People & Events: Erwin Rommel (1891-1944)
Dubbed the "Desert Fox" for the skillful military campaigns he waged on behalf of the German military in North Africa, Erwin Rommel earned the grudging respect of even his adversaries.
At the start of World War II, Rommel was largely responsible for Adolf Hitler's personal safety as he sought to expand his Nazi empire. Despite the tactical brilliance Rommel displayed in North Africa, German advances there were halted in 1943. In January 1944, Rommel was made commander in chief of all German armies from the Netherlands to the Loire River.
In France, Rommel sought to fortify Nazi territory and prevent an Allied invasion. He was not successful. On June 6, 1944, while Rommel was in Germany celebrating his wife's birthday, the Allies landed at Normandy. Soon after, Rommel was seriously wounded when Allied aircraft strafed his motorcar. As a result, he was forced to return to Germany to recover.
While he was hospitalized, a failed attempt on Hitler's life was made. Rommel, a recent critic of Hitler's leadership, was implicated in the plot. Shortly thereafter, two German soldiers visited Rommel's sickbed. They offered him the unpleasant choice of committing suicide by ingesting poison pills or standing trial in what would most likely be a rigged and losing effort. Rommel chose the poison.
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