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The last day of the life of Erwin Rommel

Rommel says goodbye to his son Manfred

 

On October 14, 1944, the last day of his life, Erwin Rommel woke up at 7 am, had breakfast and went for a walk in the garden with his son. Manfred returned from military service to Herrlingen by train at 6 am at the personal request of Erwin Rommel. Officially, Manfred was supposed to rest from the service only after a week.

While walking through the trees, Rommel counted five trucks full of armed soldiers in civilian clothes. He told his son that a couple of generals from Berlin would come to visit them at noon. He explained that most of his friends and associates had already been executed or arrested, so he was very worried. Nevertheless, Rommel hoped and considered the best option for their visit would be to send him to the Eastern Front. Before meeting with the Nazi emissaries, Rommel changed into an Afrika Korps tunic.

Hitler's envoys Wilhelm Burgdorf and Ernst Maisel arrived at Rommel's house at noon. They politely asked to speak to Rommel alone. They presented him with a final choice: commit suicide with cyanide or stand trial in the so-called people's court. They warned Rommel that the option of a people's court concerns not only himself, but also his entire family. In any case, all of these show trials for the "July 20 plot" ended with the death penalty.

Rommel agreed to commit suicide but insisted on telling his family what was going on. The Nazis agreed, but on the condition that his family did not divulge this secret. Rommel approached his son Manfred and said in a tense voice: "In a quarter of an hour I will die!" Shocked, Manfred asked his father, "Can't we protect ourselves?" Rommel replied: "There is no point! Better one to die than all of us to die in a gunfight."

Also present at the house was Hermann Aldinger, Rommel's old friend from the First World War and Rommel's personal adjutant. Erwin and Hermann have been best friends for many years, ever since they fought together as infantrymen. The Nazis tried to keep Aldinger talking so that Rommel could talk to Manfred and his wife. Then Rommel still called Aldinger and told him what would happen. Aldinger was shocked and outraged. He was more willing to die fighting for a friend than just leave him alone to die. However, Rommel reassured him.

Before leaving, Rommel said: "I have to go. They only gave me ten minutes." He went upstairs to say goodbye to his wife: "I will die in fifteen minutes ... On behalf of the Fuhrer, I am given a choice: either poison myself or appear before the people's court. Stülpnagel, Speidel and Hofaker made compromising statements. In addition, I was on the list of Mayor Goerdeler as Reich President." His wife could hardly hold back her tears until she saw the Opel car, which left with her husband towards the deserted exit from the city, and not towards Ulm.

 

After saying goodbye to his wife, he put on his coat and left the house, accompanied by Manfred and Aldinger, stopping once so that his beloved dachshund would not try to follow him and said: "Manfred, I think Speidel is also finished. Take care of Frau Speidel!" The villagers witnessed Rommel's last goodbye to his son and old comrade in the form of quick handshakes. Rommel entered the car in the back seat, while Burgdorf and Maisel sat on either side of him in the back seat to prevent him from escaping. At the wheel of the car was SS-Hauptscharführer Heinrich Doose, who hurriedly drove the field marshal up the slope to the exit from the city.

Rommel met his death in a quiet, wooded area far from potential witnesses, a 15-minute drive from his home in Herrlingen. Arriving there, Rommel was given an ampoule of poison and left alone in the car. The driver Heinrich Doose wrote after the war that Meisel took him along the path away from the car, and Burgdorf remained smoking not far from the car. After 5-10 minutes, Burgdorf called them back. Returning to the car, he saw the field marshal, hunched over and in tears, dying: the ampoule was empty, the cap fell to the floor, the marshal's baton fell out of his hand. The driver, Heinrich Doose, opened the back door, raised his cap and put it on the field marshal's head, and also put the marshal's baton in his hand.

According to Manfred Rommel, just 20 minutes after his father was taken away, the phone rang. Aldinger picked up the phone and was informed that Erwin Rommel had died. It is also known that on this day, while Rommel was still alive, the wreaths for his funeral ceremony were already prepared.

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