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Rommel's recovery

Wehrmacht soldier hospital


After being wounded on July 17, 1944, Rommel was taken to the hospital of the French Cathedral of St. Joseph in Livarot, then the same night to the Luftwaffe hospital in Bernay. The next day, Rommel finally came to his senses and Major Behr Winrich was assigned to look after him.

Description of Rommel's physical condition and recovery process from the memoirs of Behr Winrich:

July 18

I first came to the ward to Rommel. He recognized me and greeted me. Despite his great weakness, he wishes to return to headquarters now. Against his wishes, he needs to stay in bed for about three weeks. I informed him that the surgery did not save the life of the driver Daniel.


July 21

Contrary to expectations, Rommel recovers very quickly. Despite this, in Bern he hears a lot of passing military convoys, because of this he worries and wants to know what is happening on the battlefields. He needs to be moved to another place.


July 22

After 9 am, in cloudy weather and low clouds, Speidel and I choose the shortest route to leave the city. As soon as we entered Rommel's room, he immediately sat down to show us that everything was fine with him. His left eye is still closed, and his face is full of cuts. He said that he was able to get up after the first night, and even wanted to shave, although he was forbidden to do so. In Bernay, quite close to the front, it seems that this man will not be able to get the rest that the doctors have prescribed for him. He is very concerned about the situation on the battlefields. We do not tell him everything, but he tries to get information from anyone he can. We asked him to calm down and be reasonable, not hoping that this would have any effect.


July 23 (Sunday)

At 5 a.m., an ambulance arrived for Field Marshal Rommel to take him to Le Vésinet, on the right bank of the Seine, east of Saint Germain. The journey took three and a half hours. After 9 o'clock he asked me when I would come to him again. I have to leave because he has a medical checkup with a new doctor this afternoon. Dr. Esch arrived to treat Rommel from the University of Leipzig. The first inspection proved to be very satisfactory, due to Rommel's general physical condition, in spite of the fact that the morning's journey had exhausted him. The doctor asked me to distract the field marshal so that he was completely calm. I spoke to Rommel, then read him a book called "Weekend on Castle Denbeck", that is perfect for this purpose. This book does not arouse much interest in Rommel, although it has a calming effect. Then he tells me about the general situation and about his passionate desire to get well soon and personally express this to Hitler. I stayed with him for another hour, which definitely helped him.


July 24

I arrived late at the hospital, as the marshal slept long after yesterday. He is taking medication. I read the second part of "Weekend on Castle Denbeck" to him, after which we talk about various topics. He very much wants to get well soon, although he understands that it will take a long time. After leaving, I spoke with his nurse, an elderly woman, who made a good impression on me. She was surprised at how undemanding her patient was.


July 25

I'm trying to find the right book for the marshal. Finally, I found the book "The Tunnel" by Kellermann, and a couple of other books. I think this book will be better than the day before. Rommel tells me in detail how he received the "Pour le Mérit" Cross. As soon as I began to read, the doctor with whom I spoke came in. He is pleased with Rommel's recovery process, but is unsure if his left eye will be able to see. Rommel, apparently, is also worried.


July 26

In the afternoon I went to see Rommel, who was suffering from a headache. We talked about the situation, then he told me about his family. I started reading "The Tunnel" to him and Rommel got interested in the technical stuff.


July 27

I'm going to the marshal. Sitting on the edge of the bed to eat, with a confident blow, he kills a fly with his slipper. He tells me about North Africa, then about Goebbels, and then about the use of artillery by the British and Russians.


July 28

In the afternoon I go to the hospital. Before I went to see Rommel, I listened to Dr. Esch, who told me about the progress of the marshal's recovery. While I was reading the book, Rommel killed a fly again, so I reproached him. The doctor ordered him to move slowly and carefully. "That's exactly what I do," replied Rommel, laughing.


July 29

Rommel is in a very good mood. For almost an hour and a half he told me about his "Ghost Division", the 7th Panzer Division, which he commanded from February 1940, not being a tank specialist at that time. I can't read to him.


July 30 (Sunday)

I came to see Rommel in the afternoon, he was still in a good mood. He wants to leave on Thursday and had a bit of a fight with the doctor because he didn't follow the instructions. It's not easy, it's hard to keep him here, as he has become more active. The British have already made statements about different versions of his injury. The wound does not interfere with his mental activity and his eyelid has become mobile, which is already pleasing. I read to him and then we talk about the situation. He expressed the idea that in general he was lucky. I agreed with him, but I think it would be better to have a broken arm than a skull. In any case, this is a way out for him when he was given great responsibility, but was not given freedom of action.


July 31

I arrived at the hospital just as Dr. Esch was about to call on Rommel and ask him to delay the move. I try to convince Rommel, but he loses his temper. He is a marshal and knows what is best for him, and he is fully responsible for himself. Then he calmed down and agreed to wait until Monday, August 7th, after which he would be transferred to Germany. Then he told me that due to the general situation, he could not wait long and that he had to leave on August 3rd. The doctors are right in prescribing rest for him, but he is restless. He runs around his room, sits too long, takes out his new uniform, shows me a new pair of boots, puts on one to try on. I read him a book about navigation, which amused him. I return to La Roche-Guyon around 10:30 pm and go to Speidel to tell him the news about Rommel.


August 1

In the afternoon I go to Rommel's. He is still sleeping because he met with a man from the Ministry of Propaganda early in the morning. The doctor is delighted that Speidel managed to delay his departure until early next week, and considers this a masterpiece of diplomacy. Rommel looks good, the bruise around the eye and the swelling are almost completely gone, but the left eyebrow is still a little puffed up. For the first time, the pulse and pressure improved greatly, there is no temperature, all this indicates the progress of recovery. We are talking about the situation. Yodel is a big mystery to him. Then he was visited by Warlimont. I read him several humorous stories.

August 2

In the afternoon, I bring Rommel the final report on the use of aviation by the Allied forces on June 6th. He is already healthy and agreed to wait for the move to Germany. We talked about the usual topics and I read him a little. Major Neuhaus came to visit, who was sitting behind the driver during the accident. It took ten days to determine the fracture of his pelvis from the explosion of a 20mm projectile in his cobra.   


August 3

It is officially announced that Erwin Rommel was the victim of a "car accident". The Marshal is outraged that the press release does not mention the intervention of an enemy aircraft. Undoubtedly it is considered that this does not correspond to the rank of marshal. In the afternoon I return to the hospital. Rommel addresses me with very cordial words and expresses his gratitude to me in writing.


The continuation of Behr Winrich's memoirs has not been preserved. The description of the last four days is missing. On August 8, Erwin Rommel was taken to Ulm.


A well-known fact according to Friedrich Oskar Ruge. Just on August 1, during a visit to Rommel in the hospital by representatives of the Ministry of Propaganda, the famous photo of the Field Marshal in uniform and with his left eye closed was taken. During the photo shoot, Rommel said, "Take a picture of me so the British know they failed to kill me." The photo has probably been retouched and edited. According to eyewitnesses, the visual physical condition of the marshal was more difficult than we see in this picture.

Erwin Rommel in the hospital in 1944
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