Humanistic biopic of Hitler's greatest commander, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, famous for bringing the British in north Africa to a standstill for two years during World War II.
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It's 1941 - a month before Pearl Harbor.
11 o'clock on a November night.
A British submarine surfaced off Libya
on the North African coast...
behind the German lines.
Sure the light carries that far?
There they are.
-What's he saying?
-Says they're all set, sir.
Tell 'em we're coming in.
These were British Commandos.
The aim of this well-plotted raid was the death of one man.
-It's no use. Go on!
-Grab my arm.
No use! Get out of here!
Did we... Did we get him?
Are you serious, Englishman?
This is from General Auchinleck to all commanders, Middle East Forces.
"There is a danger that Rommel is becoming
"a kind of magician to our troops...
"who talk too much about him.
"He is not a superman, although undoubtedly energetic and able.
"Were he a superman it would still be undesirable...
"that our men credit him with supernatural powers.
"I wish you to dispel the idea that Rommel is any more
"than an ordinary German general.
"Ensure this order is put into effect and impress on commanders...
"that psychologically it is a matter of the highest importance.
"Signed, CJ Auchinleck."
The North African desert, June 1942.
These are British soldiers taken prisoner the night before...
by the Afrika Korps.
ARTILLERY FIRE, LOUD EXPLOSIONS
Run, you fool, run!
You! Out of there!
Over with the other prisoners.
Who is the senior officer here?
I am, I suppose.
Come with me.
-What's your rank?
Colonel, go with my officers under a white flag and tell that battery
they're killing their own men.
Sorry, can't do that.
That's an order. Tie this on that rifle.
You can't give a prisoner of war orders like that.
I won't argue. Either do as I say or we'll make you.
-Are you going, or not?
Major! What's the row?
-The Field Marshal said you're right.
NARRATOR: So this was Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel,
the most famous German soldier since World War I.
Already a legend, a fox who'd chased his hunters
across North Africa as often as they'd chased him.
His tricks and turns had made even the Tommies chuckle -
scarcely the proper reflex to the enemy in time of war.
But he was still my enemy.
The enemy not only of my country,
my army, of all life as I knew it...'
..not only of the democracy of free men, but of civilisation itself.
I am Desmond Young.
At my capture, I was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Indian Army.
This was my only sight of the cool, professional soldier
whose scrupulous regard for the rules of warfare had saved my life.
Two years later, while the Allies
still fought their way across Europe,
Rommel was dead.
Dead, the Nazis said, of wounds gallantly received in the field.
But the Nazis were great liars.
Many wondered, and rumours floated across the battle lines.
So, with the war over and my military life behind me,
I set out to discover what had really happened.
What was the truth? On what field of honour had he died?
In a modest home in Herrlingen bei Ulm, in Germany,
I talked with Rommel's son and widow
and examined letters, reports and other papers.
In Germany, I talked to soldiers who had served with him
and, in England, with men who had fought against him,
from Field Marshals to Desert Rats.
In both countries I went through official records.
Based on these facts, this 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 23rd, 1942,
at El Alamein, when six miles of British guns...
Actually, Rommel was not in Africa when the battle broke.
Due to diphtheria of the nose,
he had been relieved a month before and flown to hospital in Germany
But when the telephone rang at his bedside and a familiar voice called,
he rose and caught a plane back to the desert within hours.
Thank you, Wagner. Still the dandy!
-Just luck, sir.
-ALL: Welcome back, sir.
Let's see the maps.
-How've you been, Bayerlein?
-Very well, I suppose.
-Did you see Frau Rommel?
-Yes, at Zemmering. And Manfried.
-Well, I hope?
-How's it look?
-They're too much for us.
If they keep this up we won't get out - not with the petrol we've got.
-We've got petrol?
-Some. Not enough.
-It's coming, though?
-No prospect of it.
-Who told you that?
-I've talked to Rome
three times. There's no petrol on the way, nor will be - as of ten last night.
What about tanks? Did any come?
-None since I left?
-Not since August. And no guns.
-What about Nebelwerfers?
-And no petrol at all?
Not a pint!
This is correct within the hour.
Get me a stool, will you?
The 15th's in a bad way, barely hanging together.
-Trento Division, from in here.
-Yes, I see. How far is this armour?
Where are my maps?
Bring the 21st and Ariete up here,
move the 90th and Trento forward.
-Is Montgomery sending infantry in first again?
We'll surprise him and send tanks in first. If it works, our infantry will pour in and finish it.
If it fails we won't try it again.
You're going up now?
Don't you think you should turn in for an hour or so?
-After three weeks' rest?
-Where to, sir?
Head north and go in with the 21st.
NARRATOR: But there was now in the desert an even craftier fox
and as the battle got more confused in the next days it was more and more in Montgomery's favour.
DISTANT ARTILLERY FIRE
-Have you found the Field Marshal?
-No, sir, he's at the front again.
I don't know how the men feel, but for staff, I'd like a chief
with enough cowardice to keep him at HQ now and then.
Keep trying, will you?
NARRATOR: By the tenth day of the battle the outcome was clear.
There is a limit. You can't just go on until the last man's dead.
It's all very gallant, but also idiotic.
Von Thoma wants to pull back to Darbar.
-What about Mueller?
-No answer, sir.
-Where are you from?
Really? I was stationed there once. We skied a lot. You know that run?
-Very well, sir.
-Are you any good?
-Two years ago at Garmisch I won...
-Does Rome know I need an answer?
-Yes, sir, I had him repeat it.
-Keep after Mueller.
Should you try Berlin?
He'll call if he can. He knows - I sent the whole story last night.
To Berlin we're only a sideshow.
-Mueller's in a bad way.
Very. If he doesn't pull back soon he won't have anything to pull back.
Why doesn't he answer?
His command car's gone.
I doubt he has 40 tanks left.
-How about the Italians?
-Mueller says they can't last.
Rome calling, sir.
-"Field Marshal Kesselring regrets."
That eliminates further speculation.
It's now a simple matter of maths.
With the petrol we have left we can remain here and be destroyed,
or pull out and dig in for the next round.
-Montgomery's got no petrol shortage.
But Montgomery's very deliberate.
Wouldn't dream of leaping after me without some thought.
-I don't see what else we can do.
-Nothing. Let's have Plan C.
All COs to stand by for important orders. If we can move quickly...
-Berlin calling, sir!
It's signed "Adolf Hitler."
"The El Alamein position must be held to the last man."
"You'll not retreat one millimetre - it is victory or death."
-I can't believe it.
-Berlin still there?
Ask him to repeat it. I know! It's not HIM, I tell you.
It's those hoodlums. Those crooks. Those toy soldiers, dummy generals with books and maps and pointers.
How can he listen to such filth?
Why doesn't he use his own intelligence?
-I have your repeat, sir.
-Go ahead, read it.
"The situation requires El Alamein to be held to the last man."
"You'll not retreat one millimetre - victory or death. Adolf Hitler."
-You won't pay any attention?
-It's an order, Bayerlein, from GHQ.
A clear, straight, stupid, criminal, military order!
And will you double the insanity by obeying it?
We have Germany's best here.
They're just hanging on, but if we retreat now they can fight again.
This is madness. It's out of the Middle Ages.
Nobody has said "victory or death" since bows and arrows!
This throws away an entire army.
Remember, sir, in the field the men are yours, not his.
-I can't understand it.
-I can. He's insane.
But neither am I.
Pull 'em out. I'll argue with him later.
DISTANT MORTAR FIRE
NARRATOR: The end came in Tunis,
when the Axis forces, caught between the British, French and Americans
But the Afrika Korps went into captivity without its leader.
A month before the end Rommel had again fallen ill
and been hospitalised in Germany.
-Morning, Frau Rommel, Manfried.
-Karl Strolin, Mayor of Stuttgart.
Dr Strolin is an old family friend.
Your husband is better today.
All he needed was some rest.
..and Dr Karl Strolin.
Not only from, but Lord Mayor of!
Don't tell me HE's on the list!
"Dr K Strolin, Mayor of Stuttgart."
She says he's an old friend of the Field Marshal.
Here he is. "To be watched whenever outside Stuttgart."
Not that it could really be described as an argument.
One can't argue with him in the sense that you and I argue.
He raves and screams
and goes into such hysterics he's like a panic-stricken woman.
He called him a coward.
Did he really use that word to YOU?
In Russia, he said, officers like me have been
put against a wall and shot for less.
That was his thanks for all that Erwin has done.
People aren't always responsible for what they say when upset.
The war's not going well and he's naturally worried.
But I shan't forget what he did to the Afrika Korps.
What was that?
When the end was near I asked him to get them out. He said he had
"no further concern in the Korps."
And that was THEIR thanks.
Rommel, I'd like to ask a question. If you don't answer I'll understand.
But I should like to ask, nevertheless.
Do you believe we can win?
I'll tell you what HE believes.
He doesn't think so.
He told you that himself?
And he understands what that means?
Then why go on?
We have no choice. No country we're fighting - England, America
or Russia - will make peace with HIM.
HE admitted that?
It's the truth.
So while he is our leader, we must fight until we're destroyed.
"Victory or death."
I take it he didn't mention the obvious solution?
My dear Strolin!
-We must go.
-I have a train to catch.
We'll come back later.
Let's have coffee together. Goodbye, Strolin - good to see you again.
Don't let it be so long next time.
Would they really shoot you?
Of course not. That's just his wild way of talking. Pay no attention.
Shoot his greatest general?
Don't say that in front of him. Come on, and stop talking nonsense.
Until this evening, dear.
Come early, will you?
He's a good-looking boy.
And a nice boy, too.
-But were you entirely truthful with him?
-When you said they wouldn't shoot you.
-You don't think he might turn on you?
-Why should he?
-He's turned on others.
-Not on ME.
What about the men around him who don't like you? Himmler, Bormann.
-Don't they influence him?
You don't think they'd influence him against YOU someday?
Yes, but I don't think it's likely.
But in the possibility that they did,
have you thought what might become of Lucie and Manfried?
No. But what are you getting at?
I think you should, that's all.
You haven't changed a bit. You were always an odd fish.
But don't worry. We're in no danger.
Take my advice. Don't talk like that to everybody.
I don't. Only to those I know well and am very fond of. Goodbye.
Goodbye. Come again if you can.
GUARD BLOWS WHISTLE
NARRATOR: Invasion of Hitler's European fortress
was but a matter of time.
In November 1943, Rommel inspected the Nazis' Atlantic defence forces
prior to taking command of those gathering to resist the assault.
A month later, Rommel reported to Field Marshal von Rundstedt,
Supreme Commander in the West, at his HQ at Fontainebleau, near Paris.
Field Marshal von Rundstedt, gentlemen.
-Good to see you, Rommel.
Now, you've seen it, what do you think of our Atlantic Wall?
I haven't completed my report yet.
We'll discuss it later, then.
I don't see the mighty Eisenhower attacking for another day or so!
It wasn't too much for you, I hope?
No, sir. I'm recovered, thank you.
-Good. You're being taken care of, gentlemen?
-ALL: Yes, sir.
Baum, will you divert our friends
-while Marshal Rommel and I talk in private?
Appalling, wasn't it?
I can't see why it's called a wall.
Ports like Havre, Ostend, Cherbourg
are protected, but the enemy's not sailing in on the Queen Mary.
The beaches are undefended. An army of children could come ashore.
It's a labour problem. We've plans for defences the devil
couldn't breach, solid from Denmark to Spain.
But the French won't co-operate.
Even when driven they move like snails.
We must stop them wading ashore or we're in trouble.
-How would you do it?
-Stop them on the beaches.
Lay mines and hit 'em while they're trying to keep from drowning.
Here, down here...and here.
I don't agree. But the difference of opinion is academic.
Neither of us will decide the tactics of this operation.
Not above regimental level.
You mean Berlin?
The Bohemian corporal himself is assuming command of this.
We will act simply as instruments of his astrological inspirations.
And in case you're sceptical, this is official.
-So tell him.
-You haven't tried?
After trying many times to forestall his enthusiasm to cut his own throat
there comes a time when you stand back in complete detachment.
Would you mind if I talk to him?
On the contrary. I admire your courage and optimism.
I'm told you once referred to me as the clown of Hitler's circus.
You should know I've been more explicit about you.
That's all right. It's impossible to keep my mind on things said of me.
Did you say it?
Whoever said it has ample reason to regret the remark.
Thank you, Field Marshal.
Not at all.
Is there anything else?
Not at present.
One suggestion, perhaps...
..in view of our cordiality.
If I were you, I would be guarded about mentioning this new strategy.
You should know you'll be under constant observation here.
Friends of the management.
Do you know why I should be singled out?
Oh, you're not. We all are.
You didn't have it in Africa. But here that "honour" goes with rank.
My dear fellow, I'm Commander-in-chief!
NARRATOR: Two months later, in February 1944,
during one of his rare trips home,
Rommel's old friend, Dr Strolin,
sought him out again.
HE RINGS BELL
-Good afternoon, sir.
-Dr Strolin to see the Field Marshal and Frau Rommel.
-Come in, sir.
Eisenhower won't try before spring. I doubt I'll get home before then.
-Are we ready?
-I hope so.
Your good health, Doctor.
And yours, my dear Rommel.
How do you know this room isn't wired?
Why should it be wired?
Does Himmler need a reason?
No, I suppose not. But you needn't worry about this one.
I want to talk to you without being overheard.
If it's politics, Strolin, I don't want to hear.
You'd see Germany destroyed?
I don't want to discuss it.
Besides, that's a Communist position.
Oh, is it?
Defeat, all that sort of thing. You know it is.
You call General Beck a Communist?
-Or Carl Goerdeler, Mayor of Leipzig?
-I'd never heard that he was.
-Are von Stulpnagel, von Neurath or von Hassell Communists?
Are you saying that men like that are questioning his leadership?
Not just questioning it. They intend to end it.
Have you talked to them yourself?
Yes, and many who are not soldiers -
church men, labour leaders, lawyers, doctors, government officials.
Not many, but all sound men.
How long has this been going on?
And what are you after?
We want to get rid of Hitler and his gang.
If we are beaten we prefer it to be as human beings, not barbarians.
Whether we win or lose,
we want to live again like decent people without fear.
Strolin, I don't want to get mixed up in this.
I'm not concerned with Berlin. I'm a soldier, not a politician.
You think you're safe?
Who can say, in such a situation?
-Under a sane man you'd know.
I hope you're right. Perhaps you are.
You are his favourite, and no-one
has ever questioned the gratitude he ALWAYS shows to faithful servants!
No-one's in danger if he does his job.
And YOU have nothing to fear?
And if something did happen,
you'd have the comfort of knowing that Lucie and Manfried are safe
in the soft, gentle, tender hands of his little band of patriots(!)
Talk like that doesn't amuse me!
I'm only reflecting on your extraordinary good fortune.
Think about that some time, not the blood on his mouth,
but what a godsend he is to you...
not only in your home but as a soldier.
Few generals have the favour of a leader so GIFTED in the arts of war.
You've not forgotten
how brilliantly he refused to invade undefended England after Dunkirk?
Or his bravery at Stalingrad when von Paulus wanted to withdraw?
What other man would have courage to send that thrilling command,
"Victory or death"? Even Napoleon...
Afraid even to think about it?
Stop talking to me as if I were a child.
I know what you mean. But who asked me for my opinion?
If I told them what they're doing is stupid to the point
-of imbecility, would they listen?
-Have you tried?
Yes, but was told to mind my own business.
And who's to say they're not right?
Must a soldier investigate his government before defending it?
What army could exist with every man given freedom of action?
A soldier has but one function...
and that is to carry out the order of his superiors.
The rest is politics.
May I remind you that I'm a soldier, not a politician.
What do I care about your philosophy of the soldier?
You're hiding under a lot of rubbish about the functions of a robot.
Don't forget I've known you for 20 years.
I know how you feel about that abomination in Berlin.
I can't understand your willingness to march with a beast you despise.
Where's the sense and courage you have in the field?
Haven't you any here?
I think you'd better get out of this house, now.
Not until you've shown an old friend the decency of honesty.
If reason won't work, I'm prepared to go further.
I won't leave until the truth has passed between us.
Shall I call the guard and charge you?
You'd never do that.
How do you know so well what I will or won't do?
Lucie told me you wouldn't.
You talked to Lucie about this?
And she sent you to me?
No. She only told me how you really feel about our sainted leader's
glorious reign over Germany.
Father? Father, the car's here.
We saw it. Please don't shout. I've told you before.
He's just excited.
-But I'm tired of telling him.
-He's still only a boy,
in spite of that uniform.
Take care, dear.
-You're not cross with me, are you?
For speaking to Dr Strolin.
No, of course not.
Is he right?
I don't know.
I can't make up my mind.
But he proposes a great, tremendous, dreadful thing.
I doubt I can go that far.
You don't think he's right?
I didn't say that.
But, even so, is that the only way to handle it - treason?
That's what it is, no matter how right you think you are.
Would it be better to let things stand?
No, but there must be a better way of handling it.
If I could see him alone again and explain the situation to him.
How can a man fight a war under such conditions?
-Here we are, facing invasion...
-You don't have to decide now.
It'll come to you when it's time.
What do YOU think, really?
I can't say, dear. I don't know.
But when the time comes, something'll tell you.
Go along now. You're late.
Write to me every day.
-I will. Here's something for the journey.
-Thank you, darling.
Goodbye, sweetheart, and don't worry about me.
I'll try not to.
That's all, please.
Take care of your mother, be a good soldier. Make me proud of you.
I'll try, Father. Will you bring us back Montgomery?
The minute he steps ashore.
NARRATOR: Then, finally, after four long years of preparation -
and the vastest movement of men and arms in history
set out to assault the German fortress of Europe.
Since the Bohemian corporal promoted himself to command
Germany has been the victim of not only too many of the enemy,
but one too many Germans.
Is he ready to give us the 15th Army?
He can't, under the circumstances.
His astrologers told him the real invasion will be north of Calais.
The 15th Army, waiting there for an invasion that has begun elsewhere
is an excellent example of war by horoscope(!)
We need those troops. If we can't manoeuvre,
we must support these positions. We must see him again about it.
I tell you in confidence, Rommel.
Nothing we can do would be of the slightest use.
The pattern for defeat has already been set.
"Hold fast. Don't give a millimetre of ground"(!)
"Victory or death."
Wars aren't won by men whose tactics are based on copybook maxims.
They may stir schoolchildren but they don't stop troops.
Give me a free hand and I'd make them pay.
They'd pay such a price they'd wish they'd never heard of Germany.
I might not stop them all but they'd fight an army,
not stationary targets.
But he'll never let us, of course. You know how firm corporals are.
Do you know Karl Strolin?
Mayor of Stuttgart.
I remember that name.
Or Dr Goerdeler?
Every day that passes, every minute,
convinces me that theirs is the solution.
Your words mystify me.
They will arrest him and at once make peace with Eisenhower.
I shall deny this conversation ever took place.
It's a childish idea. Eisenhower won't make a separate peace.
Why should he, with things going so well? Your plan is doomed.
But you agree with the basic plan?
I don't believe I heard that.
If they came to you for advice, would you receive them?
No. No, I'm afraid not, Rommel.
It's too late, much too late.
If they struck now?
You misunderstand. Not too late for THAT. Too late for ME.
I'm 70, now.
Too old to revolt.
Too old to challenge authority...
KNOCK ON DOOR
Berlin calling. Marshal Keitel.
Von Rundstedt? Is this true about Cherbourg?
It's dreadful. How can I give such news to the Fuhrer?
You've reported misfortune to him before. What's the problem?
We've had bad news for weeks. Is there no good news to give him?
'Have you checked the Russian front this morning?'
We're not discussing the Russian Front - we're discussing yours.
'The situation's getting worse.'
I'm embarrassed to give him another disappointment. Think of something!
Give us the 15th Army which is sitting at Calais playing cards.
Impossible. The Fuhrer has explained why they are there.
Then let us pull out of Normandy and set up a proper defence line.
Your orders are to fight, and that's final!
Haven't you any better suggestions?
One much better, in fact.
Make peace, you idiot!
-Goodbye again, Rommel.
-He'll never report that.
Right now he's at the corporal's door, whimpering with happiness.
Don't forget - victory has 100 fathers - defeat is an orphan.
Within 24 hours you'll be my successor, and I extend my sympathy.
Nonsense, he'll never let you go.
But not too old, I might add, to wish your friends the best of luck
in their interesting project.
NARRATOR: Meanwhile, their beachheads secured,
Allied tanks and men began their race for the Rhine.
Put these where you can get to them quickly.
And those. Keep the key and use your judgement about the rest.
-Where is he?
-In the small room.
-I'll be as brief as possible.
-Watch the corridor.
-We must make a decision.
Three of our men were arrested yesterday.
They'll be made to talk but they don't know much.
Nevertheless there's no more time to be lost. We must act at once.
Then it's all set? Definitely?
So I understand.
Can you speak for the commanders you mentioned?
They are prepared to follow my lead.
I can inform General Stulpnagel we may now act at will,
without further consultation?
Wait, Colonel. Come with me, Ruetger.
-Clear this room, Aldinger.
Outside. Never mind that. Outside!
Rommel speaking. Put me through to Field Marshal Keitel.
I've got to be absolutely certain.
We can't go through with it if there's the remotest sign of sense.
Listen carefully. I must see the Fuhrer at once. In France.
I can't explain on the telephone but it's an urgent matter.
I suggest tomorrow morning.
NARRATOR: On June 17 they met in Hitler's underground stronghold
at Margival near Soissons.
This is an extremely difficult duty, my Fuhrer. But I have no choice.
This crisis must be discussed on the highest level.
You said that before. We're always facing another crisis!
When the enemy has overwhelming superiority by land,
sea and air and continues to grow stronger,
that is a crisis by any standards.
A crisis that must be examined.
That's you. That's you. Like always.
When things go well you're willing, but when trouble comes
you become a complete defeatist.
You know why you didn't succeed von Rundstedt?
THIS is why!
Maybe I should have replaced you altogether.
Have you any confidence in me?
More than the Fuhrer has in me. May I continue?
What about my V-bombs on London?
Why not on the beachheads?
They have not the accuracy. They need a whole city for a target.
Why not the embarkation ports - Plymouth, Southampton, Portsmouth?
NO! NO! NO! NO! See what I mean?
You're no good at thinking beyond the field.
The British don't care for those villages. They love London.
That's why I am going to destroy it. In two weeks they'll be screaming
for surrender. Just wait. You'll see.
To continue, sir, the struggle is over on this front.
Within two weeks the enemy will break through and push into France.
Militarily, the end is in sight.
We have nothing more to throw in.
What do you propose - that we surrender?
I give you the facts. I only ask that you draw proper conclusions.
Proper to whom? TO YOU!
I suggest that you confine your genius to fighting
and leave the conduct of the war to me.
My apologies, sir. Will the Fuhrer honour me with his advice?
That V weapon, for your information,
is only the first in a series that will revolutionise war.
I have a second 100 times as powerful. And a third in mind,
-1,000 times more destructive.
-But the crisis is now.
I have a dozen more, capable of turning the course of the war.
But what about now, sir? Tomorrow?
While you've been saying all is lost, we've been working miracles,
determining the course of history.
We've been making machines of destruction that nobody's dreamt of.
I have one in mind. I have a weapon in mind...
NARRATOR: Now committed to the assassination,
Rommel was still trying to bolster his front.
On June 17, on a road near the village of Montgomery...
NARRATOR: Three days later, July 20th, while Rommel lay in hospital,
Hitler and his staff gathered for their fateful conference
at Hitler's HQ in East Prussia.
The Fuhrer, gentlemen.
..Handles his Panzers like a cavalry officer. Thank you.
Yes, yes, yes. Of course. From General Fromm. Good to see you.
Gentlemen. Your attention, please.
-Excuse me, please, I have a report from General Fromm.
On his way, sir. >
Fat people can't move so fast, eh?
-Colonel Count von Stauffenberg? Telephone, sir.
All right. Suppose we start with the Russian front?
Are you all right, my Fuhrer?
I'm all right.
NARRATOR: For that failure, 5,000 suspects paid with their lives
in the few days Hitler was in hospital.
Rommel was recovering from injuries that would have killed lesser men
when all public mention of his name stopped and silence settled over
the nation's most celebrated soldier.
For three months he was in sinister isolation...
TELEPHONE '..until October 13th 1944.'
-'How are you, Rommel?'
-Getting along, thank you.
-Well enough to come to Berlin?
-I'm afraid not. In a week or two.
'I could send a train for you.'
That's good of you, but I'm not up to it. Is there any urgency?
'How soon will you be ready for command?'
Another two weeks, I suppose. Three at most.
-If we send someone, would you discuss it with him?
I'll send Burgdorf. You know him?
-I've met him.
-'Suppose he drives down tomorrow. Is that convenient?'
He'll have full instructions. Give my regards to Frau Rommel.
I will. Thank you.
Keitel. He's talking about another command, again.
-When I feel like it, I suppose.
He sends his best regards to you.
HE RINGS DOORBELL
We're here to see Field Marshal Rommel.
I'll tell him, sir.
-Would you tell him that...
-Come in, Burgdorf.
Good to see you again. I don't believe you've met my wife.
I haven't had the pleasure.
May I present Generals Burgdorf and Maisel?
My son Manfried. Captain Aldinger.
I hope you're not too tired from your journey.
-Not at all, thank you.
-Have you time for luncheon?
Thank you, but we're due back in Berlin.
Right. Excuse us, dear. This way.
Our apologies, Frau Rommel.
Another time, perhaps.
I hope so.
I hope it's the Russian front.
Make yourselves comfortable.
Smoke if you wish. Unlike Montgomery,
smoke doesn't make me unhappy.
At your service, gentlemen.
We come directly from the Fuhrer.
-What we have to say comes directly from his lips.
Our instructions are to tell you first of his deep appreciation
of your many heroic services to the state...
..and his regrets over your accident.
I was sure his silence meant he was busy with more important matters.
It's a pity that after such a record...
Forgive me, General, let's skip the reflections and get to the message.
Of course, sir.
Observe that the charges are supported by testimony.
I can read, thank you.
You've been uncommonly fortunate with "deathbed confessions."
It's all perfectly legal, I assure you, sir.
I shall answer these charges in court.
You'll deny them?
I said I look forward to answering the charges in court.
The Fuhrer is extremely hopeful
this matter can be settled without the publicity of a trial.
Then let him withdraw the charges.
He feels that nothing but harm could come from a trial.
My orders are to remind you strongly
of the resultant damage to your reputation.
What does he expect me to do? Plead guilty? To you?
Naturally, not that, of course.
He wants me to keep my mouth shut.
He doesn't want testimony where it can be heard.
Tell him that it's thoughtful
of him, but I can take care of my name my way - in court.
But to what end, sir? The verdict is already indicated.
He told you to tell me that, too?
The evidence is there. What defence is possible?
What does he suggest?
Before we go on, you should be warned that the house is surrounded.
My orders, sir. You understand.
And both of us are armed.
What does he want done?
He believes it would be best for all
if you should relieve the situation yourself, quietly and quickly.
-The advantages of that solution,
rather than recriminations in an open court,
are several and obvious.
Most important to him is the preservation of your fame.
He would ensure there would be no suspicions regarding your going.
As far as anyone knows, you succumbed to war wounds.
That would be the official line.
The state would honour your memory -
your family, too - with historic generosity.
"Historic" was the word he used.
Your name would live on in the glory it once deserved...
and your family would never want for safety or comfort.
-I have a choice?
-In a sense, yes.
A 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 today.
The penalty in this case would be the garrotte -
death by strangulation. The drug is effective in three seconds,
Tell him for me that in spite of the disadvantages you point out,
I'll take the trial.
It may be a futile defence, but I think it should be heard.
Those who hear it might find some value in it.
It may even move them to stop and think for a moment
as, finally, I did, though, unfortunately, too late.
In any case, it's my life and that's my choice.
I confess my disappointment, sir.
My heart bleeds for you(!)
Unfortunately, if you insist on a trial, I have no authority
to guarantee 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.
We hardly expected such a...
-Wait there, I'll be down soon.
What is it, Erwin?
I want you to be strong, darling.
I want you to be very strong and brave. Do you understand?
I have to go away now, and I won't be back. Need I tell you more?
There's no way out?
No, but it won't be too terrible.
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. Let's make a break for it!
Nothing can be done. They've thought of everything.
We could get them.
There's nothing to be done.
I must do exactly as they say.
Will you be brave?
I don't know.
You and Manfried will be all right. They assure me of that.
Nobody's to know about this but us.
Are you sure there's no other way?
No other, darling.
Have you told Manfried yet?
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.
Field Marshal's coming now.
-You're going now?
Are you well enough?
I've just been taking it easy.
Is it Russia?
Goodbye Aldinger, old, dear, friend.
-Take care of them.
Can't you tell me?
Don't ask so many questions. You know better than to talk like that!
But when will we know?
Goodbye, Son, be good.
Goodbye, Father. You'll stop them, won't you?
NARRATOR: During that last, short ride,
what may Rommel's thoughts have been?
Were they bitter that he'd learned too slowly and struck too late?
Did he think of the desert,
where his military genius struck the world,
first at Mikali...
..and even El Alamein.
His life and fate were summed up
in the words of Germany's enemy, Winston Churchill...
-His ardour and daring inflicted disasters upon us...
but he deserves the salute
I made him in the House of Commons in January 1942.
He also deserves our respect...
for, although a loyal German soldier,
he came to hate Hitler,
and took part in the conspiracy to rescue Germany
by displacing the maniac and tyrant.
For this, he forfeited his life.
In the sombre wars of modern democracy
there is little place for chivalry.
When he orders a retreat in the north African desert, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel is relieved of his duties and returns to Germany. While convalescing, he is asked to help plot the assassination of Hitler. Biographical war drama.