The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951) Script

The time is 1941... a month before Pearl Harbor.

At 11:00 on a November night... a British submarine surfaced in the Mediterranean... off the coast of Libya in North Africa... behind the German lines.

Are you sure the light carries that far?

It should.

There they are.

What's he saying? He says they're all set, sir.

Tell him we're coming in.

These were British commandos... and the purpose of this carefully plotted raid... was the death of one man.


Cover me.

It's no use. Go on without me.

Get hold of my arm! It's no use, I tell you. Get out of here!

Did we... Did we get him?

Are you serious, Englishman?

Gentlemen, the following order from General Auchinleck... is to all commanders and chiefs of staff of the Middle East forces.

"There exists a real danger that our friend Rommel...

"is becoming a kind of magician or bogeyman to our troops...

"who are talking far too much about him.

"He is by no means a superman...

"although he is undoubtedly very energetic and able.

"Even if he were a superman, it would still be highly undesirable...

"that our men should credit him with supernatural powers.

"I wish you to dispel by all possible means...

"the idea that Rommel represents something more...

"than an ordinary German general.

"Please ensure that this order is put into immediate effect...

"and impress upon all commanders...

"that from a psychological point of view... it is a matter of the highest importance."

Signed C.J. Auchinleck, General...

Commander-in-Chief, M.E.F.

This is the North African desert in June of 1942... and these are British soldiers taken prisoner the night before... by units of the German Afrika Korps.

Run, you fool, run!

You! Come on, get out of there!

Get over with the other prisoners!

Who is the senior officer here?

I am, I suppose. Come with me.

What's your rank? Lieutenant colonel.

Colonel, I want you to go along with these two officers on a flag of truce.

And tell that battery to stop firing.

Tell them they're... killing their own men. I can't do that.

Don't tell me what you can or can't do. I'm giving you an order.

Here, tie this on that rifle.

Listen, Major, I'm a prisoner of war.

You can't give me any such order.

You know that as well as I do.

I'm not going to argue the point with you.

Either you do as I tell you, or we'll soon find a way to make you.

Are you going or not?

Major! Major!

What's the row?

The field marshal said you're right.

Field marshal?

So this, then, was Rommel...

Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel... commander-in-chief of the enemy army... and the most celebrated German soldier since World War I.

Already a legend in the desert, he was a fox... who had chased his hunters back and forth across North Africa... about as often as they had chased him... and his tricks and turns had made even the Tommies chuckle... which is scarcely the proper reflex to the enemy in time of war.

In spite of which he was still, of course, my enemy... the enemy not only of my country and the army in which I served... but of all life as I knew it... not only of democracy as free men had fashioned it... but of civilization itself.

My name is Desmond Young.

At the time of my capture, I was a lieutenant colonel in the Indian army.

This was my first and only sight... of the cool, hard, professional soldier... whose scrupulous regard for the rules of warfare had been exercised... in this instance, so fortunately for myself.

Two years and four months later... while the British and Americans were fighting their way across Europe...

Erwin Rommel was dead.

He was dead, the Nazis reported... of wounds gallantly received on the field of honor.

But the Nazis were great liars, of course.

Many people wondered.

For already there were mysterious rumors floating across the battle lines.

So, when the war was over and my military life behind me...

I gave myself a mission.

I set out to discover what actually had happened to him.

What was the truth about his death... and on what field of honor had he died?

In a modest home in the tiny village of Herrlingen by Ulm in Wurttemberg, Germany..

I talked long and often with Rommel's son and widow... and examined his letters, reports and other papers.

In Germany, I talked to soldiers... who had served with him, over him and under him;

In England, with men who had fought against him... from field marshals to desert rats.

And in both countries, of course...

I went to the official records.

Based on these facts... what now follows is the true story of Erwin Rommel.

The beginning of the end for this single-minded soldier... came at 9:30 on the evening of October 23, 1942... when at El Alamein six miles of British guns...


I discovered that actually Rommel was not in Africa... when the storm of battle broke.

Suffering from a chronic diphtheria of the nose... he had been relieved of his command a month before... and flown back to a hospital in Germany.

But when the telephone rang at his bedside... and a familiar voice from Berlin called on him once more... he rose and was in a plane on the way back to the desert within hours.

Thank you, Bayerlein. Still a dandy, I see. Just luck, sir.

Welcome back. Good to see you, sir.

Shall we take a look at those maps? Over here.

How've you been, Bayerlein? Oh, very well, I suppose.

Did you see Frau Rommel? Yes, she came to stay a week, she and Manfred.

Well, I hope... How does it look today?

Oh, looks like they've got too much for us.

If they keep this up, I've no idea how we're going to get out of it.

Not with the amount of petrol we've got. But we've got petrol?

Some, but not enough. You mean it's still on the way.

Neither on the way nor any prospect of it. Who told you that?

I've talked to Rome three times. There's no petrol on the way nor any committed to us.

Schultz. Aldinger.

What about the tanks? Did they come? None.

None since I left? No. None since August.

What about the guns? Nothing, I tell you.

And no petrol at all? Not a pint.

This is correct from the hour.

Get me a stool, will you?

Here's where it's worst. 15th's in a bad way, barely hanging together.

What's this? A trailer division. They came in here.

Yes, I see. How far's this armor? No further.

They're doing pretty well there. Where are my maps?

Bring the 21st north through here.

Move the 90th forward here. They'll hook up.

That's right. Now tell me this.

Is Montgomery sending his infantry in first? Naturally.

Then let's give him a surprise. Let's send our tanks and blow a hole through that infantry.

If it works, we'll be on top of his tanks before he knows what hit him.

Very good, sir. If it doesn't work, we'll know better than to try it next time.

Come on, Aldinger. You're not going up now, are you?

Don't you think you oughta turn in for an hour or so?

After three weeks of being turned in? We're away, sir?

Let's head north and go in with the 21st.

But there was now another fox in the desert... an even craftier one, perhaps.

And if the battle boiled into confusion during the next few days... it was a confusion that was clearly more and more in Montgomery's favor.

Have you found the field marshal yet?

No, sir. He's out at the front again.

I don't know how the men on line feel about it... but so far as the staff is concerned, I'd just as soon have a commander-in-chief... with a little bit of cowardice about him.

Just enough to come back at headquarters every now and then.

Keep after him, will you?

By the tenth day of the battle... not even Rommel could have any doubt as to its outcome.

There's a limit to this sort of thing.

You can't just go on indefinitely until the last man's dead.

It's all very gallant and all that, but it's also pretty idiotic.

Von Thoma wants to pull back to Djerba.

What about Müller? No answer as yet, sir.

Where're you from, son? Goslar, sir.

Really? I was stationed in Goslar once with a mountain battalion.

We did a lot of skiing there. Do you know that run? Very well, sir.

Are you any good? Well, sir, two years ago...

Are you sure you understood? Yes. I had him repeat it back to me.

Are you keeping after Müller? Yes, sir.

Have you tried Berlin? Call if you can.

Nothing yet, though. Nobody knows the situation. I sent him the whole story.

If there's anything he can do, he will. No matter what you say... to Berlin we're only a side show and you know it.

Well, what? Müller's in a bad way.

How bad? Very, I'm afraid.

If he doesn't pull back soon, he won't have anything to pull back.

Well, where is he? His command car is gone. He's working in a carrier.

And if he's got more than 40 tanks left, I'd be greatly surprised.

How about the Italians? Müller thinks they've had as much as they can take.

Rome calling, sir.

Well? Field Marshal Kesselring regrets.

Well, that eliminates any further speculation anyway.

It's now a simple matter of mathematics.

With the petrol we've got left, we have two choices:

We can remain here and be destroyed... or we can pull out tonight and dig in somewhere for the next round.

You think we still can? Pull out? Of course. Why not?

Montgomery's got no petrol shortage.

But Montgomery's a very deliberate fellow.

He wouldn't dream of leaping after me the way I'd leap after him.

He'd have to think about it. I don't see what else there is to be done.

There's nothing else. Let's have plan "C."

Notify all commanding officers to stand by for important orders.

If we can move quickly enough... Berlin calling, sir.

Who in Berlin? The führer.

Signed Adolf Hitler.

"The situation requires that the El Alamein position be held to the last man.

There is to be no retreat, not so much as one millimeter. It must be victory or death."

I can't believe it. Have you still got Berlin?

Yes, sir. Ask him to repeat that message.

Yes, sir. I know, but it's not him. It's those hoodlums again... those thieves and crooks and murderers, those toy soldiers... those dummy generals with their books and charts and maps and pointers!

How can he listen to such nonentities?

How can he even stand the smell of such filth?

Why doesn't he use his own intelligence? I have your repeat, sir.

Well, go ahead, read it.

"The situation requires that the El Alamein position be held to the last man.

"There is to be no retreat, not so much as one millimeter.

It must be victory or death." Signed, Adolf Hitler.

It's incredible. You're not going to pay attention to such nonsense?

It's an order, Bayerlein, a military order from general headquarters... a clear, straight, stupid, criminal military order from general headquarters.

And what are you going to do, double the insanity by obeying it?

We've got the best soldiers in the German army here.

They may be just hanging on now, but they're still a force, they're still fighting.

If we take them out now, they can fight again tomorrow.

But this... this is shear madness. It's out of the Middle Ages.

Nobody has said "victory or death" since people fought with bows and arrows.

Why, this is an order to throw away an entire army.

If I may remind you, sir, here in the field these men are yours, not his.

I just can't understand it. I can. He's insane.

He's not insane. He's... But neither am I.

Pull them out, Bayerlein. I'll argue with him about it later.

The end came in Tunis when the Axis forces were caught... between the British, the Free French... and the Americans under Eisenhower... and surrendered unconditionally.

But the Afrika Korps went into captivity without its leader.

For, a month before the end, Rommel had again fallen ill... and been invalided back to the hospital in Germany.

Good morning, Sergeant. Good morning, Frau Rommel, Manfred.

Morning. Dr. Strolin.

Karl Strolin, Stuttgart. Dr. Strolin is an old friend of the field marshal's.

I understand you'll find him much better this morning.

All he needed was a little rest.

Frau Rommel...

Manfred Rommel...

and Dr. Karl Strolin.

From Stuttgart?

Not only from, but lord mayor of.

Don't tell me he's on the list.

"Dr. Karl Strolin, lord mayor of Stuttgart."

She says he's an old friend of the field marshal.

Nevertheless, here he is.

"To be kept under the closest observation... whenever discovered beyond the precincts of Stuttgart."

Not that it could really be described as an argument.

It's impossible to have an argument with him... in the sense that you and I could have an argument.

He raves, he screams, he goes into such hysterics... that it's like trying to make sense with a panic-stricken woman.

He called him a coward.

Did he really use that word to you?

Not once, but several times.

In Russia, he said, officers like me have been put against the wall and shot.

Now must I think it couldn't happen to me too.

That was his thanks, that was his gratitude for all that Erwin has done for him.

On the other hand, you mustn't hold people too accountable... for everything they say when they're emotionally upset.

The war is not going well, and he's naturally worried.

But I'm afraid it will be a long time... before I forget what he did to the Afrika Korps.

What was that?

When the end was near and I asked him to get them out... he said he had no further interest or concern... in the Afrika Korps.

And that was their thanks.

Rommel... I should like to ask you a question.

Of course, if you don't care to answer, I quite understand.

But with your permission, I should like to ask it nevertheless.

What is it?

Do you really believe that we can win?

I'll tell you what he believes. Yes?

He doesn't think so.

He told you that himself?

He did.

And he understands what that'll mean this time?


Then why do we go on?

We have no choice, because no country we're fighting...

England, America or Russia... will make peace with him.

He admitted that?

And it's the truth, of course.

In other words, while he remains as leader of Germany... we must fight on until we're destroyed.

Victory or death, as ever.

I take it he didn't mention the obvious solution to the situation.

What do you mean? Abdication.

Now, my dear Strolin...

I'm afraid we must go, dear. Must you already?

I have a train to catch. We'll come back after supper.

Let's have coffee together. Good-bye, Strolin. 'T was good to see you again.

We won't let it be so long next time.

Do you think they really would, Father? Would what, son?

Shoot you? No, no, of course not.

That's just his wild way of talking. You mustn't pay any attention to that.

Shoot his greatest general? You shouldn't have said that in front of him.

Come along and stop talking nonsense.

Until this evening, dear? Come early, will you?

He's a good-looking boy, isn't he?

A very nice boy too. But were you entirely truthful with him?

About what?

When you told him he would never put you up against a wall. But of course.

Has the possibility ever occurred to you that he might turn on you?

But why should he? He's turned on others.

He'll never turn on me.

What about some of those fellows around him that don't like you? Himmler, Bormann and that crowd.

Don't they ever influence him? Very often, indeed.

You don't think it's possible they might influence him against you someday?

It's possible, yes, but I don't see that it's very likely.

But in the remote possibility that they did... have you ever considered what might become of Lucie and Manfred?

I've never thought about it. But what on Earth are you getting at, anyway?

I think you should, that's all.

You haven't changed a bit, Doctor.

You always were something of an odd fish.

But there's no need for you to worry this time.

We're in no danger, none of us.

If you'll take a word of advice from an old friend... you'd better not talk like that to everybody.

I don't.

Only to those I know very well and am very fond of.

Good-bye, Rommel. Good-bye, Strolin.

Come again if you can. I'll try.

An invasion of Hitler's European fortress... was now clearly but a matter of time.

And in November of 1943...

Rommel made a tour of inspection of the Atlantic defenses... preparatory of taking command of the Nazi forces... that were gathering to resist the assault.

A month later, Rommel reported to Field Marshal von Rundstedt... supreme commander in the West, at the latter's headquarters... in the Pompadour's Palace at Fontainebleau outside Paris.

Field Marshal von Rundstedt, gentlemen.

Ruge. Field Marshal.


Good to see you, Rommel. Field Marshal.

Well, now that you have had an opportunity to examine it closely... what do you think of our Atlantic wall?

I'm afraid I haven't quite completed my report yet, but...

We'll discuss it later, whenever you're ready.

I don't imagine the mighty Eisenhower will be on us for another day or so.

It wasn't too much a tax on your strength, I hope.

Not in the least. I'm entirely recovered now.

I'm delighted. You're being well taken care of, gentlemen?

Yes, indeed, sir.

Would you be so good as to divert our friends... while Field Marshal Rommel and I have a few moments of private meditation?

Yes, sir.

Appalling, wasn't it?

I can't even see why it's called a wall.

The big ports like Havre and Ostend and Cherbourg are protected well enough... but the enemy's not coming in on the Queen Mary.

Nothing at all is being done about the beaches.

Why, I saw 50 places where an army of children could come ashore.

The trouble is labor. We have the plans for fortifications the devil himself couldn't breach... solid steel and concrete from Denmark to Spain... but I'm afraid our French friends aren't being as cooperative as they might be.

Even when driven to the job, they move like snails.

Either we break it up while they're still wading ashore or we're in trouble.

Is that the way you'd meet it? Stop them on the beaches.

Crowd the water with mines and traps and tricks... and hit 'em while they're busy trying to keep themselves from drowning.

Here, down here... and here.

I don't agree with you... but the difference of opinion will probably remain academic.

As it happens, neither you nor I will determine the tactics in this operation.

Not above the regimental level, anyway.

You mean... Berlin?

I mean the Bohemian corporal himself... is assuming sole and total command of this operation.

You and I will function simply as instruments of his astrological inspirations.

And in case you're afflicted with an understandable skepticism, this is official.

But that's an utterly impossible situation.

Then you should, by all means, explain that to him.

You've made no protests yourself?

After you've interfered a dozen times or so... with a man's rather enthusiastic determination to cut his own throat... there comes a moment when you're inclined to stand back... and view the whole matter with a certain detachment.

You've no objection to my... pointing this out to him? On the contrary.

I bestow my blessings on your courage and optimism.

I'm told you once referred to me as a clown... the clown of Hitler's circus.

Oh, did I?

If so, I think you should know I've been a great deal more explicit about you.

That's quite all right, Field Marshal.

I find it almost impossible to keep my mind on anything harsh said about me.

Did you say it?

Whoever said it, you've given them ample reason to regret such a foolish remark.

Thank you, Field Marshal. Not at all.

Is there anything else?

I don't believe so at the moment.

One suggestion, perhaps... in view of our cordiality.

If I were you, I wouldn't be altogether unguarded... about what I had to say about this new strategic arrangement.

I think you should know that from now on... you'll be under more or less constant observation here.

From Berlin? Friends of the management, I believe.

Have you any information as to why I should be singled out for such attention?

Oh, but you're not. We all are.

Apparently you didn't have it in Africa... but here on the continent it's an honor that goes with staff rank.

You too?

My dear fellow, I'm the commander-in-chief.

Two months after that... in February of 1944, during one of Rommel's... rare absences from the Atlantic frontier... his old friend Dr. Karl Strolin sought him out again.

Good afternoon, sir. Good afternoon.

Dr. Strolin to see the field marshal and Frau Rommel.

Come in, sir.

Eisenhower won't try it until spring, of course.

I doubt if I'll get home again before then.

Are we ready for him?

We will be, I hope.

To your very good health, Doctor.

To yours, my dear Rommel.

How do you know this room isn't wired?

Wired? Why should it be wired?

Does our friend Himmler have to have a reason for wiring a room?

No, I don't suppose he does.

But I don't think you have to worry about this one.


'Cause I want to talk to you without being overheard.

About what? About the Hitler situation.

If this is politics, Strolin, I don't want to hear it.

Had you rather see Germany destroyed?

It's not a matter I want to discuss, I tell you.

And I'm surprised at you. That's a communist position.

Oh? Is it?

Defeat, against him, all that sort of thing. You know it is.

Would you call General Beck a communist?

Of course not. Or Karl Goerdeler, the lord mayor of Leipzig?

I've never heard that he was. What about Falkenhausen?

No, but... What about Heinrich von Stulpnagel?

And von Urach and von Haslov? Are they communists?

Are you trying to tell me seriously that men like that are questioning his leadership?

Not just questioning it. They intend to end it.

You mean, you've talked to those fellows yourself?

To them and to many others. Not only soldiers, either.

Church men, labor leaders, lawyers, doctors.

Members of the government, even. Not too many of them, but sound men, every one.

How long has this been going on?

Since '38.

And what exactly are you after?

One, we want to get rid of Hitler and his gang.

If we are to be defeated, then we prefer to be defeated... as human beings, not as barbarians.

Two, whether we win or lose... we want to live again like decent people, without fear.

Look, Strolin, I don't want to get mixed up in this thing.

What they do in Berlin is their business, not mine.

I'm a soldier, not a politician.

You still think you're perfectly safe?

Who knows who's safe and who's not?

Under a sane man, you'd know.

That's a lot of rubbish, and you know it.

Well, I hope you're right, and perhaps you are.

After all, you are his favorite, and I can think of no one who's ever questioned... the deep and enduring gratitude he's always shown to those who've served him well.

No one's in any danger here who does his job properly. You have nothing to fear.

And if something did happen unpredictably... you'd still have the comfort of knowing that the lives of Lucie and Manfred... would be safe and snug in the soft, gentle, tender hands... of that brave little band of patriots he's gathered around him.

I'm afraid that kind of talk doesn't amuse me.

I'm not trying to amuse you. I'm merely reflecting on your extraordinary good fortune.

I wish you'd think about that too sometime... not the blood on his mouth, but what a godsend he is to you personally... not only in your home, but in the field as a soldier.

How many other generals can boast the favor and support of a leader... so gifted in the arts of war?

That's enough, Strolin.

Surely you haven't forgotten how brilliantly he refused... to be seduced into an invasion of undefended England right after Dunkirk.

Or how brave he was at Stalingrad... when von Forest wanted to withdraw from the trap.

What other man on Earth would have had the courage... to send that brief, simple, thrilling command:

"Don't retreat so much as a millimeter. Victory or death"?

Would Napoleon himself have dared... That's enough, I tell you!

Afraid even to think about it.

Stop talking to me as if I were a child and you a schoolmaster!

Don't you think I know what you mean? But what of it?

Who asked me for my opinion? And suppose I told them... that what they're doing is stupid to the point of imbecility!

Who do you think would listen? Have you ever tried?

Of course! I've been told to mind my own business.

And who's to say they're not right?

Surely you aren't naive enough to think that a soldier... must approve of every detail of his government before he can fight for it.

What army could exist like that, with every man free to decide what he will or won't do?

The truth is that a soldier has but one function in life, one lone excuse for existence... and that is to carry out the order of his superiors.

The rest, including government, is politics.

And if I must remind you again, I'm a soldier, not a politician.

What the government does... Oh, stop hiding behind that bloody uniform of yours!

What do I care about your philosophy of the soldier?

All it means to me is that you're terrified... hiding under a lot of rubbish about the functions of a robot.

Have you forgotten that I've known you for 20 years?

Why, I know exactly how you feel about that abomination in Berlin.

What I can't understand is this chickenhearted willingness... to go marching right down into hell with a beast you loathe and despise.

Where is all the sense and courage you have in the field? Haven't you any of it here?

I think you'd better get out of this house, now.

Not until you've shown an old friend the decency of honesty with him.

If reason won't work, very well, I'm prepared to go further.

I have no intention of stirring from this room until the truth has passed between us.

Had you rather I call the guard and charge you? That you will never do.

And may I ask why you know so well what I will or won't do?

Because Lucie told me that you wouldn't.

You... You've already talked to Lucie about this?

Of course. And she sent you to me?

Not at all.

She merely told me how you really feel... about our sainted leader and his glorious reign over Germany.

Father! Father, the car is here!

We saw it. Will you please not shout?

I've told you that a dozen times.

He's just excited. I know, but I'm tired of telling him...

He's all right. He's still only a boy, remember, in spite of that uniform.

Of course. You take care of yourself, dear.

You're not cross with me, are you?

For what? For speaking to Dr. Strolin.

No, of course not.

Is he right?

I don't know.

I can't make up my mind.

But that's a dreadful thing he proposes... a great, tremendous, dreadful thing.

I don't know that I can go along that far with him.

Then you shouldn't if you don't think he's right.

I didn't say he wasn't right, but even so... is that the only way to handle it: Treason?

That's what it comes down to, no matter how right you think you are.

You think it will be better to let things go along as they are?

No, no, I don't. But there must be some better way of handling it.

I mean, if I could see him alone again and explain the situation to him.

Can you tell me how a man can fight a war under such conditions?

Isn't it enough that we're facing an invasion without...

No, never mind now. You don't have to decide this minute.

It'll come to you when it's time.

What do you think, really?

I can't tell you, dear. I don't know.

But never mind now. When the time comes, something will tell you.

You better go along now. You're late already.

Write to me every day, will you? I will.

A little something for the journey. Thank you, darling.

Good-bye, sweetheart. Don't worry about me.

I'll try not to.

That's all, please.

Good-bye, son. Take care of your mother and be a good soldier.

Make me proud of you.

I'll try, Father. Are you going to bring us back Montgomery?

The minute he steps ashore.

Good-bye, darling.

Good-bye, darling.

And then, finally, after four long years of preparation... it came... D day.

And the greatest armada and the vastest movement... of men and arms in the history of the world, rose from England... and set out for the assault on the beaches of Normandy... and the German fortress of Europe.

From the moment the Bohemian corporal... promoted himself to the supreme command of our forces... the German army has been the victim of a unique situation.

Not only too many of the enemy... but one too many Germans.

You don't think he's ready to give us the 15th Army yet?

I don't see how he can, under the circumstances.

His astrologers have informed him that this is only a feint... that the real invasion is yet to come, north of Calais.

The 15th Army is sitting on those cold beaches up there... waiting for an invasion that has already taken place... is an excellent example of war by horoscope.

We've got to have those troops.

If we're not allowed to maneuver, we've got to support these positions.

We've got to see him again about it.

I tell you this in confidence, Rommel.

I don't think anything we can do would be of the slightest use.

The pattern for defea has already been set.

"Hold fast. Don't give up a millimeter of ground.

Victory or death." Wars simply can't be won... by men whose knowledge of tactics is based on copybook maxims.

It may stir schoolchildren, but they don't stop troops.

Give me a free hand for a few months, and I'd make them pay for it.

I'd make them pay such a price in blood... they'd wish they'd never heard of Germany.

I might not be able to stop them all, but they'd know they'd fought an army... not a series of stationary targets.

And he'll never let us, of course.

You know how firm corporals are.

Do you happen to know Karl Strolin?

Strolin? The lord mayor of Stuttgart.

I remember that name from somewhere.

Or Doctor Goerdeler of Leipzig?

You too?

Every day that passes, every minute of the day... convinces me more and more that theirs is the only possible solution.

Your words, you must understand, mystify me.

They propose to arrest him, take over the government... and move immediately to make peace with Eisenhower.

I shall, of course, deny that this conversation ever took place.

But that's a particularly childish idea.

Eisenhower's not going to make a separate peace.

And why should he, with things going as well as they are?

That part of your plan is doomed from the start.

But you don't disagree with the basic proposal.

I'm sorry, but I don't believe I heard the question.

In any case, if they came to you for counsel or advice... would you receive them?

Oh, no.


No, I'm afraid not, Rommel.

It's too late... much too late.

Even if they moved immediately?

Even if they moved immediately?

You misunderstand.

Not too late for that.

Too late for me.

I'm 70 now.

Too old to revolt.

Too old to challenge authority... however evil.

Berlin calling, sir. Marshal Keitel.

Keitel? Von Rundstedt.

Here. Is this true about Cherbourg?

I'm afraid so. This is dreadful.

How can I give such news to the führer?

You've reported misfortune to him before.

Why should this one present such a problem?

But that's just it. We've had nothing but bad news for weeks.

Isn't there any good news I can give him at the same time?

Have you checked on the Russian Front this morning?

We're not discussing the Russian Front.

We're discussing yours.

This situation in the West becomes worse with every report.

I- I'm actually embarrassed to give him another disappointment like this.

Can't you think of anything we can do about it?

Certainly. Give us those 90 divisions of the 15th Army... who are sitting around Calais playing cards.

You know that's impossible.

The führer has already explained the necessity for leaving them there.

Very well then. Give us permission to pull out of Normandy... and set up a line that we can defend properly.

Your orders are to fight where you are, and that's what he expects you to do.

Is it possible you have no better suggestion than that?

One very much better, in fact.

Make peace, you idiot.

Good-bye again, Rommel. He'll never report that.

This very instant, he's knocking at the corporal's door... whimpering with happiness.

You must never forget this, my dear fellow.

Victory has a hundred fathers. Defeat is an orphan.

Within 24 hours, you'll be named my successor.

And I extend to you my deepest sympathy.

That's nonsense. He'll never let you go.

But not too old, I might add... to wish your friends the best of luck... in their extremely interesting project.

Meanwhile, with their beachheads irretrievably secured...

Allied tanks and men had fanned out across France... and begun their race for the Rhine.

Put these where you can get to them quickly.

Also those files there.

Keep the key, and use your... own judgment about the rest. Very good, sir.

Field Marshal.

Where is he? In the small room.

Aldinger. Yes, sir.

Colonel. I'll try to be as brief as possible.

Perhaps you'd better keep an eye on the corridor. Yes, sir.

Well? We are faced with an immediate decision, sir.

Three of our men were arrested in Berlin yesterday.

They'll been made to talk, of course.

But fortunately their knowledge of the people involved is... limited.

Nevertheless, in the opinion of everyone, there's no time to be lost.

We must act at once.

And it's all set. Definitely. So I understand, sir.

The general's extremely anxious to know... if you're in a position to speak for the commanders you mentioned to him.

At my word from this instant, they're prepared to follow my lead.

Then I have the field marshal's permission to inform General Stulpnagel... we may now act at will and without further consultation?

Wait here, Colonel. Come with me, Ruge.

Clear this room, Aldinger. Yes, sir.

Outside. Never mind about that. Outside.

Field Marshal Rommel speaking.

Put me through to Field Marshal Keitel.

I've got to be certain, absolutely certain.

We can't go through with this if there's even the remotest sign of sense there.

Keitel. Rommel.

Now listen very carefully, Keitel.

I've got to see the führer at once.

Somewhere in France. I can't explain on the telephone... but you must make him understand that it's a matter of the greatest urgency.

I suggest tomorrow morning.

On June 17... they met in Hitler's underground stronghold at Margival near Soissons.

This is an extremely difficult duty, my führer.

But circumstances leave me with no choice.

We've reached a crisis that calls for a decision on the highest level.

But you've said that! You've said that before!

Every time I talk to you we're facing another crisis.

When the enemy has overwhelming superiority on land, at sea and in the air... and continues to grow stronger with every hour... while we grow weaker at the same rate... that to me is a crisis by any standards that I understand.

A crisis that should be examined promptly and realistically.

A crisis that should be examined promptly and realistically.

That's you! That's you! Like always!

When everything's going well, you're willing enough.

But at the first sign of a difficulty... you become a defeatist, a complete defeatist.

Are you perhaps interested why you didn't succeed von Rundstedt?

This is why!

It maybe had been better if I'd replaced you altogether!

Have you at least a little confidence in me?

More it would seem than the führer has in me. May I continue?

And what my V-bombs are doing to London, has no one told you?

Yes, sir. But why not to the beachheads?

Because that's not their purpose. They have not that accuracy.

They need a whole city for a target. Then they cannot miss.

Then why not the embarkation ports... Plymouth, Southampton. Portsmouth?

No, no, no, no! That's...

That's exactly what I mean when I say you're no good at thinking above the battlefield.

The British don't care for those villages.

It's their London that they love.

They don't want to see it destroyed the way I'm going to destroy it.

In two more weeks, remember my words.

They'll be screaming for surrender. Just wait. You'll see.

To continue, sir.

The struggle is over on this front.

Within these two weeks, you must be prepared to see the enemy... break through our lines and push out into the interior of France.

Militarily, the end is already in sight.

We have nothing more to throw in. Hmph.

What is it you're proposing?

That we surrender? I give you the facts, sir.

I only ask that you draw the proper conclusions.

Proper to whom? To you!

I suggest to you, Rommel, that you confine your genius to fighting... and leave the conduct of the war to those who are responsible for it!

My apologies, sir.

Now, if the führer will honor me with his advice...

The V-weapon, for your information, happens to be only the first... in a whole series of weapons that will completely revolutionize all warfare!

I've a second a hundred times as powerful and a third in mind... a thousand times more destructive than the second!

But the crisis is now, sir.

I've a dozen others, all of them capable of turning the whole course of the war!

But what about now, sir? What are we to do tomorrow morning?

While you've been deciding that all is lost... we've been working, working miracles... determining the course of history for centuries to come!

In the workshops, in the laboratories... we've been turning out machines of destruction such as... the enemy has never dreamed of!

I have one in mind... I have a weapon in mind...

Now, definitely committed to the plot to assassinate his führer...

Rommel was still trying to whip fight into his crumbling front... when on June 17 on a country road near a village... with the ominous name of Montgomery...


Three days later, on July 20... while Rommel still lay unconscious in a hospital in France...

Adolf Hitler and his staff gathered for their fateful conference... in a fortified barracks at his headquarters in East Prussia.

The führer, gentlemen.

He handles his panzers like a cavalry officer.

Thank you, gentlemen.

My führer. Yes.

Stauffenberg, sir. Yes! Yes, yes.

Stauffenberg, of course, from General Fromm. Yes, sir.

Good to see you again. Thank you, my führer.

Uh... Gentlemen. Your attention, please.

Excuse me, please. I have a report from General Fromm.

Where's Goering? On his way now, sir.

Well, when you are fat, you don't move so fast.

Colonel-Count von Stauffenberg? Yes.

Telephone, sir. Thank you.

Excuse me.

All right. Suppose we start with the Russian Front.

Führer. Führer!

Are you all right, my führer?

Yeah. I'm all right.

For that failure, 5,000 suspects paid with their lives... during the few days that Hitler spent in hospital.

As for Rommel, recuperating at Herrlingen from injuries that would have destroyed... any but the toughest of men... all public mention of his name suddenly stopped... and the complete and official silence... settled over the subject of the nation's most-celebrated soldier.

For three months, he remained in this sinister isolation... until the afternoon of October 13 in 1944.

Keitel? How are you, Rommel?

Getting along, thank you. Well enough yet to come up to Berlin?

I'm afraid not yet. In another week or two, perhaps. Why?

I could send a special train for you.

That's very good of you, but I really don't feel up to it yet.

Is there some particular urgency about it?

How soon do you think you'll be ready for another command?

Another two weeks, I suppose. Three at the most.

If we send someone there, would you be able to discuss the situation with him?

Of course.

Very well, I'll send Burgdorf. You know him, don't you?

I've met him. Suppose I have him drive down tomorrow morning?

Would that be convenient for you? Perfectly.

He'll have full information and instructions.

Will you give my best regards to Frau Rommel? I will.

And thank you very much. Good-bye, then.


Keitel. He's talking about another command again.

When? When I feel like it, I suppose.

Eh, he sends his best regards to you.

We're here to see Field Marshal Rommel. I'll tell him, sir.

- Would you tell him that... Come in, Burgdorf.

Field Marshal. It's good to see you again. And you, General.

I don't believe you've met my wife. I haven't had the pleasure, sir.

My dear, will you allow me to present General Burgdorf and General...

Maisel, sir. General Maisel.

This is my son Manfred and Captain Aldinger.

I hope you're not too tired from your journey. Not at all.

Thank you, Frau Rommel. Have you time for a luncheon and a glass of wine?

Thank you, sir. We're due back in Berlin as quickly as we can make it.

Very well, then. If you'll excuse us, dear. This way, gentlemen.

Our apologies, Frau Rommel. Of course, but I'm disappointed.

Another time, perhaps. I hope so.

I hope it's the Russian Front, don't you?

Make yourselves comfortable.

Smoke, if you wish.

I'm not like Montgomery. Smoke doesn't make me unhappy.

At your service, gentlemen.

We come directly from the führer, Field Marshal.

Yes. And what we have to say to you... comes directly from his lips.

Yes. Our instructions are to tell you first... of his deep appreciation... of your many heroic services to the state.

Go on.

And his regrets over your unfortunate accident.

I was sure his silence meant only that there were more important matters on his mind.

It's a pity that after such a record...

If you'll forgive me, may we skip your reflections... and get to the message you have for me?

Of course, sir.

You'll observe that the charges are supported... by an overwhelming body of testimony.

I can read, thank you.

You've been uncommonly fortunate in deathbed confessions.

It's all perfectly legal, I assure you, sir.

You may inform the führer that I look forward to answering these charges in court.

You... You don't intend to deny them, do you?

I said, you may inform the führer that I look forward... to answering the charges in court.

The führer is extremely hopeful that this matter can be settled... without exposing it to the inevitable publicity of a court trial.

Very well, then. Let him withdraw the charges.

His view is that nothing but harm for everyone could come from a trial.

My orders are to remind you in the strongest terms...

My orders are to remind you in the strongest terms... of the damage testimony like this could do to your name and reputation.

And what does he expect me to do? Plead guilty to you?

Well, naturally, not that, of course.

I know what he wants. He wants me to keep my mouth shut.

He doesn't want me to tell what happened where it can be heard.

Well, you may tell him for me that's very thoughtful of him... but that I'm quite capable of taking care of my own name and reputation in my own way... which will be in a proper court of law.

But to what end, sir?

The verdict is already indicated.

He told you to tell me that too?

The evidence is there.

What defense is possible?

Then, what does he suggest?

Before we go further, the field marshal should be warned... that this house is entirely surrounded.

My orders, sir. I'm sure you understand.

And the both of us are armed. What does he want done?

His belief is that it would be to the best interests of all concerned... if you should see fit to relieve the situation yourself... quietly and without delay.

Go on. The advantages of a solution like that... over an ugly exchange of recriminations in an open court... are, in his opinion, several and obvious.

Most important to him, of course... would be the preservation of your name and fame.

And he would see to it himself not the slightest suspicion... would be attached to the way of your going.

As far as the rest of the nation would know, you'd succumbed... finally to your war wounds.

That would be the official announcement.

And the state would then honor your memory and your family as well... with a generosity that would be historic.

That was his word, "historic."

Your name would live on in the glory it once deserved... while your wife and son would never want for either safety or comfort... as long as they live.

I have a choice? In a sense, yes.

The choice to die now... or later.

It amounts to that, I'm afraid.

How long have I to make this choice?

We're due back in Berlin as early this evening as we can make it.

The penalty in this case, I'm told... would be the garrote... death by strangulation.

The drug I've brought with me is effective in three seconds... and painless.

Tell him for me... that in spite of the disadvantages you've been kind enough to point out...

I'll take the trial.

It may be, as you say, a futile defense... but I think it should be heard nevertheless.

There might be some value in it for those who hear it.

It might even move some to stop and think for a moment or two... as finally I did... though, unfortunately, too late.

In any case, it's my life, and that's my choice.

I confess my disappointment with your choice, sir.

My heart, of course, bleeds for you.

The unfortunate part of it is that if you insist on a trial...

I have no authority to offer any guarantees... for the safety and comfort of your son... and widow.

They're coming out now.

All over, sir? I believe so.

We'll wait outside, sir. I won't be long.

Well, we hardly expected such a...

Over already? Wait there, please.

I'll be down in a few moments.

What is it, Erwin?

I want you to be strong, darling.

I want you to be very strong and very brave.

Do you understand? Yes.

I've got to go away now... and I won't be back.

Do you want me to tell you any more?

There's no way out?

No. But it won't be too terrible, uh...

They're giving me a drug. It's painless and effective immediately.

We're leaving now, and I'll do it as quickly as possible.

We've got guns, sir. Can't we make a break for it?

No, there's nothing that can be done.

They've thought of everything.

But at least we could get them.

There's nothing to be done, I tell you.

I've got to do exactly as they say.

Yes, sir.

Are you going to be brave now? I don't know.

You and Manfred will be all right. They've assured me of that.

And nobody's to know about this but us.

Are you sure there's no other way? No other, darling.

Have you told Manfred yet? I'll tell him when I go down.

No. Let me tell him.

I can tell him so much better.

If you wish.

I'll get my coat now.

It's cold, and I don't want to shiver.

The field marshal's coming out now.

You're going now? Why not?

But are you well enough?

Of course, I've just been taking it easy on you and your mother.

Is it Russia?

Good-bye, Aldinger, old dear friend.

Good-bye, sir.

Take care of them. Yes, sir.

Can't you tell me?

Don't ask so many questions.

You know better than to talk like that to a field marshal.

But when will we know?

Before very long.

Good-bye, son. Be a good boy. Good-bye, Father.

You'll stop them, won't you?

We'll see.

Good-bye, dear.

During that last short ride... what may Rommel's thoughts have been?

Were they bitter that he had learned too slowly and struck too late?

Or did they go back to the desert, where his military genius... had first electrified the world?

First, at Mikkeli.

Then Tobruk.

Yes, and even El Alamein.

In any case, his life and fate have best been summed up... ironically enough, in the words of Nazi Germany's sternest enemy... the honorable Winston Churchill.

His ardor and daring inflicted grievous disasters upon us... but he deserves the salute which I made him... in the House of Commons in January 1942.

He also deserves our respect... because, although a loyal German soldier... he came to hate Hitler and all his works... and took part in the conspiracy to rescue Germany... by displacing the maniac and tyrant.

For this, he paid the forfeit of his life.

In the somber wars of modern democracy... there is little place for chivalry.