures during his campaigns between 1940 and 1942, although he took some during his command of Army Group B and the fortifying of the Normandy coastline in 1944. His life was brought to an abrupt end several months after the successful Allied invasion of Europe on D-Day. It is interesting to note that the photographs taken during the early stages of the war number in the thousands. However, as the tide turned against the Germans, Rommel became disillusioned and focused solely on his command duties as well as on his own growing discontent with Nazi leadership. As a result, the photographs he took during the last year of his life were strictly for military purposes—lacking the élan and spontaneity that characterizes his earlier work.

Rommel used a Leica camera for much of his photography. Some of his early war photos, particularly from his 1940 campaign in Belgium and France, were taken using a different camera.

Erwin Rommel in 1934.

Since photography was a passion for Rommel for many years preceding the war, he owned many lenses, camera attachments, and other photography equipment. According to his son Manfred, Rommel’s camera equipment was stolen by American GIs, who looted their rural home in 1945. In addition, Rommel’s wartime photography collection was carted off by two American counterintelligence officers, who discovered it in a trunk during a search of the house. They provided the Rommel family with a receipt for the confiscated material. However, the family later was unable to locate the officers or discover the whereabouts of the pictures.

I discovered the obscure photograph collection in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C., while I was a teenager in high school doing research for a book. Afterward, I spent several years doing research on Rommel and his photos and embarked on a mission to digitally restore the pictures, which were badly damaged. My project continued throughout my college years. During that time, I wrote a letter to Manfred Rommel to inform him about the location of his father’s photo collection at NARA, in case he was unaware. I sent Manfred copies of some of his father’s photographs along with my letter. Manfred wrote back to me, confirming that it indeed was his father’s photography. He also provided me with information about a museum in Germany where I could donate the photos to be kept with the rest of his father’s estate. At the time of his letter, Manfred was suffering from a long illness and passed away in 2013.

My senior honor’s thesis at the University of South Florida focused on my restoration work with the Rommel photos. The work evolved into a book series called Erwin Rommel: Photographer, the first volume of which was published in 2015.

I moved to Germany in December 2016 after taking a job there as a foreign correspondent for a wire service. The following spring, I contacted the museum Manfred had written to me about, the Haus der Geschichte in Baden Württemberg, and arranged to meet with the museum’s staff to show them the photographs I had digitally restored. The archivists recognized immediately that the photos were taken by Rommel. They informed me that the photos I had brought matched reels of negatives that had been inside Rommel’s home, and were then in their possession. However, their reels were few and incomplete. The photos I had provided the missing pieces.

Italian soldiers smile for Rommel’s camera in North Africa, circa 1941.

The archivists were completely astonished to behold the images. Rommel’s photographs had not been seen in Germany since before the end of the war, when a pair of American Army officers hauled away a large trunk across the gravel driveway of his home in Herrlingen in 1945. It had been 72 years since the pictures had vanished without a trace. There was an atmosphere of shock and anticipation in the museum when these images resurfaced.

The archivists were particularly fascinated by the photos Rommel took of North Africa. They informed me that photos from behind German lines in North Africa are extremely rare in Germany. They were also excited to see Rommel’s color pictures. They did not even know that Rommel’s color photography existed.

I donated electronic copies of Rommel’s photography that I had digitally restored to the Haus der Geschichte Museum photo archive in 2017, in addition to my research notes in the hope that the photos would be of educational use to any Germans who wished to view them. The images were reunited with those that had been left behind at Rommel’s home and were to be kept at the museum with his other remaining personal belongings.

Studying Rommel’s photography, I identified patterns in his work and several key themes in which he showed special visual interest. Some of these reflect his interests as a professional soldier and a general, such as those depicting troop maneuvers, fortifications, and action shots during battles. Other images reveal Rommel’s personal quirks. No matter what the subject matter, all of the images contain distinct idiosyncrasies that appear like fingerprints in all of Rommel’s images.

A shell blasts the road ahead of Rommel’s vehicle during his advance into France, 1940. In his war photos, Erwin Rommel frequently captured images of explosions and smoke. (NOTE: This photograph, like several others presented here, has been cropped to better fit our website.)

As a photographer, the field marshal was quite meticulous. Although he snapped most of his photographs spontaneously while leading his lightning-fast military advances, he somehow managed to create quick images with measured, mathematical precision. For example, Rommel’s focal objects always tend to be perfectly centered within the frame. Lines also always appear measured and balanced in shots in geometrically even compositions. For many photographers, such precision is difficult to achieve without practice and tends to be difficult to pull off when taking snaps on the run. Rommel, however, was both fast and exacting. Precision was a reflex for him when he composed his shots.

Rommel had an eye for drama and was drawn to overpowering shadows, stark light, and dominating lines. He often took larger-than-life images of machines, tanks, and vehicles. He also captured dramatic images of nature, knife-like sand dunes, steep craggy cliffs, and massive sandstorms. He liked to photograph people in the midst of activity rarely are his human subjects idle or completely at leisure.

Debris fills the town square of St. Valery-en-Caux, France, following Rommel’s bombardment of the city. Rommel frequently photographed patterns and apparent ironies in ruins.

One of the most interesting aspects of Rommel’s photography was his attention to contrast and irony. When exploring areas around him, particularly in the aftermath of a battle, Rommel noticed things in his environment that created ironic contrasts or that were amiss. He would snap a single picture of these haunting or bewildering scenes as if making a note. Here is a French soldier retreating sullenly before a charging statue of Napoleon in Cherbourg. A German soldier in North Africa sits alertly with binoculars on a broken-down vehicle. A classical statue poses prettily at the end of a street beside a row of parked military vehicles. Understated ironies such as these frequently appeared in Rommel’s lens.

Perhaps Rommel’s most haunting composition style—one that seems to have been his favorite—was to capture lone human figures against vast or overpowering backdrops. In another kind of contrast, Rommel liked to capture images of small human figures, either isolated or diminutive in the frame, against overwhelming backgrounds: for example, lone German soldiers walking across wide, open spaces being totally dwarfed by nature or advancing tanks. These pictures portray the individual as a tiny speck in a world filled with motion, peril, or emptiness. The images often create a sense of loneliness and void. They give the viewer some kind of insight into Rommel’s psyche. Why, out of the many diverse approaches to photo composition available to him, did this methodical photographer choose to cast human figures in such a desolate, remote light? The answer to that question is something for observers of Rommel’s photos to theorize.

Rommel’s panzers loom against a backdrop of dust clouds in France, 1940.

With regard to the human subjects of his photos, the field marshal tended to focus mostly on soldiers. He showed no discrimination with regard to soldiers that he chose to photograph—they could be German or Italian, English or Indian, Axis or Allied. He clearly enjoyed mingling with enlisted men because he took many pictures of them on and off the battlefield as they were engaging in a wide variety of activities. He also occasionally photographed POWs—among them a turban-wearing Sikh and a kilt-wearing Scot—out of apparent curiosity. The soldiers are usually working, pausing a moment for rest, or in the midst of traveling. There are no photographs of men lounging, playing card games, or engaging in soldierly pranks it appears Rommel had little interest in leisurely pastimes. There are a few exceptions to this rule. He did snap a few pictures of a soldier playing guitar, and he also took some unassuming shots at social gatherings he attended. It is evident from his photography, however, that when it came to personal interactions, the general was predominantly concerned with his work.

German motorcycle troopers, covered in dust from their advance, pause for a photo in France, 1940.

Rommel was emotionally attached to his soldiers, which is evidenced not only by his writings, but also by his numerous private photographs of soldiers’ graves that he took in France and North Africa. Most of these are unmarked and were clearly intended as personal mementos. Rommel kept other burial photos as memorials or tributes. He wrote captions on some images, describing the bravery of particular soldiers or memorializing their sacrifices. Rommel captured images of lone gravesites and secluded makeshift cemeteries in the fields of France and the North African wilderness. Rommel’s photographs show burial services, graves covered with flowers, or German soldiers decorating their comrades’ resting places. Sometimes these German soldiers were buried in open meadows, behind buildings, or in desolate spaces not far from where they fell in France. In North Africa, the graves of the dead were a grim sight, covered by heaps of sand and rocks. Rommel’s pictures show that wooden crosses placed on these graves were frequently blown down by dust and gusting winds. The images also depict German soldiers in North Africa using desert brush to decorate graves in lieu of floral arrangements.

One of the grave photographs with a personal story related by Rommel in his writings is that of Lieutenant Most, killed at Rommel’s side in France in 1940. Most was Rommel’s aide the two men had crossed the Meuse River together under sniper fire and survived many battles together. Most was gunned down unexpectedly as he stood near Rommel during a lull in fighting. Rommel was shocked by this and witnessed Most’s immediate death despite efforts to resuscitate him. He described Most’s death in his writings, referring to him as a “magnificent soldier.” Most’s grave numbers among those photographed by Rommel located behind a brick wall in rural France, it is decorated with tulips and a wooden cross.

A German soldier fires artillery during the invasion of France, 1940. Rommel sometimes captured action shots from a low angle.

Due to the high quality of Rommel’s Leica images, many details of the graves were preserved in time, including the names, ranks, and death dates of many soldiers. Even after the passage of more than 70 years, many Germans are still waiting to learn the fate and whereabouts of their relatives who were killed or went missing in action. To assist surviving family members in locating deceased relatives, I donated digitally restored copies of Rommel’s war grave photographs to the German War Graves Commission in 2018.

Officials from the German War Graves Commission were eager to see the photographs that I offered to send to them and welcomed the donation. The work of the commission is to bury the dead and reconnect families with missing soldiers. This work is fraught with many difficulties that arise from wartime conditions and postwar scars. In many cases, German soldiers were buried in remote unmarked graves, or their cemeteries were demolished. People from former Allied and occupied countries are often unwilling or reluctant to return materials to the German families that may assist them in burying their dead. This causes suffering among the soldiers’ surviving relatives, many of whom are now elderly and wait with faint hope for news from the War Graves Commission or the Red Cross even after so many years. Due to confidentiality, it is unlikely that the world will ever learn whether Rommel’s graveside photos reunited any of his soldiers’ remains with their surviving relatives, however, I did receive a message from the German War Graves Commission conveying their thanks.

Rommel’s soldiers charge up a hill in France, 1940. Rommel led from the front lines and enjoyed photographing his infantry in action.

Aside from soldiers, Rommel the photographer had several other chief areas of interest, including nature, airplanes, machinery, military maneuvers, battle action, and war devastation.

Rommel’s affinity for nature found its way into his pictures. He was an intrepid outdoorsman. Like many Germans, he loved hiking, hunting, fishing, skiing, swimming, and exploring nature. His interest in the outdoors was lifelong and can be attributed to the fact that he grew up in a rural and mountainous region of Germany known as the Swabian Alps. As a young man, he often went on hiking trips, and he continued to involve himself in outdoor pursuits with other soldiers throughout his life and military career. While navigating rough and rugged terrain during his military campaigns, particularly in North Africa, Rommel managed to amass a heap of landscape photography. He photographed sunsets over tanks, rocky ravines, windswept dunes, and blossoming meadows. From the images, it is clear that he always went to great pains to neatly frame every shot. Apparently, the general also had a soft spot for flowers. He strained to take macro close-ups in color of delicate white flower petals and bright golden blooms in North Africa. Rommel’s interest in nature also extended to fauna. Camels, horses, and donkeys number among a variety of animals that Rommel captured in peaceful scenes across war-torn lands. Some camel herds were captured by his lens when he shot images as an aerial photographer.

Rommel frequently made use of a Fieseler Storch aircraft to reconnoiter North African battlefields and surrounding terrain. Most of the time, he piloted the aircraft himself. Rommel had entertained a keen interest in flying since his teens and had made efforts to study the science of flight. As a grown man, he seized opportunities to fly planes. Evidently, he was good at it, since he never crashed despite the many perilous conditions he encountered in North African skies. As usual, Rommel toted his camera along with him in the cockpit and somehow managed to snap a bevy of aerial shots even while maneuvering his plane over battlefields and rugged, windy tundra. He liked to photograph other planes from the air—sometimes as they stood motionless in airfields far below him, and many times as they glided aloft outside his window. At times, he also photographed planes flying over him as he stood on the ground.

Trucks form a strange asymmetrical pattern as they cross the desert in North Africa, circa 1941-42. This was one of many reconnaissance-type war photos Rommel took from his Fieseler Storch aircraft while flying, he created many striking photographic compositions.

Machinery captivated Rommel he was a gifted engineer who showed great interest in battlefield equipment and in designing fortifications. It would be inaccurate to say that Rommel was fascinated only with tanks. Generally speaking, he photographed anything with wheels, engines, gears, or metal parts—whether intact or in ruins. He took many photos of damaged and derelict vehicles in addition to working ones. Sometimes, he photographed pieces of vehicles blown apart during battle. He had an attraction to tank treads and metal bolts, taking many moody and imposing images focusing on the undercarriages of larger-than-life tanks and their outer steel armor. He also frequently took abstract photographs of trucks and battleships.

Rommel enjoyed capturing vivid scenes of his troops advancing. He frequently accomplished this through aerial photography or by wielding his camera from a moving armored vehicle. He intended to use photos of his maneuvers to document military events that transpired under his command. He photographed scores of motorcycles and tanks speeding across France and North Africa from many striking angles and viewpoints. However, not all of the photos were taken with a military view in mind—Rommel could not resist a good shot. He snapped many oddities that crossed his lens, including goats and dogs interrupting a military march, geometric patterns left by tire tracks, and a sandstorm crossing a desert battlefield.

Battlefield chaos provided the scenes for many of Rommel’s most striking pictures. The German commander dedicated himself not only to successfully devising strategies and leading troops under fire, but to photographing the action as it unfolded. Amid bomb bursts, ear-shattering shell explosions, and gunfire, Rommel risked his life to take compelling photos of hot war zones. Photos frequently show other soldiers around Rommel ducking for cover. Other pictures show men charging forward in assaults or firing mortars and plugging their ears amid sonic blasts and curtains of rising dust. Instead of covering his own ears, Rommel was using his hands to snap Leica pictures. As shells fell, Rommel was quick to capture the explosions and fountains of dark smoke that ensued. Rather than shield himself from enemy fire, Rommel accompanied his men on the front lines and took snapshots of some of their most daring exploits in the thick of fighting.

Soldiers of the Afrika Korps pose on top of a tank, circa 1941. Rommel photographed many scenes from soldiers’ everyday lives on the front lines. Unlike staged photos taken by Nazi propagandists, Rommel’s photographs of his men were candid and unpolished.

A sizable portion of Rommel’s photography focuses on the devastation of war. These pictures form some of the strangest and eeriest in his collection. These pictures depict only emptiness and ruin—with isolated human figures making occasional ghostly appearances. Destroyed buildings, collapsed walls, shattered inanimate objects, and bomb-tossed furniture all merited single snapshots from Rommel as he passed by them. The result is a hodgepodge of destruction. Most of these spooky photographs show intellectual contradictions. For example, his photos portray order amid disorder, broken or ruined machines, or neatly intact objects among ruins. One photograph shows a shadowy staircase on fire inside a building. Another depicts a line of torched cars parked in perfect formation along a street. An orderly row of trees in North Africa stands in the sunshine beside a shattered wall. What makes these pictures unsettling is the complete absence of human presence in most of them. It seems obvious that Rommel deliberately excluded people from these scenes, likely out of respect. Doubtless, Rommel as a soldier witnessed much destruction during his career, more so than appears in his collection. Why he chose to capture these particular scenes is a mystery.

Vehicle tracks crisscross the landscape in North Africa, circa 1941-42. Rommel tended to photograph geometric patterns due to his apparent visual interest in them.

Much can be gleaned about Rommel’s personality from the types of photos he did not take during the war. During his lifetime, Erwin Rommel was a man whose personal opinions and point of view were often understated and seemingly repressed. Absence, at times, speaks louder than presence. This is quite true in the case of Rommel’s photo collection. The photographs seized were exactly as they had been in his unaltered personal collection under the care of his family.

Rommel took no photographs of dead people. This is unusual since many war photographers visually document death. Also, many American military officers in World War II took photos of dead enemy combatants. Yet not a single dead German, Italian, or Allied soldier of any type appears among Rommel’s photos.

Similarly, gore has no place in Rommel’s photos. Pooling blood, guts, and gruesome injuries—most certainly a real part of battle—are nonexistent in the field marshal’s collection. The lone exception is the depiction of a wounded German soldier with what appears to be minor bleeding injuries being carried from the battlefield by his comrades. The wounds were a rare sight.

There is a marked absence of sadism. There are no pictures of human beings in demeaning or helpless situations. Photographs of POWs show them being treated respectfully by German soldiers there are no images of brutality or dehumanization. Inhumane images such as I have described were frequently taken by Nazi devotees or marauding German soldiers. Rommel, however, did not take any such pictures.

Rommel knelt to capture this photo of German graves in the desert framed beneath a looming artillery gun, circa 1941. He took many photographs of his men’s graves throughout his campaigns, evidently to save them as mementos.

There are no photos of debauchery. German soldiers acquired a notorious reputation for taking risqué and bawdy pictures of each other partying in France following their occupation of that country in 1940 many photographed themselves with trophy foreign girlfriends or in the company of prostitutes. German soldiers were known to have behaved similarly in Italy, Greece, and certain areas of North Africa, and many images of this type exist as proof of their behavior to this day. Rommel was present in France, Greece, Italy, and North Africa where many of these events were occurring and must have been aware of them. However, he was clearly preoccupied with his job and made no effort to create or collect photos of revelry in conquered lands.

Rommel also took no propaganda photographs. Although he frequently allowed himself to be exploited by the German government for propaganda purposes, Rommel’s viewpoint expressed through his pictures reveals an absence of Nazi Party aggrandizement. For example, Nazi Party visual propaganda emphasized racial superiority at others’ expense and centered on the cult of Hitler’s personality, in addition to swastika images and slogans. Rommel did none of these things. He took no photographs of his soldiers performing the Nazi salute. He took no photos to stage images of “racial superiority.” Nazi Party heroes and slogans, neo-pagan symbols, and other iconography associated with the Nazi regime are missing from Rommel’s pictures. Rommel’s photography contains limited photos of the swastika when present, the swastika appears on soldiers’ uniforms, military vehicles, and the German national flag.

In a similar vein, Rommel took no “war trophy” photography. It was typical for many German soldiers, particularly Nazi Party enthusiasts, to take gloating pictures of destroyed cultural landmarks in foreign countries or to photograph themselves striking victory poses in conquered territories. This was not the case for Rommel. His photo collection contains no pictures of himself or others performing acts of personal or propaganda-related cruelty.

In its entirety, Rommel’s photography collection provides a gripping visual history of World War II from the viewpoint of one of the most famous commanders in modern history. The photographs are valuable not only in view of the strategic military mind that created them, but are also silent witnesses to the war as Rommel, a lone figure against a background of vast chaos, experienced it.

It has been said that an image is worth a thousand words. Scenes captured in Rommel’s photography tell us more about him perhaps than any biographical conjecture written about him. A camera is like an open mind—what moments it chooses to dwell on reveal facts about the personality and will behind the shutter-release button. The pictures that Rommel created show us that he was a high-spirited person who tested danger, a keen observer of human irony, and a leader who enjoyed mixing with his troops, but who was drawn to scenes of personal isolation.

During the last year of his life, Rommel unfortunately destroyed many of the papers and writings that might have revealed more of his thoughts and personal convictions. His pictures, however, endure as visual documents of spontaneous and vivid moments that he never got the chance to revise, edit, or refine. His photography is significant and insightful because it gives modern historians a clear and candid view of a military leader who, throughout most of his life, tended to be minimalistic in expressing his mind.

Since the photos have been returned to Germany, it is now up to present and future generations of Germans to examine their nation’s past as captured by Rommel’s camera and develop their own analyses on a part of history that was previously lost.

At the same time, the photos open new doors for historical discoveries, providing numerous opportunities for historians, military enthusiasts, and curious onlookers in America and elsewhere to reinterpret their existing knowledge of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and his military campaigns. By viewing Rommel’s photographs, onlookers gain a rare opportunity to look through the lens to experience and share the same sights as he did during the war.


ROMMEL’S GRAVE IN HERRLINGEN

Regardless of the fact, that October 18, 1944 , is generally attributed as the funeral day of Erwin Rommel, the day included no more than a procession at the Rathaus and beyond. After the ceremony with all VIP guests were completed, the gun carriage with Rommel’s body, followed by his widow, a son, an adjutant, and a number of military men, were got to a place of the main crematorium of the city of Ulm, located to the North next to the HAUPTFRIEDHOF (Main cemetery). The city of Ulm had been historically accounted as one of the pioneers of the cremation in Germany and now the premise was destined to conceal the case of the death of the national hero. As soon as in January 1945 , only three months after Rommel’s funeral, the city crematorium would be completely devastated by mean of the Allied raid on the North part of the city.

The burial ceremony of the mortuary urn with the remains of Erwin Rommel was brought into execution in three days, no sooner than October 21, 1944 , in fact, one week after the death of the field marshal. Ulm was not initially considered as the burial place and the family insisted on a small local cemetery in Herrlingen, 200 meters distance from the villa, which would make it possible for them to visit the grave until their moving. In March 1945 Lucia Rommel would receive a letter from the chief design officer for German Military Cemeteries with the message, that he had been personally called by Hitler to erect a monument to Erwin Rommel, but these plans would never be completed due to the collapse of the Third Reich.

In modern days, the entrance to the cemetery is accompanied by a sign of remembrance to encrypt the name of the field-marshal, days of birth and death, and an arrow, pointing the direction to the burial place itself. The grave itself is being shaped with a wooden cross and two modern tables, which honor the fact, that the name of Erwin Rommel would be eternally associated with the Afrika Korps. For decades after the end of the Second World War, the former military colleges and subordinates had been visiting Herrlingen annually to honor the legacy of Erwin Rommel. Lucia Maria Rommel, wife and later widow of the Fieldmarshal was also buried in this very place, a few steps from her beloved husband back in 1971 . Manfred Rommel , the son of the national hero, had been visiting the grave of his father for almost seven decades until his death in 2013 . Manfred was buried within the cemetery of Ostfilderfriedhof in Stuttgart.

No monuments to Erwin Rommel would ever be raised in Germany. It is very easy to believe that, if he somehow knew of it, Rommel would be pleased by that fact: for all of his vanity, he was never guilty of ostentation. He would be quite satisfied, certainly, with the knowledge that his ashes are buried, as he had wished, in the cemetery at the Community Church of St. Andrew in Herrlingen, and that Lucie rests beside him.

Daniel Allen Butler (The life and death of Erwin Rommel, 2015)


Field Marshal and Defeat Near El Alamein

Field Marshal Rommel&aposs success would be short-lived, however. Only five months after the Battle of Gazala, in the fall of 1942, British forces recaptured Tobruk at the (Second) Battle of El Alamein, which took place near the Egyptian city of El Alamein. With North Africa lost, in 1943, Rommel was recalled to Europe to oversee the defense of the Atlantic coast.

In early 1944, Rommel was entrusted with the French Channel coast&aposs defense against a possible Allied invasion. Around this same time, Rommel began to express doubt about both Germany&aposs reasons for participating in the war and Hitler&aposs capability of peace-making, and the field marshal was told by a group of friends that he should lead the nation once Hitler was overthrown. Rommel dismissed the suggestion, unaware at the time that the men had been planning to assassinate the German leader.


The Desert Fox takes command of the German Afrika Korps

Today on February 12th 1941, German General Erwin Rommel arrives in North Africa to support his beleaguered Italian allies.

Erwin Rommel, nicknamed the Desert Fox, was one of Germany’s most decorated field commanders during World War II. Rommel experienced great success as the commander of the 7th Panzer Division during the 1940 Invasion of France. Throughout the war, he became a larger than life figure among both Axis and Allied forces. In early 1941, Hitler established a new Deutsches Afrika Korps to support and reinforce his beleaguered Italian allies. Mussolini’s invasion of North Africa was crumbling by the day with Britain delivering countless defeats. Italy had lost control of Egypt, suffering more than 20,000 casualties and over 100,000 soldiers being taken prisoner.

Rommel was dispatched to Tripoli, Libya to take command of the 5th Light Division and 15th Panzer Division. He was initially only given control over the German and and Italian forces located in Libya. However he would quickly assume command over the entire North African Campaign. The German High Command ordered Rommel to take up a defensive position in Libya and prepare for a British assault. Instead he opted to launch an offensive attack first with encouragement from Hitler. These conflicting orders highlighted the growing disagreement between Hitler and his generals.

Rommel reaffirmed his reputation as a formidable commander after a series of surprise attacks against the British. Impressed with his success in North Africa, Hitler promoted Rommel to field marshal. However, it quickly became apparent that Rommel had difficulty capitalizing on his victories. The Germans continued to struggle in the intense desert heat and were constantly running low on supplies and ammunition. While attempting to advance on Cario, Rommel was defeated at El-Alamein and eventually lost all of his newly regained territory. Across the Arab world, Rommel was dubbed a “liberator” from British authority. Hitler ordered him home in March 1943.


Rommel first gained attention in the First World War. As a young German officer, he experienced mobile warfare on the Romanian and Italian fronts, avoiding the bogged down trench fighting. Smart and courageous, he earned several of Germany’s highest honors, including two Iron Crosses.

Rommel in an armored vehicle. Por Bundesarchiv & # 8211 CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Politically astute, Rommel ingratiated himself with the Nazi leadership as they took control of Germany. His style of command involved more micro-management than was usual in Germany, but because of his political connections, it did not hinder his career.

At the start of the Second World War, Rommel commanded the troops guarding Hitler’s headquarters during the invasion of Poland. He then used Hitler’s favor to win command of a Panzer Division, skipping the usual line for a promotion.

In France, Rommel proved his worth as a tank commander. Using the boldness that had won him distinction in the previous war, he led his division in a decisive advance. He waded into icy waters and wielded a machine gun during a difficult river crossing. His troops were credited with capturing 100,000 Allied prisoners.

When Italian troops were in trouble in North Africa, Rommel was sent to help them. It was to be a token effort, but a bold strike by Rommel drove the British back. Two years of back-and-forth campaigning followed. Operation Torch, in which the Americans arrived, opened a second front and led to the defeat of Axis forces in North Africa.

Briefly involved in the defense of Italy, Rommel was then moved to Normandy. He prepared defenses and fought against the 1944 Allied invasion. However, his tactical flexibility was limited by Hitler’s commands.

In July 1944, he was severely wounded when a British fighter strafed his car. While recuperating, he was implicated in a plot to kill Hitler. Given a choice between suicide and a show trial, he took his own life on October 14.

These often-chilling pictures offer us a fascinating insight into the hardware the Allies were up against in this theatre of WW2. The campaign was hard and bloody and left many hundreds of thousands dead, missing, wounded, or captured, but the fascist alliance of Germany and Italy was ultimately driven from the land. After the campaign, the Allies would turn their attention to Italy, where they would win another crucial victory in the fight against militant fascism in Europe.

The arrival of the first Afrika Korps troops. Rommel greets an Italian officer Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 A Captured British Mk II Mathilda Tank near Tobruk – Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 A German soldier with goggles and a scarf to protect him from the desert sand Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 A German private first class (Gefreiter) carries a Panzerbüchse 39 tank hunting rifle through the desert. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 General Rommel with General von Bismarck, commander of the 21st Panzer Division discussing tactics on a map. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 Erwin Rommel and Fritz Bayerlein standing in an open staff car in Tobruk harbor Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 Supplies being delivered in the desert Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 The commander of a Panzer Mk II stands in his turret another Mk II can be seen in the background. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 German soldiers with binoculars in German Half Track, Sd. Kfz 250. A Panzer Mk III can be seen on the right. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 German soldiers sleeping on their Luftwaffe BMW with sidecars Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 A Panzer Mk III drives through the desert. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 June 1st, 1942 after the battle at Bir Hacheim, a German Half Track Sd. Kfz. 251 with what appears to be a radio antenna. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 A Half-Track tows an 88mm gun through the desert Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 A 5 Ton Half-Track, Sd.Kfz. 6, tows an 88mm gun Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 An 88mm gun being towed into position near El Alamein Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 German troops near a mosque Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 German soldiers in a light Half Track, Sd. Kfz, 250 overlooking the battle (smoking vehicles can be seen in the background) Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 Close up of the gun of a Panzer Mk IV, 7,5 cm KwK/L24 Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 German troops near a building that has “Reserved for Signalers. No Parking within 500 YDS” written on it Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 German troops driving in a hairpin turn up a mountain in Africa, note the tank with a track missing. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 Tunisia, a heavy field howitzer firing Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 Erwin Rommel and General Fritz Bayerlein in their command vehicle, a Sd.Kfz. 250/3 “Greif” Half Track. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 A medium half-track, Sd. Kfz. 251 with antenna Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0


Assista o vídeo: Erwin Rommel, o general alemão que triunfou na África na Segunda Guerra. History to Go (Outubro 2021).