A new documentary broadcast on Germany's ZDF television channel this week seeks to correct Rommel's image as a gentleman warrior whose campaigns in North Africa were not connected with the murderous wars of destruction Nazi Germany unleashed in Europe, Der Spiegel reports.
"If Erwin Rommel, lauded as a master military tactician even by his enemies, had managed to fight his way through North Africa, he would have sealed the fate of thousands of Jews who had fled to Palestine from the Nazi terror in Europe. (...)
"Those fighting Jewry can always rely on the sympathy of the Arab population," the German army general staff wrote in an information booklet to prepare troops for the conquest of Palestine.
Hitler was celebrated in large parts of the Arab world, and some newspapers even likened him to the Prophet. The Desert Fox was almost as popular as Hitler. "Heil Rommel" was a common greeting in Arab countries.
Many Arabs thought the Germans would free them from the rule of the old colonial powers France and Britain. Hitler had shown how to burst the shackles of the Treaty of Versailles. After Germany defeated France in 1940, chants against the French and British echoed around the streets of Damascus: "No more Monsieur, no more Mister, Allah's in Heaven and Hitler's on earth."
"Adolf Hitler assured the exiled Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Amin al-Husseini, at a meeting in Berlin in November 1941 that his goal was the "destruction of Jewry living in Arabia." The Führer had racist objections to Arabs as well, though. He declined to shake the Mufti's hand and refused to drink coffee with him.
"Hitler nevertheless provided the Mufti, who later sponsored Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, with a budget of 750,000 Reichsmark per month to foment Jihad in Palestine. In an example of ideological flexibility, the SS even recruited Muslim volunteers and declared that the Muslims living in the Balkans belonged to the "racially valuable" peoples of Europe.
"Behind the front line of Rommel's Afrikakorps, a special unit was created in July 1942 to to plan the murder of Jews in the region. It was led by SS Obersturmbannführer, or Lieutenant Colonel, Walther Rauff, an experienced mass murderer who helped develop the mobile gassing vehicles the Germans used to murder Jewish people in their campaign in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
"The SS had established a network of labor camps in Tunisia. More than 2,500 Tunisian Jews died in six months of German rule, and the regular army was also involved in executions.
Rauff's men seized silver, jewellery and sacred objects. On the Tunisian island of Djerba alone, 43 kilograms of gold was taken from the local Jewish population. The SS later deposited the treasure in the sea off the island of Corsica. Ever since, the undiscovered "Rommel's Treasure" has attracted generations of treasure hunters."Rommel's reputation was spared only because his strategy failed."
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