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How should history judge the life and career of Erwin Rommel, the most famous German general of the Second World War, seventy years after his death on 14 October 1944? In his own time and in the years immediately after the war his reputation as a great and chivalrous commander grew to the point where it took on almost legendary proportions, and the legend is still with us today. His apparent support for the plot to remove Hitler from power in 1944 and the manner of his death, committing suicide in order to protect his family from Nazi retribution, further enhanced his image as an honourable, professional soldier.
But does he deserve this legendary status? Can his exploits as a soldier and commander and his conduct of the war be separated from the aggressive aims of Hitler and the Nazis whom he and the German army served?
These are among the key questions Ian Beckett and his team of expert contributors seek to answer in this stimulating and timely study of Rommel and his legacy. They look critically at every stage of Rommel's brilliant career, from the early fame he achieved as a daring young officer fighting on the Italian front in the First World War, through his exploits as a panzer leader during the German invasion of France in 1940, and his generalship in the Western Desert when he commanded the German and Italian forces fighting the British. These achievements – and the publicity that went with them – gave him an extraordinary, perhaps overinflated reputation within Germany and among the opposing Allies.
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