From British daily The Independent:
‘Chivalrous’ Rommel wanted to bring Holocaust to Middle East
By Tony Paterson in Berlin
Published: 25 May 2007
Erwin Rommel’s reputation as one of Nazi Germany’s few chivalrous generals has been blackened by a new documentary film which depicts the legendary “Desert Fox” as an unscrupulous commander who spearheaded Hitler’s attempts to take the Holocaust to the Middle East.
Rommel, the head of the German Afrika Korps who won fame for his initial successes against the British in North Africa in 1942, was widely respected during and after the Second World War.
Churchill once referred to him in parliament as a “great general”.
Defeated by General Bernard Montgomery’s “Desert Rats” at the battle of El Alamein in Egypt the same year, Field Marshal Rommel once claimed that his military campaign against the British was a chivalrous affair and the nearest thing to “war without hate”.
However, a new two-part documentary series being broadcast on Germany’s ZDF television channel provides evidence that Rommel played a key role in the Nazis’ drive to invade Palestine and exterminate the Jews of the Middle East.
The historian Jörg Müllner, who made the film Rommel’s War with co-author Jean-Christoph Caron, yesterday dismissed as a “myth” the notion that Rommel fought a clean war in the desert.
“With his victories, he was simply preparing the way for the Nazi extermination machine,” he added. …
The documentary shows how, a month after Rommel’s defeat of the British at Tobruk in June 1942, the Nazi SS followed Hitler’s order to “destroy Jewry in the Arab World” by setting up a special “Sonderkommando” extermination unit to follow in the Afrika Korps’ wake.
The unit was headed by Walther Rauff, an SS commander notorious for his role in inventing mobile gas chambers.
Rauff and his SS men were empowered to carry out “executive measures on the civilian population” – the Nazi euphemism for mass murder and enslavement.
The Nazi attempt to capture the oil fields of the Middle East and exterminate the region’s Jewish population were brought to an abrupt halt by the British 8th Army’s defeat of Rommel’s Afrika Korps at El Alamein in October 1942
Rommel was forced to withdraw the remnants of his army to Tunisia, where it sustained a bridgehead until May 1943, enabling Rauff’s SS to conduct a well-organised persecution campaign against the country’s Jews.
More than 2,500 Tunisian Jews died in a network of SS slave labour camps before the Germans withdrew.
Rauff’s men also stole silver, jewels and religious artefacts from the Tunisian Jews.
Forty-three kilograms of gold were taken from the Jewish community on the island of Djerba alone.
The gold and jewels were taken by the Germans as they withdrew and were later thrown into the sea off Corsica. Divers are still searching for “Rommel’s Treasure“.
The documentary makers argue that the role Rommel played in supporting the Nazis’ plans to export the Holocaust to the Middle East was largely forgotten after the war because of the field marshal’s later alleged involvement in the July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler.
The Nazis responded by arresting Rommel and leaving him the choice of facing trial and certain execution or committing suicide. He chose the latter.
Post-war Germany capitalised on the notion of Rommel as a chivalrous Nazi commander.
However records show that he ordered his non-white prisoners to be fed less than whites and that he ordered unarmed black prisoners to be needlessly shot during the making of a Nazi propaganda film in 1940.
In 1970, the Germany navy named a destroyer after him.
SS officer Walther Rauff later went to Chile, helping the Pinochet dictatorship.