Would Rommel be a War Criminal?

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michael mills
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Post by michael mills » 24 Sep 2003 06:31

Let's start with the war crime Rommel is supposed to have committed. What is it?
Was not Rommel in May 1940 in overall command of an armoured force including Waffen-SS units that shot British POWs?

If one wanted to be hyper-legalistic, one could hold Rommel responsible for criminal actions committed by troops under his command, even though he had certainly not ordered them. If he had not prevented them or subsequently punished the perpetrators, that might be sufficient cause to hold him ultimately responsible (if one wanted to be bloody-minded).

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Post by David Thompson » 24 Sep 2003 06:45

Michael -- Here's what I have on the gentleman's commands:

Rommel, Erwin Johannes Eugen (1891-1944) [Generalfeldmarschall] – commandant, Fuehrer Headquarters (Führerhauptquartier) 25 Aug 1939-5 Feb 1940; commander, 7th Panzer Division 5 Feb 1940-Feb 1941; commander, Afrika Korps 14 Feb-1 Sept 1941; commander, Panzergruppe “Afrika” 1 Sept 1941-20 Feb 1942; commander, Panzer Army Afrika 21 Feb 1942-1 Jan 1943; commander, Army Group Afrika 1 Jan-9 Mar 1943; commander, Army Group B Nov 1943-Jul 1944; [Pour le Mérite 1917; Knights Cross 1940; Oakleaves 1941; Swords 1942; Diamonds 1943] {associate in the anti-Hitler conspiracy; seriously injured 17 Jul 1944 when his command car was strafed by an allied fighter-bomber; suicide by cyanide capsule 14 Oct 1944 at Heidenheim (ABR) or Herrlingen / Ulm rather than face a trial in the Volksgericht (People’s Court). (ABR-Croisier-H; Snyder Ency 298-9; Field of Honor 2, pps. 27-8; Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression VI, pps. 624-634 [Document 3739-PS]; ABR-H).}

I agree with the possibility of a prosecution under the theory which you accurately termed "hyper-legalistic" and "bloody-minded," but I think one Yamashita case was enough. In my opinion, even the Yamashita case was one too many. After Tomoyuki Yamashita's conviction and execution, there's not many examples (in the West, at least) of that truly "bloody-minded" theory of command responsibility.

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redcoat
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Post by redcoat » 24 Sep 2003 12:23

michael mills wrote:
Let's start with the war crime Rommel is supposed to have committed. What is it?
Was not Rommel in May 1940 in overall command of an armoured force including Waffen-SS units that shot British POWs?
If one wanted to be hyper-legalistic, one could hold Rommel responsible for criminal actions committed by troops under his command, even though he had certainly not ordered them. If he had not prevented them or subsequently punished the perpetrators, that might be sufficient cause to hold him ultimately responsible (if one wanted to be bloody-minded).
Seeing that there is no known evidence that Rommel was even aware that this war crime took place, and in view of Rommel's actions over Hitlers 'Commando 'order and the treatment of jewish POW's I doubt he would have any case to answer.

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Michael Miller
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Rommel in France, 1940

Post by Michael Miller » 24 Sep 2003 13:58

Mr. Mills~

Rommel commanded 7.Panzer-Division in France. The order of battle for this Divsion (in "Die Deutschen Divisionen 1939 - 1945") shows no SS components, and I think it unlikely that any SS unit was ever attached to this Division while Rommel commanded it (15.02.1940 - 14.02.1941). The two 1940-vintage massacres in France with which I'm familiar are Wormhoudt, perpetrated by elements of LSSAH (under Wilhelm Mohnke?) and Le Paradis, carried out by Fritz Knochlein's company of the SS-Totenkopf-Division. I may be mistaken, but neither unit served under Rommel's command or control.

Regards,
~ Mike Miller

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John W
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Post by John W » 24 Sep 2003 16:53

tonyh wrote:I think you are mistaken. It would have had nothing to do with Rommel if the German high command wished to post an SS detachment to the North African theatre. His "say" wouldn't have altered any command decision.
Oh but there were attempts made and Rommel resisted. This is what is claimed in The Rommel Papers. Although his Chief of Staff did say :

"Thank God there were no SS units in North Africa. or else it might have been a very different war".

I am by no means painting all SS troops with the same brush but this is what Bayerlein said and from Rommel's personal views about the Reichsfuehrer SS and the SS, this is what I have concluded.

He didn't want the SS in Afrika and he succeeded in achieving that because he did resist attempts made by the Fuehrer's HQ to introduce SS troops. Perhaps again, he got away because Hitler wasn't paying close, nagging attention to this theater of operations?


John

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chalutzim
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Post by chalutzim » 24 Sep 2003 17:12

Sturm wrote:(...) I mean to say that sometimes, it needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis...
Agreed. But is different to defend that only because some criminals have escaped justice, one shall not condemn those who didn't.

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John W
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Post by John W » 24 Sep 2003 17:18

Oh ok. I think I understood your original point now...

I think you wished to state that: "Murder Moral Relativism" or "use moral relativism as the scapegoat", correct?


John

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chalutzim
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Post by chalutzim » 24 Sep 2003 17:38

Sturm wrote:(...) "use moral relativism as the scapegoat", correct?
John, I don't know if I expressed well what I meant, but what you wrote was correct and is my point. I would only change the word "scapegoat" and use instead "alibi". Thanks.

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Post by David Thompson » 24 Sep 2003 18:29

The posts on Joachim Peiper and the Malmedy massacres now have a thread of their own, at:

"Joachim Peiper and the Malmedy massacres again"
http://www.thirdreichforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=32364

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Tom Niefer
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Post by Tom Niefer » 25 Sep 2003 03:20

From anything that I have read regarding Rommel, admittedly not a great amount, he was seemed to me to be a professional soldier of the "old school" type. I haven't read anything were he could be considered a war criminal and much to his credit as a superb tactician and commander.

Cheers,
Tom

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Station
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Post by Station » 25 Sep 2003 03:38

I think it counts mainly on what the researchers of the time could find out about his background.

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Post by David Thompson » 25 Sep 2003 06:04

Station -- You said:
I think it counts mainly on what the researchers of the time could find out about his background.
Given the evidence available now in 2003, can you think of any war crimes rommel committed?

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John W
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Post by John W » 25 Sep 2003 06:07

David Thompson wrote:Given the evidence available now in 2003, can you think of any war crimes rommel committed?
I really doubt it. In light of all the evidence that has been presented, I find it highly unlikely that any evidence would be unearthed that would hod him resposible for shooting POWs etc.


John

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Post by tonyh » 25 Sep 2003 09:41

Sturm wrote:
tonyh wrote:I think you are mistaken. It would have had nothing to do with Rommel if the German high command wished to post an SS detachment to the North African theatre. His "say" wouldn't have altered any command decision.
Oh but there were attempts made and Rommel resisted. This is what is claimed in The Rommel Papers. Although his Chief of Staff did say :

"Thank God there were no SS units in North Africa. or else it might have been a very different war".

I am by no means painting all SS troops with the same brush but this is what Bayerlein said and from Rommel's personal views about the Reichsfuehrer SS and the SS, this is what I have concluded.

He didn't want the SS in Afrika and he succeeded in achieving that because he did resist attempts made by the Fuehrer's HQ to introduce SS troops. Perhaps again, he got away because Hitler wasn't paying close, nagging attention to this theater of operations?


John
John, if Hitler wanted the SS there, they would have been there. No field commander had the power to refuse a direct order from high command regarding the OOB in a certain theatre. Rommel may not have wanted SS in africa, but that doesn't mean that he kept them out. Bayerlein's comment states that there were no SS there, not that Rommel had anything to do with them not being there. Do you have any other info regarding this?

Tony

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Station
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Post by Station » 25 Sep 2003 09:52

David Thompson wrote:Station -- You said:
I think it counts mainly on what the researchers of the time could find out about his background.
Given the evidence available now in 2003, can you think of any war crimes rommel committed?
Okay, we are talking about Rommel being committed in the 1940's, not 2003. I'm just saying fact finding may have been less perfected.

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