We put a Nazi general on a pedestal and wonder why we have neo-NazisRoundup
tags: Nazis, military history, Neo Nazis
Robert Scott Kellner, grandson of Friedrich Kellner, is a retired English professor who taught at the University of Massachusetts and Texas A&M University. He served six years in the U.S. Navy. He published the diary in its original language in Germany in 2011 and is the editor and translator of My Opposition: The Diary of Friedrich Kellner -- A German against the Third Reich, published by Cambridge University Press, 2018.
October 14 marks the 75th anniversary of the death of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. There will be a new round of encomiums to celebrate the man, but it is unlikely any will surpass the breathless tribute for the 65th anniversary by General Wesley Clark in his foreword to the military historian Charles Messenger's Rommel in Palgrave Macmillan's Great Generals series:
"No foreign general has ever quite inspired as much passion, curiosity and respect among Americans," General Clark writes, " . . . and still sets the standard for a style of daring, charismatic leadership to which most officers aspire, especially the up and coming leaders of his former adversaries."
Charles Messenger agreed: "Although he had his faults, not least a blindness to the evil of the regime he served, they are outshone by his unique qualities. He will continue to be studied with profit for many years to come."
It took us 150 years to recognize the absurdity of raising statues to deluded generals; so while we are pulling Robert E. Lee off his bronze horse, is it not time to bring an end to glamorizing a man who in both world wars was fervently on the side of the aggressor nation, who commanded Adolf Hitler's personal bodyguard -- the Führer's Escort Battalion -- and became Hitler's favorite general?
The adulation of Lee may have played a role in the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and an entire century of discrimination against black Americans. What do we get from idolizing a Nazi general (besides millions of impressionable boys eager to be "The Desert Fox" in computer wargames)? A world plagued by neo-Nazis, raising their arms in salute to the same mass murderer Rommel swore an oath to.
Ironically, Erwin Rommel was one of the world's biggest military losers. Despite a few major successes in the most important assignment of his career, in North Africa, where he got his nickname and General Wesley Clark's admiration for his "daring" and "charismatic leadership," Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps was soundly defeated. He went home in disgrace, allowing the Allies to freely cross from North Africa to Italy on their way to ending history's most monstrous regime.
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