May 20, 2008

You Magnificent Bastard, I'm Reading Your Book!

Well, not really, but the line was too good not to use.

Actually, what I am reading is this:


Knight's Cross: A Life of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel by David Fraser.

In fact, I've just started and am only sixty-odd pages into it, but there is something so engaging in Fraser's style that I can rarely remember being this enthusiastic about a book so early on in reading it. Some reviewers have criticized the book a bit because it is short on personal details of Rommel's life (indeed, Fraser skootches right over his youth and I'm already well into his combat experience in France, Rumania and Italy during WWI), but I don't mind since what I'm looking for is, in fact, mostly an account of his military exploits.

I've always been of the opinion that Rommel was in many ways an admirable man: honorable, upright, militarily brilliant. Even Churchill praised him - and in the middle of the war, too. Nonetheless, it's a mighty tricky proposition to be sympathetic to somebody who, after all, was a fairly senior Nazi leader - much harder than supporting, say, a Confederate general like Lee. You can certainly argue that Rommel was a German and a Soldier first and at best a lukewarm Nazi, and that he eventually paid for this with his life at the hands of Hitler's regime. But that stigma never quite goes away. Nonetheless, I do believe this is going to be an extremely enjoyable and informative book.

Posted by Robert at May 20, 2008 09:38 AM | TrackBack

Rommel's book, Infanterie Greift An, is excellent. It is published in English as "Attacks" and was one of my favorite books as an infantry lieutenant. It is about Rommel's career as a platoon leader and company commander in WWI. He was in a mountain warfare unit that saw action on the French, Romanian, and Italian fronts, so his WWI experience was quite different from the usual slogging through the trenches.

In Patton, they show it as "The Tank in Attack" which always makes me cringe. Rommel had no experience with tanks prior to the 1930s.

Posted by: The Abbot at May 20, 2008 10:18 AM

Rommel and von Manstein were about as honorable as the German Army got. If I remember correctly, von Manstein was acquitted by the Nuremberg Tribunals because he refused to promulgate the infamous Commissar Order in his sector of the Eastern Front. Rommel, of course, was forced to commit suicide by the Nazis after his implication in the bomb plot.

I regard them as decent men caught up in service to the worst cause imaginable. Von Manstein's book "Lost Victories" is also a classic.

Posted by: The Abbot at May 20, 2008 10:24 AM