Outcry in Germany over homage to Nazi general

A senior official at Germany's defence ministry has sparked an uproar with a tweet commemorating the death of Erwin Rommel, a favourite general of Adolf Hitler who was later involved in a plot to kill the Führer.

Outcry in Germany over homage to Nazi general
A sign shows the way to the grave of Rommel, who spent the last years of his life in Herrlingen in Baden-Württemberg. Photo: DPA.

“Erwin Rommel, who was forced to commit suicide by the Nazis, died 74 years ago today,” wrote Peter Tauber, a former close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, on Twitter.

The tweet unleashed an outcry on social media, with some condemning the conservative politician for rehabilitating the Nazi general while others defended Tauber saying Rommel's record was mixed.

Dubbed the “Desert Fox” for his tactical successes in the North Africa campaign, Rommel had been contacted in February 1944 by a group of officers plotting to kill Hitler.

But he was seriously wounded when a British plane strafed his car on July 17th, and that ensured he did not participate directly in an attempt made on Hitler's life three days later.

Gestapo investigators nonetheless discovered his role but Hitler knew he could not execute the popular officer.

Instead, Rommel was ordered to commit suicide, which he did on October 14th before being buried following a national funeral.

Malte Mahlberg, who identified himself on Twitter as a Social Democrat student, wrote: “Rommel was a Nazi and killed people. Someone like him deserves neither a commemoration day nor a mention in a tweet by a politician of a democratic country.”

Reacting with incredulity at Tauber's tweet, Petra Pau of the Left Party wrote: “Rommel participated in war crimes (to put it mildly), like so many others.”

Other Twitter users, however, leapt to the defence of Tauber, with Twitter user Justin Laun writing that the “barracks where I am stationed is still called Rommel Barracks”.

Defending his tweet, Tauber himself told Bild that Rommel had “repeatedly disregarded criminal orders” and was linked to the resistance against Hitler.

A debate about Rommel is important, “if we expect soldiers today to be responsible for the values of our country.”

For Pau, however, Tauber's line stood in opposition to Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen's vow in 2017 for the armed forces to make a clean break with the Wehrmacht of the Third Reich.

She then ordered a review of the army's 1982 “decree on traditions” that allowed displaying Wehrmacht items within their “historical context”, and said new names would have to be found for barracks still named after World War II figures, including Rommel.

Member comments

  1. Hard to see the problem with the original tweet. It was accurate no matter what one thinks of Rommel.

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Saxony police probe motorcycling ‘Hitler’

German police said they were investigating after a man dressed as Adolf Hitler rode around a weekend festival in a motorbike sidecar, although he provoked more amusement than outrage.

Saxony police probe motorcycling 'Hitler'
Front of a motorcycle. Photo: DPA

“When people dress up as Adolf Hitler, an investigation is always necessary,” a spokesman for Saxony police told news agency DPA on Monday.

The fake Führer appeared at a classic motorcycle gathering in Augustusburg, near Chemnitz, and was seen in videos of the event posted online.

He sported a toothbrush moustache and was seated in the sidecar of a bike driven by a man dressed as a 1940s-era soldier, complete with World War II-style helmet.

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People are heard laughing as the pair pass by and a policeman guarding the event pulls out his phone with a smile to take photos.

The officer could now face consequences for his failure to step in.

“We would have expected our colleague to put a stop to all this without the least hesitation,” the Saxony police spokesman said.

The officer seen laughing at the impersonator was summoned for a meeting with his superiors and has “acknowledged his misconduct”, a spokesman for the local Chemnitz police told AFP on Tuesday.

Saxony premier Michael Kretschmer also condemned the Hitler pantomime.

“Dressing up as a mass murderer is more than just bad taste,” he tweeted. “This kind of behaviour is unacceptable and shouldn't be repeated.”

Around 1,800 motorcyclists and 7,500 visitors took part in the weekend classic bike festival in Saxony, a region in former communist East Germany that has made headlines for far-right and neo-Nazi activities in recent years.