Can an airport be named after Rommel?

City authorities have voted to name Stuttgart's airport after former mayor Manfred Rommel, prompting fears foreigners might confuse the name with his father, the famous Third Reich general.

Can an airport be named after Rommel?
Some fear naming the airport after Manfred Rommel (r) could call to mind his father, one of Hitler's top military commanders. Photo: DPA

Manfred Rommel, who died last November aged 84, served as the Baden-Württemberg capital's mayor for 22 years and was credited with sound financial policy, protecting immigrants' rights and showing "considerable moral courage" in his leadership, according to his obituary in the Guardian newspaper.

And local newspaper the Stuttgarter Nachrichten quoted current city mayor Fritz Kuhn as saying "Manfred Rommel stood, and stands more than anyone else, for tolerance, reconciliation and an open world."

"His liberal stance was always paired with his efforts to build bridges out into the world," he added. “It is these international works that convinced us to name the airport after him."

But some raised concerns that merely attaching the name "Rommel" to the airport could cause confusion with Manfred's father Erwin, who was one of the top generals in Hitler's army.

"I would be utterly ashamed to visit friends in Israel with the name 'Rommel' emblazoned across the tag on my case,” one online commentator wrote.

Another wrote on TV broadcaster SWR's news website: "I am anxious about those from other countries who connect the name Rommel with an unspeakably negative era."

General Field Marshal Erwin Rommel commanded several Wehrmacht campaigns in North Africa and was awarded one of the highest grades of the Iron Cross war medal by Hitler, but was forced to commit suicide in 1944 after being accused of plotting to kill the Führer.

Worried the Nazi connections of Rommel's name could cause a stir, some politicians suggested alternative names for the airport.

Councillors from the Liberal Party, the FDP, wanted it to be named after Theodor Heuss, West Germany's first post-war president, while Green Party state transport minister Winfried Hermann suggested "Fairport".

But the consensus among the city council was for “Manfred-Rommel-Flughafen”. The final decision will be confirmed by the state's airports committee in June.

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