The Cover Story
Rommel’s vehicle was hit by British airstrikes on July 17, 1944, causing multiple injuries. These injuries were not fatal, and Rommel recovered in the following weeks. This accident provided the needed cover for Rommel’s forced suicide. Rommel was popular, both with the military and the public; his suicide had to be hidden, and could not be seen to be the result of treason.
Around 15 minutes after Rommel left his home, his assistant received a planned phone call. He was told that Field Marshall Rommel had died from a brain seizure, while on the way to Ulm for a conference. The brain seizure was attributed to Rommel’s injuries in the car accident caused by the British airstrike a few months earlier. This was the official story, and Rommel received a proper funeral with all due military honors.
His family was not penalized after his suicide. Rommel had been promised they would be left unharmed. While Rommel’s suicide, along with large numbers of executions, eliminated the conspirators, it did somewhat soften many people’s impression of the Desert Fox.
Rommel was a skilled military tactician and a fine leader; however, regardless of his actions in the final months of his life, he was a German commander during World War II. He had admired Hitler at one time, and opposed his assassination.