I recently read an article about how the Christian publishing industry never really publishes books for men. The industry knows that men don’t buy books. Even when they do publish a book for a man, they market it to the man’s wife or girlfriend so that they will buy it and give to the man in question. That is one of the reasons I never go to Christian bookstores. We have far too many women wearing pants instead skirts, and men in skirts instead of pants.
In view of that, Daniel Allen Butler’s Field Marshal: The Life and Death of Erwin Rommel fills the gaps for men in our day by providing a book about a true man. This isn’t because Butler set out to write a book in order to give other men, an example for men to emulate. That would be a book written by someone in the Christian publishing industry and it would definitely be cheesy. The book is worth reading for men because of the character of Rommel himself.
This may seem surprising because Rommel fought for Germany during both World Wars of the last century. It’s at this point that many quickly start painting with broad brush strokes of bad logic. Germany was led by Hitler. Hitler was evil. Therefore, anyone who fought for Germany was evil and has nothing to offer us today.
What Butler does so well is to show us how it is that a man like Rommel could be swept along by the Nazis, which he never joined, and Hitler. He shows us the setting for Germany was certainly ripe for someone like Hitler, and how it is that Rommel admired and went along with the dictator.
Rommel had already proven himself as a man of character, courage, honor, and true grit by the time Hitler showed up on the political scene. So it is not as though he was wanting morally, and therefore, fell for the despot. He was a man of Germany, a fighter and a man who took responsibility for his own actions.
In being lured along by Hitler, he showed himself to be vulnerable to the times. Far too often, we like to sit in judgment of such men, thinking we would not make the same mistakes he did. He was mistaken in his admiration of Hitler. What makes him remarkable is that when he realized Hitler was delusional, he spoke up.
As early as 1942, Rommel saw that Germany could not win the war, because Hitler lacked any strategic understanding of the war, and theFührer truly believed that for something to happen, all he had to do was decree it to happen.
This realization came about at Rommel’s loss at El Alamein. When the battle starting turning against Rommel, Hitler issued the order that he should stand and fight to the death, not giving up a square inch of land that had already been conquered for Germany. The Field Marshal knew there was no strategic value in allowing his men to die needlessly, and therefore, he retreated.
The more he worked with Hitler, the more he saw that the only person Hitler was concerned with, was Hitler. Hitler was not fighting for the sake of Germany. He was fighting for the sake of himself.
This went against the nature or Rommel. His oath, which he took very seriously, was no longer binding because the Führer’s concern should have been with Germany, not himself. Rommel could not support such a ruler. This essentially led to Rommel’s death.
What I Really Liked
The best part of the book was reading about someone who was an enemy and realizing that Rommel was only America’s enemy because he fought for the other side. He wasn’t ruthless. He wasn’t cruel. He was a man that if he had been removed from the war, any one of us would be gladly to sit down with and have a beer. Butler did an outstanding job of showing this truth.
In one such story, Rommel was driving about doing reconnaissance, saw what he thought was a German field hospital, and entered the camp. He realized his mistake when he found only English in the camp. Given that both sides had agreed that field hospitals were always to be considered neutral sights, he simply asked the commander of the field hospital if there was anything he needed, and told him that he would keep the supply lines open, and drove out of the camp.
Butler also showed how Rommel was not a part of the Valkyrie assassination attempt (made popular by the self-import Tom Cruise movie). An assassination attempt was beneath Rommel and showed a lack of character. Instead of being a part of, or even aware of such an attempt, he confronted Hitler face-to-face. This was not something one could do without paying the consequences. And he did pay the consequences.
The man had guts, and honor. The book is well worth the read and I would recommend all the men who follow my blog to buy it for themselves. To all my female readers, I would recommend you buy it for your husbands/boyfriends, but then, I would be acting like the Christian book publishing industry, which, I don’t want to do. So…have your husbands or boyfriends come and read my blog post, so they can buy the book for themselves (nothing like bit of fun self-promotion.) You can find the book here.