cover image Knight's Cross: A Life of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel

Knight's Cross: A Life of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel

David Fraser. HarperCollins Publishers, $30 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-018222-9

Erwin Rommel (1891-1944) was the most celebrated German general of WW II, in large part because of his campaigns against the British but also because of his personal magnetism. Relying on speed and shock, his style of maneuver is a standard subject of study in most war colleges. Fraser, a historian and retired British officer, shows that Rommel's uncanny aptitude for maneuver warfare was evident even when he was a junior infantry officer in WW I. Promoted to field marshal in 1944, Rommel commanded German troops defending the coast of France against the Allied invasion, abandoning the proven precepts of mobile warfare for an uncharacteristically rigid defense, a change in tactics which Fraser explores. Implicated in the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, Rommel was given the choice of suicide or facing a people's court. Fraser explains why he took a fatal poison draught, though his only crime was to question Hitler's leadership. Fraser's superb biography reveals Rommel not only as a warrior who ranks with Napoleon and Lee, but also as an unpretentious man who found much contentment in the company of his wife and son. Photos. (Feb.)