Rommel and Schirach

In 1937, Rommel was given the duties of liaison officer with the Hitler Jugend, under the charming but arrogant Baldur von Schirach. The two men did not like each other. Schirach, who was American-educated, disliked the ramrod-stiff Rommel whom he saw as a caricature of the Prussian officer. He was surprised when Rommel opened his mouth and spoke with a broad Swabian accent, and proved far less stiff than he had expected.-  Christer Jorgensen, “Rommel’s Panzers,” page 20

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In 1937, Rommel conducted a tour of Hitler Youth (HJ) meetings and encampments, and delivered lectures on German soldiering while inspecting facilities and exercises. Simultaneously, he was pressuring Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach, to accept an agreement expanding the army’s involvement in Hitler Youth training. Schirach interpreted this as a bid to turn the Hitler Jugend into an army auxiliary, a “junior army” in his words. He refused, and Rommel, whom he had come to dislike personally, was denied access to the Hitler Jugend.  An agreement between the Army and the Hitler Youth was concluded, but on a far more limited scope than Rommel had sought. Cooperation was restricted to the army providing personnel to the Rifle School, much to the army’s chagrin. By 1939, the Hitler Jugend had 20,000 rifle instructors. Rommel retained his place at Potsdam and was awarded the highest war ribbons for excellent performance.

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Rommel first came to Hitler’s attention in 1934 during his visit to review the troops at Goslar. In 1935 he was posted as the War Ministry’s special liaison officer to Baldur von Schirach’s Hitler Youth Organization. He soon realized that he had no use for the young von Schirach’s methods and Rommel’s heavy Swabian accent did not sit well with the Hitler Youth leader’s expectations. They soon parted ways, but while in Potsdam Rommel had managed to complete his brilliant book on infantry tactics “Infantry Attacks” and get it published. This book obviously came to Hitler’s attention and apparently he was impressed by it. In 1938 when Hitler decided to visit his newly acquired Sudetenland he chose Rommel as the commandant for his Escort Battalion. This single appointment immediately propelled Rommel into the spotlight, where he would remain for many years to come. In November of that same year he was posted as Commandant of the officer cadet school at Wiener-Nuestadt, near Vienna. These would be some of their happiest years, and his family would live in comfortable surroundings. Again in March 1939 Hitler chose Rommel to command his mobile HQ during the occupation of Prague. With the invasion plans for Poland well under way, Rommel learned that he was promoted to Major General, and was subsequently made responsible for Hitler’s safety during his numerous visits to the front.

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