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Desert Fox - The Story of Rommel

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(man) The time is 1941, a month before Pearl Harbor.
At eleven o'clock, on a November night,
a British submarine surfaced in the Mediterranean
off the coast of Libya in North Africa, behind the German lines.
- Are you sure the light carries that far? - It should.
There they are.
- What's he saying? - He says they're all set, sir.
Tell him we're coming in.
These were British commandos,
and the purpose of this carefully plotted raid was the death of one man.
Cover me.
- It's no use. Go on. - Get hold of my arm.
- It's no use, I tell you. Get out of here. - (gunfire)
Did we... Did we get him?
Are you serious, Englishman?
The following order from General Auchinleck
is to all commanders and chiefs of staff of the Middle East forces.
"There exists a real danger that our friend Rommel
is becoming a kind of magician or bogeyman to our troops,
who are talking far too much about him."
"He is by no means a superman,
although he is undoubtedly very energetic and able."
"Even if he were a superman, it would still be highly undesirable
that our men should credit him with supernatural powers."
"I wish you to dispel by all possible means
the idea that Rommel represents something more than an ordinary German general."
"Ensure that this order is put into immediate effect,
and impress upon all commanders
that, from a psychological point of view, it is a matter of the highest importance."
Signed: CJ Auchinleck, General,
Commander-in-Chief, MEF.
This is the North African desert in June of 1942,
and these are British soldiers taken prisoner the night before
by units of the German Afrika Korps.
Run, you fool! Run!
You, come on! Get out of there!
Get over with the other prisoners.
Who is the senior officer here?
- I am, I suppose. - Come with me.
- Rank? - Lieutenant colonel.
I want you to go with these two officers, under a flag of truce,
and tell that battery to stop firing. Tell them they're killing their own men.
- Sorry, I can't do that. - I'm giving you an order.
Here, tie this on that rifle.
Listen, Major, I'm a prisoner of war. You can't give me any such order.
- You know that as well as I do. - I won't argue the point with you.
Either you do as I tell you or we'll soon find a way to make you.
- Are you going or not? - Major! Major!
What's the row?
- The field marshal said you're right. - Field marshal?
So this, then, was Rommel.
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel, commander in chief of the enemy army,
and the most celebrated German soldier since World War I.
Already a legend in the desert,
he was a fox who had chased his hunters back and forth across North Africa
about as often as they had chased him,
and his tricks and turns had made even the tommies chuckle,
which is scarcely the proper reflex to the enemy in time of war.
In spite of which, he was still, of course, my enemy.
The enemy not only of my country and the army in which I served,
but of all life as I knew it.
Not only of democracy as free men had fashioned it,
but of civilisation itself.
My name is Desmond Young.
At the time of my capture I was a lieutenant colonel in the Indian Army.
This was my first and only sight of the cool, hard professional soldier
whose scrupulous regard for the rules of warfare had been exercised, in this instance,
so fortunately for myself.
Two years and four months later,
while the British and Americans were still fighting their way across Europe,
Erwin Rommel was dead.
He was dead, the Nazis reported, of wounds gallantly received on the field of honour.
But the Nazis were great liars, of course, and many people wondered.
For already there were mysterious rumours floating across the battle lines.
So when the war was over and my military life behind me,
I gave myself a mission.
I set out to discover what actually had happened to him.
What was the truth about his death, and on what field of honour had he died?
In a modest home in the tiny village of Herrlingen by Ulm, in Wurttemberg, Germany,
I talked long and often with Rommel's son and widow,
and examined his letters, reports and other papers.
In Germany I talked to soldiers who had served with him, over him and under him,
in England, with men who had fought against him,
from field marshals to desert rats.
And in both countries, of course, I went to the official records.
Based on these facts, what now follows is the true story of Erwin Rommel.
The beginning of the end for this single-minded soldier
came at 9.30 on the evening of October 23, 1942,
when, at El Alamein, six miles of British guns...
Fire!
I discovered that, actually, Rommel was not in Africa when the storm of battle broke.
Suffering from a chronic diphtheria of the nose,
he had been relieved of his command a month before
and flown back to a hospital in Germany.
But, when the telephone rang at his bedside
and a familiar voice from Berlin called on him once more,
he rose and was in a plane on the way back to the desert within hours.
(coughs)
- Thank you. Still the dandy, I see. - Just luck, sir.
(all) Welcome back, sir.
- (Rommel) Shall we look at those maps? - Over here.
- How are you, Bayerlein? - Very well. Did you see Frau Rommel?
Yes, she came and stayed a week, she and Manfred.
- How does it look today? - They've simply got too much for us.
I've no idea how we'll get out of it. Not with the amount of petrol we've got.
- We have petrol. - Not enough.
- It's still on the way? - No, nor any prospect of it.
- Who told you that? - I've talked to Rome three times.
There's no petrol on the way nor any committed to us, as of ten o'clock last night.
Schultz. Aldinger.
- The tanks, did they come? - None.
- None since I left? - No. None since August.
- What about the guns? - Nothing.
- And no petrol at all? - Not a pint.
This is correct within the hour.
Get me a stool, will you?
Here's where it's worst. The 15th's in a bad way. They drove...
- What's this? - The Trento Division.
- Yes, I see. How far's this armour? - No further.
Where are my maps?
Bring the 21st and Ariete north through here.
- Move the 90th and Trento forward here. - So they'll hook up.
- Is Montgomery sending his infantry in first? - Naturally.
Then the armour? Let's send our tanks in first and blow a hole through that infantry.
If it works, we'll be on top of his tanks, with our infantry pouring in to polish it off.
- Very good, sir. - If it doesn't work we'll know better next time.
You're not going up now, are you?
- Oughtn't you to turn in? - After three weeks of being turned in?
- We're away, sir. - Let's head north and go in with the 21st.
But there was now another fox in the desert, an even craftier one, perhaps.
And if the battle boiled into confusion during the next few days,
it was a confusion that was clearly more and more in Montgomery's favour.
- Have you found the field marshal yet? - No, sir. He's out at the front again.
I don't know how the men in the line feel, but I'd just as soon have
a commander in chief with a touch of cowardice about him.
Just enough to have him back at headquarters now and then. Keep after him.
By the tenth day of the battle,
not even Rommel could have any doubt as to its outcome.
There's a limit to this sort of thing. You can't go on indefinitely until the last man's dead.
It's all very gallant, but it's also pretty idiotic.
Von Thoma wants to pull back to Daba.
- What about Müller? - No answer as yet, sir.
- Where are you from? - Goslar, sir.
Really? I was stationed in Goslar once with a mountain battalion.
- We skied there. Do you know that run? - Very well, sir.
- Are you any good? - Well, two years ago...
- He understood I need an immediate answer? - Yes, sir.
- Are you keeping after Müller? - Yes, sir.
- Did you try Berlin? - He'll call if he can.
- Nothing yet, though. - No, but he knows the situation.
- If there's anything he can do, he will. - To Berlin, we're a sideshow and you know it.
Well, what?
- Müller's in a bad way. - How bad?
Very. If he doesn't pull back soon, he won't have anything to pull back.
- Why can't we get an answer from him? - His command car's gone. He's in a carrier.
If he's got more than 40 tanks left, I'd be surprised.
- How about the Italians? - They've had as much as they can take.
Rome calling, sir.
- Well? - Field Marshal Kesselring regrets.
Well, that eliminates any further speculation anyway.
It's now a simple matter of mathematics.
With the petrol we've got left, we have two choices. We can remain here, be destroyed.
Or we can pull out tonight and dig in for the next round.
- You think we still can? - Pull out? Why not?
- Montgomery's got no petrol shortage. - Montgomery's a very deliberate fellow.
He wouldn't leap after me the way I'd leap after him. He'd think about it first.
- I don't see what else there is to be done. - Let's have Plan C.
Notify all commanding officers to stand by for important orders. If we move...
Berlin calling, sir.
- Who in Berlin? - The Führer.
Signed: Adolf Hitler.
"The situation requires that the El Alamein position be held to the last man."
"There is to be no retreat, not so much as one millimetre. It must be victory or death."
- I can't believe it. - Still got Berlin? Ask him to repeat that.
I know. But it's not him, I tell you. It's those hoodlums again.
Those thieves and crooks and murderers. Those toy soldiers.
Those dummy generals, with their books and charts and maps and pointers.
How can he listen to such nonentities? How can he stand the smell of such filth?
Why doesn't he slaughter them and use his intelligence?
- I have your repeat. - Go ahead, read it.
"The situation requires that the El Alamein position be held to the last man."
"There is to be no retreat, not so much as one millimetre."
"It must be victory or death." Signed: Adolf Hitler.
- Incredible! - You won't pay attention to such nonsense?
It's a military order from general headquarters.
A clear, straight, stupid, criminal military order from general headquarters.
And what are you going to do? Double the insanity by obeying it?
We've got the best soldiers in the army.
They may be just hanging on now, but they're still fighting.
If we take them out now, they can fight again tomorrow. But this? This is sheer madness.
Nobody has said "Victory or death" since people fought with bows and arrows.
This is an order to throw away an entire army.
If I may remind you, sir, here in the field these men are yours, not his.
- I just can't understand it. - He's insane.
He's not insane. He's...
But neither am I.
Pull 'em out, Bayerlein. I'll argue with him about it later.
(artillery fire)
The end came in Tunis,
when the Axis forces were caught between the British, the Free French
and the Americans under Eisenhower, and surrendered unconditionally.
But the Afrika Korps went into captivity without its leader.
For, a month before the end,
Rommel had again fallen ill and been invalided back to the hospital in Germany.
- Morning, Sergeant. - Morning, Frau Rommel. Manfred.
Morning.
- Dr Strolin. - Karl Strolin, Lord Mayor of Stuttgart.
- An old friend of the field marshal's. - You'll find him much better this morning.
All he needed was a little rest.
Frau Rommel...
Manfred Rommel...
and Dr Karl Strolin.
From Stuttgart?
Not only from, but lord mayor of.
And don't tell me he's on the list.
Dr Karl Strolin, Lord Mayor of Stuttgart.
She says he's an old friend of the field marshal.
Nevertheless, here he is.
"To be kept under the closest observation whenever discovered outside Stuttgart."
Not that it could really be described as an argument.
It's impossible to have an argument with him in the sense that you and I could have one.
He raves. He screams.
He goes into such hysterics it's like trying to make sense with a panic-stricken woman.
He called him a coward.
Did he really use that word to you?
Not once, but several times.
In Russia, he said, officers like me have been put against the wall and shot.
Nor must I think it couldn't happen to me.
And that was his thanks. That was his gratitude for all that Erwin has done for him.
But you mustn't hold people accountable for everything they say when emotionally upset.
The war's not going well and he's naturally worried.
But I'm afraid it'll be a long time before I forget what he did to the Afrika Korps.
What was that?
When the end was near, and I asked him to get them out,
he said he had no further interest or concern in the Afrika Korps.
And that was their thanks.
Rommel, I should like to ask you a question.
If you don't care to answer, I understand,
but, with your permission, I should like to ask it nevertheless.
What is it?
Do you really believe that we can win?
- I'll tell you what he believes. - Yes?
He doesn't think so.
He told you that himself?
He did.
And he understands what that'll mean this time?
Apparently.
Then why do we go on?
Because we have no choice.
Because no country we're fighting - England, America, Russia - will make peace with him.
He admitted that?
And it's the truth, of course.
In other words, while he remains as leader of Germany
we must fight on until we're destroyed.
Victory or death, as ever.
I take it that he didn't mention the obvious solution to the situation.
- What do you mean? - Abdication.
Now, my dear Strolin...
I'm afraid we must go, dear.
- Already? - I have a train to catch.
- We'll come back later. - Let's have coffee.
Goodbye. Good to see you after all these years.
- We won't let it be so long next time. - Do you think they really would?
- Would what, son? - Shoot you.
No, no. That's just his wild way of talking. You mustn't pay any attention to that.
- Shoot his greatest general? - You shouldn't have said that in front of him.
Come along and stop talking nonsense.
- Until this evening, dear. - Come early, will you?
- He's a good-looking boy, isn't he? - And a very nice boy, too.
- But were you entirely truthful with him? - About what?
When you told him that he would never put you up against a wall.
Of course.
Has it ever occurred to you that he might turn on you?
- Why should he? - He's turned on others.
He'll never turn on me.
What about those round him that don't like you - Himmler, Bormann and that crowd?
- Don't they ever influence him? - Very often, indeed.
You don't think they might influence him against you?
It's possible, yes, but... I don't see that it's very likely.
But in the remote possibility that they did,
have you ever considered what might become of Lucy and Manfred?
I've never thought about it. But what on earth are you getting at anyway?
I think you should, that's all.
You haven't changed a bit, Doctor. You always were something of an odd fish.
But there's no need to worry this time. We're in no danger, none of us.
And if you'd take some advice from a friend, you'd better not talk like that to everybody.
I don't.
Only to those I know very well and am very fond of.
- Goodbye, Rommel. - Goodbye, Strolin. Come again if you can.
I'll try.
(whistle)
(train whistle blows)
An invasion of Hitler's European fortress was now clearly but a matter of time.
And in November of 1943, Rommel made a tour of inspection of the Atlantic defences,
preparatory to taking command of the Nazi forces
that were gathering to resist the assault.
(buzzer)
A month later, Rommel reported to Field Marshal von Rundstedt,
supreme commander in the west, at the latter's headquarters
in the Pompadour's Palace at Fontainebleau outside Paris.
Field Marshal von Rundstedt, gentlemen.
- Ruge. - Field Marshal.
Gentlemen.
- Good to see you, Rommel. - Field Marshal.
Well, now that you've examined it closely, what do you think of our Atlantic Wall?
I'm afraid I haven't quite completed my report yet, but...
Then we'll discuss it whenever you're ready.
I don't imagine the mighty Eisenhower will be on us for another day or so anyway.
- Wasn't too much a tax on you, I hope. - Not in the least. I'm entirely recovered.
- I'm delighted. You're well taken care of? - (all) Yes, sir.
Bauer, would you divert our friends
while Field Marshal Rommel and I have a few moments of privacy?
Yes, sir.
Appalling, wasn't it?
I can't even see why it's called a wall.
The big ports like Havre and Ostend and Cherbourg are protected,
but the enemy's not coming in on the Queen Mary.
Nothing's been done about the beaches.
I saw 50 places where an army of children could come ashore.
The trouble is labour. We have the plans for fortifications the devil couldn't breach -
solid steel and concrete from Denmark to Spain.
But I'm afraid our French friends aren't being as cooperative as they might be.
Even when driven to the job, they move like snails.
Either we break it up while they're still wading ashore or we're in trouble.
- Is that how you'd meet it? - On the beaches.
Crowd the water with mines and traps and tricks
and hit 'em while they're trying to keep themselves from drowning.
Here. Down here.
And here.
I don't agree with you.
But the difference of opinion will probably remain academic.
As it happens, neither you nor I will determine the tactics in this operation.
Not above the regimental level anyway.
You mean Berlin?
I mean the Bohemian corporal himself is assuming sole command of this operation.
You and I will function simply as instruments of his astrological inspirations.
And in case you're afflicted with scepticism, this is official.
- But that's an impossible situation. - Then you should explain that to him.
You've made no protest yourself?
After you've interfered a dozen times or so with a man's enthusiastic determination
to cut his own throat, there comes a moment when you're inclined to stand back
and view it with a certain detachment.
No objection to my pointing this out to him?
On the contrary. I bestow my blessings on your courage and optimism.
I'm told you once referred to me as a clown, a clown of Hitler's circus.
Oh, did I?
If so, I think you should know I've been more explicit about you many times.
That's quite all right, Field Marshal.
I find it almost impossible to keep my mind on anything harsh said about me.
Did you say it?
Whoever said it, you've given him ample reason to regret such a foolish remark.
- Thank you, Field Marshal. - Not at all.
- Is there anything else? - I don't believe so, at the moment.
One suggestion, perhaps...
in view of our cordiality.
If I were you, I wouldn't be altogether unguarded
about what I had to say about this new strategic arrangement.
You should know that from now on you'll be under more or less constant observation.
- From Berlin? - Friends of the management, I believe.
Have you any information as to why I should be singled out?
Oh, but you're not. We all are.
Apparently, you didn't have it in Africa,
but here on the Continent it's an honour that goes with staff rank.
- You, too? - My dear fellow, I'm the commander in chief.
Two months after that, in February of 1944,
during one of Rommel's rare absences from the Atlantic frontier,
his old friend Dr Karl Strolin sought him out again.
- Good afternoon, sir. - Good afternoon.
Dr Strolin to see the field marshal and Frau Rommel.
Come in, sir.
Eisenhower won't try it until spring, of course.
- I doubt if I'll get home again before then. - Are we ready for it?
We will be, I hope.
- To your very good health, Doctor. - To yours, my dear Rommel.
How do you know this room isn't wired?
Wired? Why should it be wired?
Does Himmler have to have a reason for wiring a room?
No, I don't suppose he does.
But I don't think you have to worry about this one. Why?
Cos I want to talk to you without being overheard.
- About what? - About the Hitler situation.
If this is politics, Strolin, I don't want to hear it.
You'd rather see Germany destroyed?
It's not a matter I want to discuss, I tell you.
And I'm surprised at you. That's a communist position.
Oh? Is it?
Defeat, against him, all that sort of thing. You know it is.
Would you call General Beck a communist?
- Of course not. - Or Carl Goerdeler, Lord Mayor of Leipzig?
- I've never heard that he was. - What about Falkenhausen?
- No, but... - What about Heinrich von Stulpnagel?
Von Neurath, von Hassel, are they communists?
Are you trying to tell me seriously that men like that are questioning his leadership?
Not just questioning it. They intend to end it.
- You mean you've talked to those fellows? - To them and many others. Not only soldiers.
Churchmen, labour leaders, lawyers, doctors.
Members of the government, even. Not too many of them, but sound men every one.
How long has this been going on?
Since '38.
And what exactly are you after?
One: We want to get rid of Hitler and his gang.
If we are to be defeated, then we prefer to be defeated as human beings, not as barbarians.
Two: Whether we win or lose,
we want to live again like decent people, without fear.
Look, Strolin, I don't want to get mixed up in this thing.
What they do in Berlin is their business, not mine. I'm a soldier, not a politician.
- You still think you're perfectly safe? - Who knows who's safe and who's not?
- Under a sane man you'd know. - That's a lot of rubbish. And you know it.
Well, I hope you're right. And perhaps you are.
After all, you are his favourite, and no one's ever questioned
the deep and enduring gratitude he's always shown to those who have served him well.
No one's in danger who does his job properly.
Of course, you have nothing to fear. And if something did happen, unpredictably,
you'd still know that the lives of Lucy and Manfred
would be safe and snug in the soft, gentle, tender hands
of that brave little band of patriots he's gathered round him.
- That kind of talk doesn't amuse me. - I'm not trying to amuse you.
I'm merely reflecting on your extraordinary good fortune.
I wish you'd think about that, too, sometime. Not the blood on his mouth,
but what a godsend he is to you personally,
not only in your home, but in the field as a soldier.
How many other generals can boast the favour and support of a leader
so gifted in the arts of war?
That's enough.
You haven't forgotten how brilliantly he refused to be seduced into an invasion
of undefended England right after Dunkirk?
Or how brave he was at Stalingrad,
when von Paulus wanted to withdraw from the trap?
What other man on earth would have had the courage to send that brief, thrilling command
"Don't retreat so much as a millimetre. Victory or death." Would Napoleon himself...
- That's enough, I tell you! - Afraid even to think about it.
Stop talking to me as if I were a child and you a schoolmaster!
Don't you think I know what you mean? But what of it?
Who asked me? And suppose I told them what I thought -
that what they're doing, beyond anything else, is stupid - who would listen to me?
- Have you ever tried? - Yes! Been told to mind my own business.
And who's to say they're not right? You aren't naive enough to think
that a soldier must approve of his government before he can fight for it.
What army could exist like that, with every man free to decide what he will or won't do?
The truth is that a soldier has but one function in life,
one lone excuse for existence, and that is to carry out the order of his superiors.
The rest, including government, is politics.
And if I must remind you again, I'm a soldier, not a politician. What the government does...
Stop hiding behind that bloody uniform of yours!
What do I care about your philosophy of the soldier?
All it means to me is that you're terrified,
and hiding under a lot of rubbish about the functions of a robot.
Have you forgotten that I've known you for 20 years?
I know exactly how you feel about that abomination in Berlin.
What I can't understand is this willingness
to go marching right down into hell with a beast you loathe and despise.
Where's all the sense and courage you have in the field? Haven't you any of it here?
I think you'd better get out of this house. Now.
Not until you've shown an old friend the decency of honesty with him.
If reason won't work - very well, then, I'm prepared to go further.
I won't stir from this room until the truth has passed between us.
Or had you rather I call the guard and charge you?
- That you will never do. - And may I ask why you know what I will do?
Because Lucy told me that you wouldn't.
You... You've already talked to Lucy about this?
Of course.
- And she sent you to me? - Not at all.
She merely told me how you really feel about our sainted leader
and his glorious reign over Germany.
Father! Father, the car's here.
We saw it. Will you please not shout? I've told you that a dozen times.
- He's just excited. - I know, but...
He's all right. He's still only a boy, remember, in spite of that uniform.
Of course.
Take care of yourself, dear.
- You're not cross with me, are you? - For what?
For speaking to Dr Strolin.
No, of course not.
Is he right?
I don't know.
I can't make up my mind.
But that's a dreadful thing he proposes.
A great, tremendous, dreadful thing. I don't know that I can go along that far with him.
- Then don't, if you don't think he's right. - I didn't say he wasn't right, but...
Even so, is that the only way to handle it?
Treason?
That's what it comes down to, no matter how right you think you are.
You think it's better to keep things as they are?
No, no, I don't. But there must be some better way of handling it.
I mean, if I could see him alone again and explain the situation to him.
Can you tell me how a man can fight a war under such conditions?
Isn't it enough that we face an invasion...
No. Never mind now.
You don't have to decide this minute. It'll come to you when it's time.
What do you think, really?
I can't tell you, dear. I don't know.
But never mind now. When the time comes, something'll tell you.
You'd better go along now. You're late already.
- Write to me every day, will you? - I will.
- This is a little something for the journey. - Thank you, darling.
Goodbye, sweetheart. And don't worry about me.
I'll try not to.
That's all, please.
Goodbye, son. Take care of your mother.
Be a good soldier. Make me proud of you.
I'll try, Father. Are you going to bring us back Montgomery?
The minute he steps ashore.
(softly) Goodbye, darling.
Goodbye, darling.
And then, finally, after four long years of preparation,
it came: D-day.
And the greatest armada and the vastest movement of men and arms
in the history of the world rose from England
and set out for the assault on the beaches of Normandy
and the German fortress of Europe.
From the moment the Bohemian corporal promoted himself to the supreme command,
the German Army has been the victim of a unique situation.
Not only too many of the enemy, but one too many Germans.
You don't think he's ready to give us the 15th Army yet?
I don't see how he can under the circumstances.
His astrologers have informed him that this is only a feint,
that the real invasion is yet to come, north of Calais.
The 15th Army is sitting on those cold beaches up there.
Waiting for an invasion that has taken place is an excellent example of war by horoscope.
We've got to have those troops.
If we're not allowed to manoeuvre, we've got to be able to support these positions.
We've got to see him again about it.
I tell you this in confidence, Rommel.
I don't think anything we can do would be of the slightest use.
The pattern for defeat has already been set.
"Hold fast. Don't give up a millimetre of ground."
"Victory or death."
Wars can't be won by men whose knowledge of tactics is based on copybook maxims.
They may stir schoolchildren, but they don't stop troops.
But give me a free hand for a few months and I'd make them pay for it.
I'd make them pay such a price in blood they'd wish they'd never heard of Germany.
I might not be able to stop them all,
but they'd know they'd fought an army, not a series of stationary targets.
He'll never let us, of course. You know how firm corporals are.
Do you happen to know Karl Strolin?
- Strolin? - The Lord Mayor of Stuttgart.
I remember that name from somewhere.
Or Dr Goerdeler of Leipzig?
You too?
Every day that passes, every minute of the day,
convinces me more and more that theirs is the only possible solution.
Your words, you must understand, mystify me.
They propose to arrest him, take over the government
and move immediately to make peace with Eisenhower.
I shall, of course, deny that this conversation ever took place.
But that's a particularly childish idea. Eisenhower won't make a separate peace.
And why should he, with things going so well as they are?
That part of your plan is doomed from the start.
But you don't disagree with the basic proposal?
I'm sorry, but I don't believe I heard the question.
In any case, if they came to you for counsel or advice, would you receive them?
Oh, no.
No.
No, I'm afraid not, Rommel.
It's too late. Much too late.
Even if they moved immediately?
You misunderstand.
Not too late for that.
Too late for me.
I'm 70 now,
too old to revolt,
too old to challenge authority... however evil.
(knock at door)
Berlin calling, sir. Marshal Keitel.
Keitel?
- Von Rundstedt? - Here.
- Is this true about Cherbourg? - I'm afraid so.
But this is dreadful. How can I give such news to the Führer?
You've reported misfortune to him before. Why should this be such a problem?
But that's just it. We've had nothing but bad news for weeks.
Isn't there any good news I can give him at the same time?
Have you checked on the Russian front?
We're not discussing the Russian front. We're discussing yours.
This situation in the west becomes worse with every report.
I'm actually embarrassed to have to give him another disappointment like this.
Can't you think of anything we can do?
Certainly. Give us those 90 divisions of the 15th Army who are in Calais playing cards.
That's impossible. The Führer has explained the necessity for leaving them there.
Very well. Give us permission to pull out of Normandy and set up a line we can defend.
Your orders are to fight where you are. That's what he expects you to do.
You have no better suggestion than that?
One very much better, in fact.
Make peace, you idiot!
- Goodbye again, Rommel. - He'll never report that.
This very instant he's knocking at the corporal's door, whimpering with happiness.
You must never forget this, my dear fellow.
Victory has a hundred fathers: Defeat is an orphan.
Within 24 hours you'll be named my successor. I extend my deepest sympathy.
That's nonsense. He'll never let you go.
But not too old, I might add,
to wish your friends the best of luck in their extremely interesting project.
Meanwhile, with their beachheads irretrievably secured,
Allied tanks and men had fanned out across France and begun their race for the Rhine.
Put these where you can get to them quickly. Also those files there.
Keep the key yourself and use your own judgement about the rest.
Field Marshal.
- Where is he? - In the small room.
- Aldinger. - Yes, sir.
Colonel.
I'll try to be as brief as possible, Field Marshal.
- You'd better keep an eye on the corridor. - Yes, sir.
- Well? - We are faced with an immediate decision.
Three of our men were arrested in Berlin yesterday. They'll be made to talk, of course.
But, fortunately, their knowledge of the people involved is limited.
But in the opinion of everyone concerned, there's no more time to be lost.
We must act at once.
And it's all set, definitely?
So I understand, sir.
The general's anxious to know if you can speak for the commanders you mentioned.
At my word, from this instant, they are prepared to follow my lead.
Then I have your permission to inform General Stulpnagel
we may now act at will and without further consultation?
Wait here, Colonel. Come with me, Ruge.
- Clear this room, Aldinger. - Yes, sir.
Outside. Never mind about that. Outside.
Field Marshal Rommel speaking. Put me through to Field Marshal Keitel.
I've got to be certain, absolutely certain.
We can't go through with this if there's a remote sign of sense.
(phone buzzes)
Keitel?
- Rommel. - Now listen very carefully, Keitel.
I've got to see the Führer at once, somewhere in France.
I can't explain now, but you must make him understand that it's a matter of great urgency.
I suggest tomorrow morning.
On June 17,
they met in Hitler's underground stronghold at Margival, near Soissons.
This is an extremely difficult duty, my Führer, but circumstances leave me with no choice.
We've reached a crisis on this front that calls for a decision.
But you've said that. You've said that before.
Every time we talk, we're facing another crisis.
When the enemy has overwhelming superiority on land, at sea and in the air,
and continues to grow stronger with every hour while we grow weaker at the same rate,
that to me is a crisis by any standards that I understand.
- A crisis that should be examined promptly. - That's you! That's you, like always.
When everything's going well, you're willing.
But at the first sign of a difficulty, you become a defeatist, complete defeatist.
Are you perhaps interested why you didn't succeed von Rundstedt? This is why!
Maybe I'd have been better if I had replaced you altogether.
Have you, perhaps, a little confidence in me?
More, it would seem, than the Führer has in me. May I continue?
And what my V bombs are doing to London, has no one told you?
Yes, sir. But why not to the beachheads?
Because that's not their purpose. They need a whole city for a target, then they cannot miss.
Then why not the embarkation ports? Plymouth, Southampton, Portsmouth?
No, no, no, no, no!
That's exactly what I mean when I say you're no good at thinking above the battlefield.
The British don't care for those villages. It's their London that they love.
They don't want to see it destroyed the way I'll destroy it.
In two more weeks, remember my words, they'll be screaming for surrender. You'll see.
To continue, sir. The struggle is over on this front.
Within two weeks, you must prepare to see the enemy
break through our lines and push out into the interior of France.
Militarily, the end is already in sight. We have nothing more to throw in.
What is it you are proposing? That we surrender?
I give you the facts, sir. I only ask that you draw the proper conclusions.
Proper to whom? To you!
I suggest, Rommel, that you confine your genius to fighting.
Leave the conduct of the war to those who are responsible for it!
My apologies, sir. Now, if the Führer will honour me with his advice.
The V weapon, for your information, happens to be only the first in a series of weapons
that will completely revolutionise all warfare.
I've a second more powerful, and a third in mind a thousand times more destructive.
But the crisis under discussion is now.
I've a dozen others, all of them capable of turning the whole course of the war.
But what about now, sir? What are we to do tomorrow morning?
While you've been deciding that all is lost, we've been working, working miracles,
determining the course of history for centuries to come!
In the workshops and laboratories, we've made machines of destruction
such as the enemy has never dreamed of!
I have one in mind! I have a weapon in mind!
Now definitely committed to the plot to assassinate hishrer,
Rommel was still trying to whip fight into his crumbling front,
when, on June 17, on a road near a village with the ominous name of Montgomery...
Aircraft.
Three days later, while Rommel still lay unconscious in a hospital in France,
Adolf Hitler and his staff gathered for their fateful conference
in a fortified barracks at his headquarters in East Prussia.
The Führer, gentlemen.
He handles his panzers like a cavalry officer.
Thank you, gentlemen.
- My Führer. - Yes?
- Stauffenberg, sir. - Yes, yes.
- Stauffenberg. From General Fromm. - Yes, sir.
- Good to see you again. - Thank you, my Führer.
Gentlemen, your attention, please.
Excuse me, please. I have a report from General Fromm.
- Where's Göring? - On his way now, sir.
Well, when you are fat, you don't move so fast, huh?
Colonel Count von Stauffenberg? Telephone, sir.
Thank you.
Excuse me.
(Hitler) All right, suppose we start with the Russian front.
Führer?
The Führer!
Are you all right, my Führer?
Yeah. I'm all right.
For that failure, 5,000 suspects paid with their lives
during the few days that Hitler spent in hospital.
As for Rommel, recuperating at Herrlingen from injuries
that would have destroyed any but the toughest of men,
all public mention of his name suddenly stopped,
and a complete and official silence settled over the subject
of the nation's most celebrated soldier.
For three months he remained in this sinister isolation
until the afternoon of October 13 in 1944.
- Keitel? - How are you, Rommel?
- Getting along, thank you. - Well enough yet to come up to Berlin?
I'm afraid not yet. In another week or two, perhaps. Why?
I could send a special train for you.
That's very good of you, but I really don't feel up to it yet.
Is there some particular urgency about it?
How soon will you be ready for another command?
Another two weeks, I suppose. Three at the most.
If we send someone there, would you be able to discuss the situation with him?
- Of course. - Very well. I'll send Burgdorf. You know him?
I've met him.
Suppose I have him drive down tomorrow morning, would that be convenient?
- Perfectly. - He'll have full information and instructions.
- Give my best regards to Frau Rommel. - I will. And thank you very much.
- Goodbye, then. - Goodbye.
Keitel. He's talking about another command again.
- (Frau Rommel) When? - When I feel like it, I suppose.
Uh, he sends his best regards to you.
- We're here to see Field Marshal Rommel. - I'll tell him, sir.
- Would you tell him... - Come in, Burgdorf.
- Field Marshal. - It's good to see you again. And you, General.
- I don't believe you've met my wife. - No, sir.
May I present General Burgdorf and General...?
- Maisel. - General Maisel.
- My son Manfred and Captain Aldinger. - I hope you're not too tired.
- Not at all, thank you. - Have you time for luncheon first?
Thank you, but we're due back as quickly as we can make it.
Very well, then. If you'll excuse us, dear. This way.
- Our apologies. - Of course, but I'm terribly disappointed.
- Another time, perhaps. - I hope so.
I hope it's the Russian front, don't you?
Make yourselves comfortable.
Smoke, if you wish. I'm not like Montgomery - smoke doesn't make me unhappy.
At your service, gentlemen.
- We come directly from the Führer. - Yes.
And what we have to say to you comes directly from his lips.
Yes?
Our instructions are to tell you, first,
of his deep appreciation of your many heroic services to the state.
Go on.
And his regrets over your unfortunate accident.
I was sure his silence meant only that there were more important matters on his mind.
It's a pity that after such a record...
If you'll forgive me, may we skip your reflections and get to the message you have?
Of course, sir.
You'll observe that the charges are supported by an overwhelming body of testimony.
I can read, thank you.
You've been uncommonly fortunate, I see, in deathbed confessions.
It's all perfectly legal, I assure you, sir.
You may inform the Führer that I look forward to answering these charges in court.
You don't intend to deny them, do you?
I said you may inform the Führer that I look forward to answering the charges in court.
The Führer is extremely hopeful that this matter can be settled
without exposing it to the inevitable publicity of a court trial.
Very well, then. Let him withdraw the charges.
His view is that nothing but harm for everyone could come from a trial.
My orders are to remind you, in the strongest terms possible,
of the damage that testimony like this could do to your name and reputation.
What does he expect me to do? Plead guilty? To you?
Well, naturally not that, of course.
I know what he wants. He wants me to keep my mouth shut.
He doesn't want me to speak out where it can be heard.
Well, you may tell him for me that that's very thoughtful of him,
but that I'm quite capable of taking care of my own name and reputation in my own way,
which will be in a proper court of law.
But to what end, sir? The verdict is already indicated.
He told you to tell me that, too?
The evidence is there. What defence is possible?
Then... what does he suggest?
Before we go any further,
the field marshal should be warned that this house is surrounded.
- My orders, sir. I'm sure you understand. - And both of us are armed.
What does he want done?
His belief is that it would be to the best interests of all
if you should see fit to relieve the situation yourself, quietly and without delay.
Go on.
The advantages of a solution like that over an exchange of recriminations in an open court
are, in his opinion, several and obvious.
Most important to him, of course, would be the preservation of your name and fame.
And he would see to it that no suspicion would be attached to the way of your going.
As far as the rest of the nation would know, you succumbed finally to your war wounds.
That would be the official announcement.
And the state would then honour your memory and your family as well,
with a generosity that would be historic.
That was his word - "historic".
Your name would live on in the glory it once deserved,
while your wife and son would never want for either safety or comfort as long as they live.
- I have a choice? - In a sense, yes.
The choice to die now or later.
It amounts to that, I'm afraid.
How long have I to make this choice?
We're due back in Berlin as early this evening as we can make it.
The penalty in this case, I'm told, would be the garrotte:
Death by strangulation.
The drug I have brought with me is effective in three seconds and painless.
Tell him for me
that in spite of the disadvantages you've been kind enough to point out,
I'll take the trial.
It may be, as you say, a futile defence, but I think it should be heard nevertheless.
There might be some value in it for those who hear it.
It might even move some to stop and think for a moment or two, as finally I did,
though unfortunately too late.
In any case, it's my life, and that's my choice.
I confess my disappointment with your choice, sir.
My heart, of course, bleeds for you.
The unfortunate part of it is that if you insist on a trial,
I have no authority to offer any guarantees for the safety and comfort of your son...
and widow.
They're coming out now.
- All over, sir? - I believe so.
- We'll wait outside, sir. - I won't be long.
Well, we hardly expected such a...
- Over already? - Wait there. I'll be down in a few moments.
What is it, Erwin?
I want you to be strong, darling.
I want you to be very strong and very brave.
Do you understand?
Yes.
I've got to go away now, and I won't be back.
Do you want me to tell you any more?
There's no way out?
No. But it won't be too terrible.
They're giving me a drug. It's painless and effective immediately.
We're leaving now and I'll do it as quickly as possible.
We've got guns. Can't we make a break for it?
No. There's nothing that can be done. They've thought of everything.
Well, at least we could get them.
There's nothing to be done, I tell you. I've got to do exactly as they say.
Yes, sir.
Are you going to be brave now?
I don't know.
You and Manfred will be all right. They've assured me of that.
And nobody's to know about this but us.
Are you sure there's no other way?
No other, darling.
- Have you told Manfred yet? - I'll tell him when I go down.
No. Let me tell him.
I can tell him so much better.
If you wish.
I'll get my coat now. It's cold and I don't want to shiver.
The field marshal's coming out now.
- You're going now? - Why not?
But are you well enough?
Of course. I've just been taking it easy on you and your mother.
Is it Russia?
Goodbye, Aldinger, old dear friend.
Goodbye, sir.
Take care of them.
Yes, sir.
Can't you tell me?
Don't ask so many questions. You know better than to talk like that.
- But when will we know? - Before very long.
- Goodbye, son. Be a good boy. - Goodbye, Father.
You'll stop them, won't you?
We'll see.
(softly) Goodbye, darling.
Goodbye, dear.
During that last short ride, what may Rommel's thoughts have been?
Were they bitter - that he had learned too slowly and struck too late?
Or did they go back to the desert, where his military genius had first electrified the world?
First at Mechili.
Then Tobruk.
Yes, and even El Alamein.
In any case, his life and fate have best been summed up, ironically enough,
in the words of Nazi Germany's sternest enemy,
the Honourable Winston Churchill.
(Churchill) His ardour and daring inflicted grievous disasters upon us,
but he deserves the salute which I made him in the House of Commons
in January 1942.
He also deserves our respect because, although a loyal German soldier,
he came to hate Hitler and all his works,
and took part in the conspiracy to rescue Germany
by displacing the maniac and tyrant.
For this, he paid the forfeit of his life.
In the sombre wars of modern democracy,
there is little place for chivalry.
DC Sniper 23 Days of Fear
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