Hitler and Rommel
1st October 1942: Hitler begins to pin his hopes on superior weapons to win the war, as his strategic options close down
If Hitler's relations with his Generals and his High Command had reached an all time low as a result of the situation on the Eastern Front, he still had confidence in the one man who had been single handedly driving the other main battlefront, in North Africa. Erwin Rommel had relinquished his command to return to Germany for medical treatment.
Hitler's Luftwaffe Adjutant, Nicholas von Below1 recorded the meeting:
On 1 October, in a visibly heartfelt reunion, Hitler received Rommel and awarded him his Feldmarschall’s baton.
During a long conversation Hitler spoke of his doubts and worries. The inadequate supply of weapons and equipment was an especial headache. He feared that one day the British would arrive with a large, superior force and then he would have ‘difficulties’.
‘I had the impression that he was beginning to deceive himself. He was underestimating the fighting strength of the Russians and also had the wrong idea about the British.’
Rommel’s army was at El Alamein, which he had well fortified. He was still very confident. Hitler asked him about the reported, British air superiority. Rommel replied that the situation was not critical.
Afterwards both went into the Chancellery gardens, where an impressive display of new weapons, including assault guns and a Tiger tank, was on show. Rommel requested them for the front as soon as possible, which Hitler promised to see to.
I had the impression that he was beginning to deceive himself. He was underestimating the fighting strength of the Russians and also had the wrong idea about the British.
That same day he addressed the Gauleiters [Regional Nazi Leaders] . I did not hear this speech but feared that it would be cast in too optimistic a vein. Over the next few days he had various talks about armaments before we returned to Winniza on 4 October.
“That’s completely impossible. The Americans only know how to make razor blades.”
Rommel2 himself records the unrealistic attitude in the meeting:
During the conference I realised that the atmosphere in the Fuehrer’s H.Q,. was extremely optimistic. Goering in particular was inclined to minimise our difficulties. When I said that British fighter-bombers had shot up my tanks with 40-mm. shells, the Reichsmarschall, who felt himself touched by this, said:
“That’s completely impossible. The Americans only know how to make razor blades.” I replied: “We could do with some of those razor blades, Herr Reichsmarschall.”
Fortunately, we had brought with us a solid armour-piercing shell which had been fired at one of our tanks by a low-flying British aircraft. It had killed almost the entire tank crew.
Rommel was promised Tiger tanks and many new Nebelwerfer rocket weapons - to be supplied across the Mediterranean by new high floating boats that would be impervious to torpedoes :
Later it transpired that many of these promises had been given in a moment of over-optimism and on the basis of incorrect production figures…