Death of the Desert Fox: Rommel’s son’s account of his father’s last moments after Hitler ordered him to take a cyanide pill or be arrested

  • German general Erwin Rommel told his teenage son he had been ordered to kill himself by Adolf Hitler
  • In a newly discovered letter, Manfred Rommel describes watching his father being led into a car moments later
  • Rommel, known as Desert Fox, was accused of plotting to kill Hitler

A poignant account of the German general Erwin Rommel being led away to his death told by his teenage son has been discovered.

In a revealing letter written by Manfred Rommel, he tells of his father’s last moments after he was ordered to commit suicide by Adolf Hitler.

His father explained to him he had to poison himself after being implicated in a plot to assassinate the Nazi dictator.

The 15-year-old described watching Rommel, known as the ‘Desert Fox’, being led into a staff car by two German generals minutes later.

Manfred’s account then details how his mother took a phone call from a local hospital just 15 minutes later to inform her her husband had died.

Field marshal Rommel died within five seconds of biting on a cyanide capsule while sat in the back of the car as it drove away from his home to the hospital.

Manfred’s typed-written account was made on April 27, 1945, when the Allies had all but won the war in Europe, and is believed to have been dictated by him as it is in English.

A poignant account describing the moment Erwin Rommel was led away to his death, written by his teenage son Manfred, has been found.

The two-page document has come to light after it sold at auction as part of an archive of other wartime mementoes.


The collection once belonged to Captain Noel Chavasse, who the adjutant officer to British army chief Sir Bernard Montgomery in the Second World War.

It is believed Montgomery had requested a copy of the account as, despite being enemies, he and Rommel had a great respect for one another.

Mr Chavasse’s daughter has sold her father’s archive of documents and photographs for 10,500 pounds.

Rommel was forced into the ‘honourable’ suicide in October 1944 to spare his family suffering.

He was accused of plotting against Hitler and given the choice of suicide or a court trial which would have led to his conviction and execution and pain for his family.

He said: ‘At 12 o’clock my father received the two generals. About three quarters of an hour after that I met my father just coming out of my mother’s room

‘He then told me… that Adolf Hitler had given him the choice between taking poison or being brought before the People’s Court.

‘Adolf Hitler had also let him know that in the event of his committing suicide, nothing was to happen to his family.

‘Having said farewell to me… my father left the house in uniform, we accompanying (sic) him to the car where the general saluted him with Heil Hitler.

‘My father got into the car first and took a seat in the back followed by the generals… the car drove off.

’15 minutes later we had a telephone call from the general hospital to that my father had been brought there by the two generals and had apparently succumbed there to an attack of cerebral apoplexy.’

‘In my last talk with my father he told me that he had been suspected of complicity in the 20th July 1944 plot.

‘The Fuhrer, he was informed, did not wish to lower his prestige with the German people so was offering him the chance of a voluntary death by means of a poison pill.

‘It would have a mortal effect within 5 seconds. In the event of his refusing, he was to be arrested immediately.’

Manfred Rommel had planned on joining Hitler’s notorious Waffen SS but his father was against it and so joined the Luftwaffe.

He went on to become a lawyer, politician and mayor of Stuttgart, where he lives today.

Bernard Pass, of Bosley’s auctioneers of Marlow, Bucks, which sold the account, said: ‘Rommel’s son must have gone to the Allies and given this true account of what happened to his father rather than the one that had been issued by the Nazi propaganda machine.

‘Rommel was a national hero and as popular as Hitler in Germany.

‘The suggestion of Rommel turning traitor against Hitler would have had a very damaging effect on the Nazi party had it come out at a trial.

‘This is a very poignant account as told by a son seeing his father led away to his death.’

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