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 Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2000

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July 22 2001


Rommel letters reveal secret second family

by Jack Grimston and Michael Woodhead

Stemmer with RommelERWIN ROMMEL, the German tank commander known as the Desert Fox, had a secret child by a teenage girlfriend.The girl's mother committed suicide when Rommel later married another woman and had a second child.

Until now the field marshal has been seen as an upright soldier with a conventional life, happily married to his wife Lucie with a son, Manfred.

The existence of his second family has emerged in a collection of more than 150 letters and photographs, kept for decades by his illegitimate daughter Gertrud Pan at her home in Kempten, southern Germany.

The letters emerged after Gertrud's death last year. "There were hints from some fellow officers and an army nurse, and eventually I put it to the museum curator in Rommel's home town, who confirmed the family's existence," said Sallyann Kleibel, producer of The Real Rommel, to be shown on Channel 4 on August 2.

Rommel met Lucie in 1911 in Danzig. During a temporary posting in Weingarten, hundreds of miles away, he met the teenage Walburga Stemmer, and they had an affair.

In 1913 Gertrud, their daughter, was born, to Rommel's delight. He wrote to Walburga, calling her his "little mouse". He said he would like to set up home with her and Gertrud: "It's got to be perfect, this little nest of ours." However, he returned to Lucie and married her in 1916. Walburga never recovered from her rejection.

Gertrud's son Josef Pan, 62, a fruit and vegetable wholesaler from Kempten, whose family own the letters, said: "Rommel was Walburga's only love. As long as Rommel and Lucie never had children she held on to the conviction that he would return to her. When Manfred was born in 1928 she took an overdose . . . The explanation given in public was that she had died of pneumonia. Later the family doctor told my mother she had taken her own life."

Gertrud exchanged hundreds of letters with her father. She knitted him a scarf, which he wore frequently at the battlefront. Lucie knew about Gertrud, but to Manfred she was always "cousin Gertrud".

She was a frequent visitor to the family and was at Rommel's hospital bedside after he returned ill from Africa. There, she answered the telephone when a furious Hitler ordered him back to Africa, where he was defeated at El Alamein. She stayed close to the family even after her father's death.

© Copyright 2000 Times Newspapers Ltd.

Rommel book

Related files on this website:

David Irving, Rommel: The Trail of the Fox
David Irving: Radical's Diary, July 20, 2001

Mail John Paipals writes from Canada, Sunday, July 22, 2001:

IN my travels here as an active freemason I have had the pleasure of meeting a man who is , as was told to me later, Rommel's grandson. I have occasion to visit lodges in Edmonton, one of which has many German brethren. Could this be so? I thought about inviting him for lunch just to chat and maybe find out for sure. I thought in light of your book on Rommel and your knack for research you may know.

Sincere regards

John Paipals
Spruce Grove, Alberta , Canada

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