Then why did Hitler not persuade and invite Rommel to
leave the Wehrmacht and lead and command the Waffen-SS instead of Paul Hausser and Felix Steiner.
Why would Rommel, who had an abundance of professional military ability but a relative lack of National Socialist zeal, want to join a formation with an abundance of National Socialist zeal but a relative lack of professional military ability?
Besides, had he left the Heer, he probably would miss out on his pension.
Hitler been able to convert Rommel into a staunch Nazi
Rommel apparently disliked the whole NSDAP and SS scene.
Himmler who was more a leader of the Allgemeine-SS
So is the SS-FHA part of the Waffen-SS or the "Allgemeine-SS"? You oversimplify a complex organization. However, one this WAS simple: Himmler was the "Empire Leader" of the SS, including the Waffen-SS, although the court politics of the Third and the SS tend to obscure this fact.
Himmler was a true loyalist of Hitler (Der true Heinrich as Hitler called him), if he had any thoughts of overthrowing Hitler, Hitler could have used the Waffen-SS under the able command of Rommel to crush Himmler and his General-SS which was no match to the Waffen-SS.
Since "Reichheini" was so loyal, why would Hitler suspect him to be disloyal? In addition, given Rommel's alleged involvement in the July 20 Bomb Plot, he would probably be an inappropriate choice as a palace guard commander.
I do not see Rommel in the same class as Hausser and Steinner when it comes to the training, organizing and strategic leadership
Yes. He was much better.
how he (Rommel) would have fared in the main stage of battles on the Eastern Front?
Given his abilities, probably quite well.
relatively a novice to armored warfare so he would not have been high on the list of potential officers for service in an SS panzer division
Huh? Rommel, the commander of a panzer division who makes a lightning advance through France - up to 150 miles a day - and captures Cherbourg an armored warfare "novice"?
MAP READING COMMENT
"Not being able to read a map", how would they know ?
That's why I feel this map comment by one of his Waffen-SS comrades was pretty much
uncalled for and in reality probably never happened.
Here's the background on the map reading reference:
I once spent an hour and a half trying to explain a situation to
Sepp Dietrich with the aid of a map. It was quite useless. He understood nothing at all.
-- SS-Obergruppenführer Willi Bittrich, former commander of the II SS Panzer Corps,
quoted in Heinz Höhne's "The Order of the Death's Head" page 439. The quote is from Höhne's personal interview with Bittrich in 1966. (see footnote 16)
Dietrich was renowned for his charisma, his caring and support for the troops under his command - in particular the LSSAH. He suffered from no pretensions and certainly wouldn't ask them to do something that he wouldn't do himself. And his men revered him for it.
However, as a tactician and strategist, he was, frankly, no great shakes. Max Wunche, Rudolf Lehmann and Jochen Peiper were all in agreement that Dietrich had some pretty serious limitations as acorps and army commander. Read "Hitler's Gladiator" - Charles Messenger's biography on Dietrich, in which he writes "there were few of his men who did not doubt that he was promoted above his capabilities."
In fact, to compensate for Dietrich's lack of military expertise, former Wehrmacht Colonel Fritz Kramer, a 1934 graduate of the Berlin War Academy, formerly a staff member of the 13th Panzer division and logistics officer for the the I SS Panzer Corps, became Dietrich's chief of staff in June 1943, and served alongside him for the (except for a brief hiatus) the remainder of the war.
To put Dietrich capabilities in context, it's important to understand several points:
-- The knowledge and skills required to command a corps or an army are more advanced and complex then those required to command a division (as the knowledge and skills required to command a division are more advanced and complex then those required to command a regiment, battalion, or company) That's why military forces invest a significant of time and money in developing staff courses and military academies - to train officers in the complexities of commanding tens of thousands of men in combined arms formations and cooperating with other military and governmental branches.
-- A frequent complaint from the Heer regarding the W-SS is that in the main the W-SS lacked staff-level command and control capabilities. In other words, senior W-SS commanders frequently lacked the knowledge and skills required to successfully run corps-level units. Examples of this issue include the IV SS corps performance at Cherkassy in 1944 and "Spring Awakening"
in 1945 and the IX SS during the siege of Budapest in 44/45.
-- Given Hitler's deep distrust of the Heer in general and Heer staff officers in particular, it is not surprising that SS Corps began sprouting like wildflowers in 1943. Certainly Hitler and the senior commanders of the SS (such as Himmler, Karl Wolf, Gottlob Berger, etc.) shared the belief that a strong (i.e. NSDAP) zeal was more important than professional military knowledge in order to win WWII.
Biographical information on Dietrich and Rommel can be found at Mike Miller's excellent "Axis Biographical Research" site:
http://www.geocities.com/%7Eorion47/WEH ... H_A-Z.html
http://www.geocities.com/%7Eorion47/SS- ... uhrer.html
It's an interesting exercise to compare and contrast their careers. Here's a couple of data points:
Rommel was a year older than Dietrich.
Rommel was a career soldier, serving with great distinction in the Heer from 1910 to 1944. Dietrich, who always aspired a career in the military, was first discharged from the cavalry arm of the Bavarian Army in 1911 (after suffering injuries in a fall from a horse) , re-enlisted for WWI, and was discharged as a Vize-Wachmeister in 1919 - apparently a great disappointment to him. He didn't get back to a (para)military style career until he became commander of Hitler's bodyguard unit in 1933 and a full-fledged military commander until the outbreak of WWII.
During WWI, Dietrich served as an artilleryman, stormtrooper and tank crewman, seeing combat and achieving warrant officer rank and was awarded the 1918 Tank Badge in Silver, the Bavarian Military Service Cross 3rd Class and the Bravery Medal of Austria.
During WWI, Rommel served as a infantry officer and unit commander in both France and Italy, winning the Iron Cross First and Second class, the Wound Badge in Silver, the Württemburg Knight's Cross, among other decorations. The high point of his WWI carreer was the capture of a strategic mountain and it's 9,000 defenders on the Italian front.
Dietrich was an early member of the Nazi party, awarded the Golden Party Badge and the Blood Order
(although it's unclear whether he actually participated in the 1923 putsch). He was also an early member of the SS, with membership number 1,177. Rommel never joined the NDSAP or the SS; although he was an admirer of Hitler, he apparently did not have an active interest in politics. Indeed, Rommel didn't have many interests outside of soldiering. Without question Dietrich, who apparently had a warm personality and liked to drink, would have made a much better dinner guest.
Rommel spent much of the 1930's as an Army instructor - at the Infantry School in Dresden, the War College in Potsdam, and eventually became the commandant of Kriegsschule Wiener-Neustadt in 1938. Rommel's 1937 book "Infantry Attacks" earned Hitler's attention and admiration.
Apparently Rommel was pretty much apolitical, whereas Dietrich was an extremely close associate of Hitler (makes sense, since he was his bodyguard!) and all the other Third Reich notables of the '30s. Dietrich played a leading role in the 1934 "Night of the Long Knives" - the coup to crush the SA. Dietrich's involvement in the coup lead to his second conviction and incarceration in postwar West Germany.
Rommel was a pilot and amateur photographer (of military subjects, not surprisingly). I believe Dietrich was a pilot as well.
Rommel's strategic and tactical influence on WWII was greater than Dietrich's, as evident by his ongoing development of strategic doctrine (such as "sturm, swing, wucht" - attack, impetetus, weight) and his assignment to crucial commands such as the Afrika Korps, overseeing the construction (in a military sense) of the Atlantic Wall defenses in 1943 (of which many of the beach obstacles, anti-paratrooper obstacles, and defensive strongpoints were personally designed by Rommel), and commander
of Army Group B during the 1944 Normandy campaign.
Dietrich, as I SS Corps commander, was subordinate to Rommel during this campaign. Comparing their final commissions, we can see that Rommel outranked Dietrich (see the Heer~W-SS rank comparison chart at http://www.geocities.com/orion47.geo/CROISIER/Ranks.htm
Dietrich led by example without much fanfare whereas Rommel was constantly in the limelight
Gerhard, your comments echo Dietrich's impression of Rommel, given during his interrogation by Canadian military authorities after the war:
Sepp was very desparaging of Rommel, stating that he was not a proper soldier because he had not fought in Russia. 'What did he know of war? He constantly had himself photographed by Dr. Berndt, his publicity man, for the newspapers back home. All he could do was stand on a tank, baton in hand and shout 'I am the king of Africa!'"
(see Hitler's Gladiator, p 125)
However, Rommel was also known to lead from the front. He narrowly avoided capture during the 1940 French campaign because he was leading from the front. While commanding the Afrika Korps his command vehicle was a Sdkfz 250 nicknamed "Grief" (Griffin). Clearly his choice of wheels - an armored fighting vehicle with 2 MG34's and a radio instead of a big staff limo - indicated his style of command.
In addition, "Obersepp" Dietrich (who Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels called "the Blücher of the National Socialist movement" - see Walter Warlimont's "Inside Hitler's Headquarters 1939-45") didn't suffer from a lack of Third Reich press adoration. When Hitler awarded Dietrich the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross in Dec 1942, both Das Schwartz Corps
(the official SS newspaper) and the
(the official Nazi Party newspaper) gave "Sepp" glowing coverage. In fact, Dietrich was no stranger to the art of self-promotion, having gotten in trouble with Himmler
for dealing with the press directly during the celebrations for the 5th anniversary of the Leibstandarte in 1938.
I'm also confident that if any of us were to research the memoirs of soldiers who served with Rommel in Africa, we would find accounts from men who admired Rommel as a soldier and commander and were proud to serve under him.
He (Dietrich) went through the same command courses as his Heer counterparts
Yep. He even attended a class with Rommel in November 1937 on infantry tactics. But Heinz, you neglect one important point. Dietrich was a student. Rommel was the instructor.
and was even tutored by General Fritsch.
Yep. General Fritsch, Heer commander of Wehrkreis III (Berlin area) in 1933, was responsible for giving the Leibstandarte basic training. So your point must be that the armed SS had to rely on Heer military expertise not only towards the end of the war (see the 1943 appointment of staff officer Kramer above) but from its very inception.
At least his steadfastness in defeats and reverses inspired his troops to superhuman efforts,
whereas Rommel's pessismism and defeatism had a demorlaising ripple effect on troops under his command.
Sorry to nitpick, Heinz, but would you characterize Dietrich's reaction to the armband order or his flippant quips "They call us the 6th SS Panzer Army" because we only have six tanks left"
or his posting guards armed with machine guns around his headquarters "just in case Adolf wants to wipe me out for not defending Vienna" in April 1945 as examples of his steadfastness in defeats and reverses?
Dietrich was expressing doubts about the war long before the spring of 1945. Quoting Charles Messenger again, p. 118:
"It was about this time (i.e. July 1943) that Dietrich first publically voiced his dissillusionment in
public over how the war was going in the east. It appears that he declared that, in view of the sheer numerical superiority in man and material in which the Soviets enjoyed, decisive victory over them was no longer possible. This was picked up by Alfred Rosenberg, Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, who in turn, perhaps with some relish, as he was a rival to Himmler in the struggle for power
and influence, informed Himmler. The result was another rebuke for Dietrich. Himmler wrote to him:
'I am sure that this remark of yours about the combat value of the Russians was misunderstood. Please take the opportunity when you come to Berlin to go and see Rosenberg or write him a few words. Whatever you may think about the war in the East, I know best. That it isnot easy is clear to all of us. But at the same time we are sure that the Russians can and will be defeated.'"
Ultimately, Dietrich's hunch was to prove correct.
In fact, Dietrich's worry about the ever-increasing strength of the Allies mirrored Rommel's. Rommel on numerous occasions during his command of the Afrika Korps complained about his lack of supplies, replacements and equipment. He was aghast at Hitler's "hold at all costs" order during the battle of El Alamein in Nov 1942. In March 1943 he pleaded with Hitler to make a strategic withdrawl from North Africa before disaster struck.
Hitler not only refused, but played his typical card against commanders who told him news he didn't want to hear - forced Rommel to go on sick leave. Yet 2 months later, the Allies destroyed the Afrika Korps, capturing the commander von Arnhim and an estimated 275,000 Axis soldiers -
the greatest single German capitualtion since Stalingrad.
When Rommel learned that there weren't enough land mines in all of
France to fulfill his requirements for the Atlantic Wall, his doubts about Hitler as a supreme commander only grew. And continued to grow during the 1944 Normandy campaign - even in July 1944 Rommel saw the war as unwinnable and the only choice was, in the words of von Rundstedt, was to "make peace, you fools."
Both Dietrich and Rommel were to a large extent, shining stars of the Third Reich armed forces. Rommel's military professionalism and tactical brilliance earned him the respect of his enemies even as the war raged (Referring to Rommel, Churchill told the House of Commons "We have a very
daring and skillful opponent against us, and may I say across the havoc of war, a great general"). His standoffishness to the whole Nazi apparatus, his realization that Hitler's warlord ambitions would lead Germany to ruin and his suicide due to his alleged ties to the Bomb Plot conspiracy have all contributed to his postwar reputation. For example, in 1965, the barracks for West German Panzer-Brigade 28 were renamed "Generalfeldmarschall Rommel"-Kaserne.
Dietrich is a much more enigmatic character - a man who considered himself a "simple soldier" and who aspired to nothing more than a professional military career, but yet still a man who was the textbook example of the Nazi political soldier and who - quite literally - owed his success to Hitler. Had it not been
for his political affiliations (i.e. SS & NSDAP membership) and his close relationship to Hitler, would Dietrich still have become an Army commander by 1945? His not insignificant role in helping Hitler seize and consolidate power during the Nazi "struggle" of the 1920's and 1930's cast doubts on his simple soldier aspirations and a long shadow on his postwar reputation.