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Posted on Aug 19, 2008 in Books and Movies

Rommel’s Peace – Book Review

By Alexander Wilson

Rommel’s Peace. By Lawrence Wells. Yoknapatawpha Press, 2008. 201 pages. Paperback. US $14.95.

Perhaps the greatest obstacle Rommel has to face is himself.

Rommel’s Peace—a sequel to Rommel and the Rebel, Lawrence Wells’ earlier novel—is a fast-paced, fictional work which takes as its basis a presumption that German field marshal Erwin Rommel sent out peace feelers to the Western Allies prior to D-Day. Wells ties in one of the main characters from his first book, U.S. Army Lieutenant Max Speigner, with Rommel’s efforts to establish a cease-fire with the British and Americans before D-Day commences.

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The story is set in occupied France, May 1944, where Rommel—disgruntled with Hitler, depressed by the progress of the war, and ashamed of the vile acts committed by the Nazis, primarily against the Jews—has decided to take a major gamble: he will attempt to contact the British and Americans and arrange a cease-fire with them on the Western Front.

In his attempt to contact Dwight Eisenhower and Winston Churchill, Rommel plucks Speigner out of a POW camp in Bavaria and sends him to Britain with a message of peace. “We, many of us, are ashamed to have fought in the service of a madman . . . Now is the time to stop fighting, go home, repair the damage. We shall punish those responsible for terrorizing civilians, for what has been done to the Jews,” he tells Speigner, before sending him to Britain. However, as the events in the novel play out—those based on fact and those completely fictional—Rommel’s dream of peace on the Western Front slowly becomes less and less possible and eventually ceases to exist altogether.

His first obstacle is the Allied policy of unconditional surrender. The Allies’ attitude towards the Soviets also poses a problem—a major condition of Rommel’s surrender offer is that the Germans be allowed to retain their weapons and transfer all of their manpower from the Western to the Eastern Front. The field marshal hopes the Allied leaders will agree with him when he says that the British, Americans and Germans all have a mutual enemy in the Communists of the Soviet Union. Of course, there is always Hitler to worry about. Odds are the Fuhrer will not take kindly to any mention of the word “peace.”

Yet, perhaps the greatest obstacle Rommel has to face is himself. Although a highly talented strategist and tactician, his skills as a diplomat are poor, to say the least. He has no knowledge of how to effectively, yet clandestinely, establish contact with Churchill and SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force). His planning and orders to Speigner before the ex-POW departs for Britain are vague and not well thought out. Rommel, master of mechanized warfare, is depicted as amazingly unskilled and almost naïve when it comes to diplomacy. When Speigner asks, “What am I to say when the British pick me up?” Rommel simply shrugs his shoulders and replies, “Tell them you have a message for Ike.”

Whether or not the Desert Fox really would have been that diplomatically clumsy, and whether or not he would have been able to establish a solid contact with the Allies, are topics for debate.

Of course, Rommel ultimately fails in his effort to establish a cease-fire. At every turn, the double-headed monster comprised of his lack of diplomatic finesse and the magnitude of the difficulties he faces rears its ugly head.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you very much Mr. Swick for posting my review. I–and all the other members of the ACG forums–deeply appreciate all of the time and hard work you put into this excellent, well-managed and well-formatted website.

    Regards,
    Alex
    CC

  2. Lately, some motivated elements are trying to besmirch Field Marshal Rommel’s well earned reputation for fair mindedness, chivalry and personal integrity, who easily happens to the most outstanding military commander of World War II. He would have vanquished Montgomery had Hitler given him a few divisions and some supplies.

    Rommel’s splendid record as a general, husband and father and basic decency needs no certification by fringe groups, which always thrive on creating controversies where none exist, even if they have to resort to character assassination, or take the help of half truths to pass them off as plausible facts, because that is the only way they can grab your attention.

    For instance, novelist David Baldacci sums up the business of half-truths very pointedly in The Whole Truth, about how notorious arms dealer Nicholas Creel won’t stop at anything to sell billions of dollars of lethal weapons and set the world on fire, even if that takes a million lives. He employs the sinister tools of ‘Perception Management’ to accomplish his nefarious ends without a finger being raised at him.

    Those who are casting slurs on the field marshal as a ‘racist’s don’t seem to be familiar with basic facts. Do they know that Rommel put his foot down when some racist South African generals in the British Army insisted on segregating themselves from their enlisted men, just because they happened to be blacks, at the time of surrender. The Desert Fox firmly reminded them of the oath they had taken together to serve their country. So he would not permit them to stay in separate barracks.

    Did Rommel’s detractors know that he tore up the Fuhrer’s order decreeing that all British commandos should be executed if captured alive? Similarly, Rommel trashed Mussolini’s message to exterminate Tunisian Muslim tribals for murdering Italian soldiers who had raped their women, because he had the wisdom to see it could ignite a rebellion in his own Afrika Korps’ backyard.

    How many generals in the US or European armies or even politicians today would be as perceptive or as courageous.
    Rommel had the guts to defy an absolute dictator like Hitler when circumstances demanded. He partook of the same Spartan rations that his men shared with the POWs, even to few ounces of water.

    Had Rommel been alive today, he would have been the world’s greatest corporate honcho and administrator par excellence. I don’t think any military would ever come within hollering distance of Afrika Korps in terms of performance, prowess or sheer bravery. By the force of his character and personality, Rommel had forged his miniscule army into the finest fighting formation in the history of modern warfare.
    Shudip

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