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Northern Italy and Normandy

After much-needed treatment, in June 1943, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel set about creating the so-called "Rommel working Headquarters," under the personal supervision of Adolf Hitler. The headquarters dealt exclusively with Mediterranean issues. He investigated the events in the Mediterranean Sea, was engaged in maps, plans and analysis of information. Hitler did not use Rommel on the Eastern Front, as he had no experience of war with the Russians. He kept the Desert Fox to fight the British and Americans well known to him.

While at the headquarters, seeing the Fuehrer's entourage and their judgments, Rommel became convinced that Hitler was far from the man for whom propaganda passed him off. Rommel was blacklisted by many people at headquarters because of his understanding of the real state of affairs. Rommel's limit of confidence in Hitler was running out.

At Rommel's headquarters, a circle of acquaintances appeared who agreed on the murderous policy of Hitler. A plan was developed to disband the OKW and overthrow many leaders, such as Keitel, Jodl, Goering and then Hitler. All team members saw Erwin Rommel as commander-in-chief of Germany. The Desert Fox graciously declined the offer as he never wanted to get involved in politics.

Rommel and Manstein took turns pressing Hitler every day with a proposal to reorganize the headquarters, but all attempts were in vain. Rommel was already thinking about the possibilities of contact with the Western powers. Subsequently, it was planned to eliminate the leadership of Germany and leave only Hitler in the post, devoid of a poisonous sting. The plans collapsed after Manstein dropped out of the game, retiring on the orders of Hitler.

Erwin Rommel staff car

On July 21, 1943, Erwin Rommel was appointed commander of Army Group "B", which had previously included the 6th Paulus Army. This Army Group was transferred to Greece, and the Field Marshal even spent 1 day in Thessaloniki, but on July 25, there was a message about the coup of Badoglio and the overthrow of Mussolini. Duce was arrested, the situation in Italy was difficult, Rommel was urgently recalled to the "Wolf's Lair". He was entrusted with the task of organizing the defense of Northern Italy, since in this situation the landing of the Alliance was very real.

The Field Marshal was faced with the task of disarming the Italian divisions in Northern Italy, through which all the lines of communication of the German Southern Front passed. Rommel had to disarm the powerful and well-armed units of the Italians, having at his disposal German troops significantly inferior to the enemy in numbers and firepower.

German troops in Northern Italy in 1943

Rommel once again confirmed that he was called the Desert Fox for a reason. As a result of a daring operation, it was possible to force a large garrison in Milan to surrender. Rommel was opposed by 40,000 soldiers and the resistance fighters who joined them, but the Desert Fox devised and carried out a cunning plan: after a false air raid, German reconnaissance companies infiltrated the city and captured key positions in the Italian defensive formations. After the alarm was cleared, they captured and disarmed the soldiers who were leaving the shelters. After that, Rommel's 8 divisions were inactive, since there was no one to fight in Northern Italy.

Kesselring was in charge of Southern Italy. During the next visit of Rommel to Hitler, he convinced him that the troops concentrated in Italy were not able to repel the landing of the Alliance troops. Rommel proposed to start building fortifications and develop a plan of counterattacks, which would allow cutting the enemy and entering the rear. He also demanded the appointment of only one general commander in Italy. To the surprise of everyone present, Hitler agreed to the plan and gave the order: "To appoint Field Marshal Erwin Rommel as commander-in-chief of the expeditionary forces of the Third Reich in Italy, subjecting all the ground, air and naval forces to him." Rommel had a hope in the future to persuade Hitler to start negotiations with representatives of the Alliance.

Alliance landing in Southern Italy, 1943

As a result of the maneuvers of Jodl, Keitel, and all their henchmen, the signature of the above order was postponed. After the exhausted Rommel called Keitel, he finally realized that he would never be able to wait for the order to arrive. Kesselring was appointed commander in Italy, who promised Hitler to throw Anglo-American troops into the sea. In his report, Rommel did not even mention such a possibility, because in fact there was no such opportunity: the British and Americans were thoroughly entrenched in the south with powerful support from the sea and air.

The confrontation and controversy lasted until October 1943, with the result that Rommel's relationship with Hitler was simply critical. At the same time, Rommel did not lose hope of saving Germany - during a conversation with a like-minded person from OKW, Rommel said: "I am probably the only one who can do something against Hitler today."

Rommel and von Rundstedt

Preparations began for the expected landing of the Alliance troops on the northern coast of Europe. Rommel in November 1943 was appointed commander-in-chief of Army Group "B", where the 7th and 15th Armies were subordinate to him. He has carried out inspections in Denmark, the Netherlands and Northern France. In February 1944, he received his headquarters at the old castle of La Roche-Guyon. At the huge table of Louis XIV, Rommel looked more than convincing.

Anticipating the landing site of the Alliance forces, Rommel began to build fortification redoubts of the Atlantic Wall in Normandy. Considering the fact that the Luftwaffe was almost unable to cover from the sky, all these obstacles were useless. For this reason, Rommel planned to meet the enemy on the territory of Normandy, and then strike with a large tank fist. Unfortunately, he was unable to convince his superior, Field Marshal von Rundstedt.

Rommel in Normandy, 1944

Like a year before at El Alamein, Rommel felt that the battle would be lost. He did not consider the Atlantic Wall to be a fortress - holes had to be closed everywhere. He talked about the fact that the troops of the Alliance can be defeated immediately after the landing with one powerful tank strike. If you meet them on the shore, let them land and creak, then the war will be lost. Von Rundstedt did not hear Rommel and placed all reserves in the center of France, far from the coast.

Back in January 1944, Rommel was visited by the Ober-Burgomaster Strehlin, who told him about the plans to overthrow the Fuhrer from power. He assured Rommel that there was no better candidate for the post of the "second Hindenburg" than the national general Rommel. Due to the critical situation for Germany and the realization that Hitler was going crazy, Rommel agreed. Shortly before the invasion, Rommel once again came to Hitler in order to influence him, but nothing came of it.

D-Day, US troops landing

On the night of June 6, 1944, D-Day began. The width of the invasion front was about 100 km. The force of the Alliance forces' strike surpassed even gloomy forecasts. Like the decisive blow at El Alamein, the Allies were planning an offensive while Rommel was away from the front. Everyone knew that June 6 was the birthday of Rommel's wife and he would be with his family in Ulm. Due to the absence of Rommel, the headquarters was unable to quickly use reserve forces and help the dying 21st Panzer Division. No one dared to wake the mad Hitler to obtain the necessary permits. The US Army gained time, secured a foothold, and it was no longer possible to throw them back into the sea.

The German naval and aviation forces were no longer a threat to the US army. In this situation, the Wehrmacht massively retreated to the borders of Germany under pressure from superior Americans in everything. On June 17, 1944, Hitler arrived on the Western Front. Von Rundstedt and Rommel tried to influence Hitler by describing the real state of affairs at the front. Rommel categorically stated that in this situation a defensive war was impossible and retreat was inevitable. Hitler rejected everything, did not agree with anything, nor wanted to listen to anything. At the end of the meeting, Rommel said that he was glad that the top leadership had finally come to the front and saw everything with their own eyes, and that all the troubles stemmed from the fact that they were commanded by "armchair commanders". Hitler was so discouraged by such frankness that he could not even find an answer.

Rommel is inspecting Atlantic Wall, 1944

On July 9, the liaison Oberstleutenant von Hofacker arrived at the castle of La Roche-Guyon to Rommel, who outlined a plan for a military coup and invited Marshal Rommel to lead negotiations with the Alliance countries to conclude peace. Rommel fully agreed. The conspirators planned Erwin Rommel the second most popular man after Hitler in Germany, to be proclaimed the Reich President. Prior to this, in January Rommel had already agreed to Strehlin to take this post. According to this version, von Hofacker did not tell Rommel that one of the main stages of the conspiracy was the physical elimination of Hitler. Rommel was never privy to the details of the June 20 conspiracy.

On July 12, 1944, not long before the fall of Romania, Rommel was awarded the "Romanian Order of Michael III the Brave II Class". There is no explanation of the reasons for the award. On July 15, 1944, Rommel sent a memo to Hitler, where he described the situation, gave the numbers and gave a complete analysis of the situation. The answer was not what Rommel wished to see. At that moment, he no longer hesitated about Hitler and planned, after the military coup and the completion of negotiations with the Alliance, to organize a "People's Trial of Hitler."

Erwin Rommel inspection in Normandy, 1944
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