Implicated in the plot, the so-called Operation Valkyrie, to assassinate Hitler on 14TH October 1944, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel , received a visit at his home in Herrlingen from two Nazi Generals who politely but curtly informed him that he is to commit suicide on the orders of the Fuhrer. If he does not do so then he would be arrested, charged with treason, and face a public trial which once his guilt was confirmed would be extended to his family.
He faced a stark choice – this is his fifteen year old son Manfred’s account:
At about twelve o’clock a dark-green car with a Berlin number plate stopped in front of our garden gate.
The only men in the house apart from my father, were his aide Captain Aldinger , a badly wounded war veteran, and myself.
Two generals, Burgdorf, a powerful florid man, and Maisel, small and slender, alighted from the car and entered the house. They were respectful and courteous and asked my father’s permission to speak to him alone. Aldinger and I left the room.
“So they are not going to arrest him,” I thought with relief, as I went upstairs to find myself a book.
A few minutes later I heard my father come upstairs and go into my mother’s room. Anxious to know what was afoot, I got up and followed him. He was standing in the middle of the room, his face pale. “Come outside with me,” he said in a tight voice. We went into my room.
“I have just had to tell your mother that I shall be dead in a quarter of an hour. To die by the hand of one’s own people is hard but the house is surrounded and Hitler is charging me with high treason.
In view of my services in Africa I am to have the chance of dying by poison. The two generals have brought it with them. It’s fatal in three seconds. If I accept, none of the usual steps will be taken against my family. They will also leave my staff alone.”
“Do you believe it?” I interrupted. “Yes,” he replied. “I believe it. It is very much in their interest to see that the affair does not come out into the open. By the way, I have been charged to put you under a promise of the strictest silence. If a single word of this comes out, they will no longer feel themselves bound by the agreement.”
I tried again.
“Can’t we defend ourselves? He cut me off short.
“There’s no point,” he said.
“It’s better for one to die than for all of us to be killed in a shooting affray. Anyway, we’ve practically no ammunition.”
It was soon after announced that Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox and Hero of the Third Reich, had succumbed to wounds sustained in an attack upon his Staff Car in Normandy some weeks earlier.
His State Funeral, the centre-piece of which was a wreath sent by the Fuhrer, was filmed for propaganda purposes.
It was to be his final contribution to the regime he had served so loyally but latterly come to despair of.