Adonis Diaries

Letters to wives during WWII: Gen. Erwin Rommel, Gen. Gotthardt Heirici…

Posted on: May 27, 2013

Letters to wives during WWII: Gen. Erwin Rommel, Gen. Gotthardt Heirici

In this winter of 1941, the German armies failed to encircle Moscow: Hitler delayed launching the attack till late June because the German Armies had entered Greece, occupied Yugoslavia with 680,000 soldiers in May 4, and were ready to pound on the Baltic countries of Rumania, Hungry, and Bulgaria.

In this difficult Russian winter, Hitler ordered all the commanders in the eastern front Not to retreat. The commanders who suggested a retreat were replaced by other commanders, and a few who did not obey were court marshaled and executed.

In Dec. 25, 1941, General Gotthardt Heirici wrote to his wife:

“They (The German officers and Hitler) don’t want to accept the fact that their armies, facing Moscow, are already completely encircled by the Russian armies. They refuse to admit that the Russians are capable of such military maneuvers.

Thus, they keep rushing in the abyss, totally blind to the consequences. Within 4 weeks, they will have lost their armies, and later they’ll lose the war…”

The weather is below 35 degrees Celsius, the ground muddy and icy, and the German soldiers lacks winter clothing and the vehicles and equipment are frozen, and the supplies are lacking…

The Russian army barely manage to resist the first onslaught, and as Stalin was convinced that Japan is no longer prepared any attacks on Russia, Stalin dispatched 400,000 soldiers from Russia far eastern front to face the German armies that penetrated very deep into Russia since June.

Gotthardt Heirici wrote in April 24, two months before the Russia campaign, and describing the occupation of Poland:

“In Poland, the Germans are behaving exactly as during the Antiquity when the Roman Empire conquered other people: The Polish people are to serve as slaves. Poland is considered the garbage dump of Europe… (the land where most people are potential for extermination).

Gen. Erwin Rommel had led his Panzer division in 1940 across the occupied France in a swift mechanized “horse ride”.

In Jan. 6, 1941, Gen. Erwin Rommel writes to his wife LU, from his quarters in Bordeaux (France):

“It seems the postal service is back to normal: I received your correspondence of Dec. 21 and 23. This afternoon we watched the movie “Le Coeur de la reine” (on Marie Stuart0 and I liked it.

The French peasants are living in the same life style as during the Roman Empire. Their homes are similar to ancient Rome, rough construction, flat roofs with round tiles, no running water, windows that don’t close shut, and not designed to keep the cold and wind out

I am not surprised of the military debacles of the Italian armies in Libya, Greece, Albania, Ethiopia, Somalia… against the armies of the British Gen. Archibald Wavell… The Italians forgot that war is not an easy enterprise…”

The British had rounded up 160,000 Italian soldiers as prisoners and the Italian armies overseas were in constant retreat. Churchill decided that the British armies are better to be shipped to Greece to counter the German advances in the Balkan, instead of reconquering all of Libya and Tunisia.

On Feb. 6, 1941, Rommel meets with the Fuhrer and receives the order to lead the AfrikaKorps in North Africa.

Rommel air bombs the port of Benghazi to prevent the British armies from it to supply its troops, and he settled in Tripoli, waiting for the 120 Panzer tanks to land.

The Italian officers were already packed up and waiting to be repatriated to Italy.

The initial mission of Rommel was to reconnoiter the front and the theaters of operations in Libya. He quickly stepped out of his limited orders and advanced very swiftly by fooling the British that he had many more tanks than he had: Rommel attached makeshift tank bodies on Volkswagen cars and led columns of transport vehicles to raise a lot of dust and give the illusion that an entire division of tanks are on the move…

By Aril 25, 1941, Rommel writes to his wife:

“The city of Tobruk will fall within two weeks and the battle of Egypt and the Suez canal is now seriously engaged. Easter passed and we didn’t notice it. You and my son Manfred are the most precious people I have in this world.

Greece is to fall very shortly… The German traditional officers who are burdened with theories do not comprehend practical spirits.  The energy shared by the chief in constant contacts with his soldiers is often more important than his intellectual gifts and talents.

The modern warfare is swiftness and requires maximum initiatives from the commanders and his troops…”

Athens fell on April 27. The 55,000 British soldiers who were supporting the 200,000 Greek armies had to retreat haphazardly to the island of Crete.  A few weeks later, 5,000 German parachutists landed in Crete and were supported by 15,000 coming from the sea and forced 30,000 British to evacuate again.

Many generals begged Hitler to occupy Cyprus to be at a striking distance from the Suez Canal. The Fuhrer declined the suggestion because Germany lost 4,000 of its best trained parachutists in Crete, and Hitler was still feeling sore of that loss.

Back in Russia. In December of 1941, a German soldier wrote to his wife: “Don’t worry. Don’t be sad: The sooner I’m buried deep in earth, the sooner I’ll save myself further pains and suffering…”

The war in Russia has turned “extermination style” on both sides. villages were burned to the ground and the civilians left to die in the cold and out of famine. No prisoners were taken.

Note: Extracts from the French book of Max Gallo “1941: The world catches fire”. Gallo

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adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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