3 – Rommel was an effective teacher as well as a military leader
It shouldn’t be too surprising that Rommel was a capable teacher: his father had been a headmaster, while the ability to communicate his ideas effectively in the field would lead to some of his most enduring military victories. There was no point coming up with a revolutionary tactic to win a battle if you couldn’t then inform and inspire your men well enough for them to then go and carry it out.
At the end of the First World War, Rommel was entering his late 20s and had already been widely feted for his military prowess. While it might have seemed a little dull compared to the derring-do on the Isonzo, the role of the Royal Württenberg Mountain Battalion lay much closer to home, with German society slowly disintegrating into civil wars between, on the left, socialists who wanted Germany to undergo a revolution similar to that which had recently occurred in Russia, and on the right, groups such as the Freikorps, disgruntled ex-soldiers and nationalist, anti-communist paramilitaries that would go on to form the kernel of the Nazi Party.
Rommel, recently promoted again to the rank of Captain, was ordered to use his soldiers in a policing capacity, putting down insurrections all over southern Germany. It was during this period that he showed some of the sense of restraint that would distinguish his conduct in North Africa during World War Two, trying to avoid the use of force against crowds of civilians where possible.
After the Weimar Republic took hold, however, the country somewhat stabilized and Rommel found himself in Dresden, teaching new recruits. He had been promoted in turn to Major, then Lieutenant Colonel, placing him in the very highest echelons of the Treaty of Versailles-reduced German Army.
He was recognized as one of the prime instructors in that army and wrote a book, “Infantry Attacks“, that furthered his theories on warfare and explained his experiences in the Izonzo – it sold incredibly well and increased Rommel’s personal fame, as well as bringing him to the attention of Adolf Hitler, who was known to have read the book.
By the 1930s, of course, Hitler had come to power. The German Army, for whom Rommel worked, and the Nazi state were more and more inseparable, and it would be this coming together that prompted a major dilemma for the career soldiers such as Rommel: did the duty lie to their country, and whoever might be governing it, or to the party, that was coming to define what that country was about?