Rommel Gets a Choice
I have always said, remarked Hitler as autumn 1944 approached, the time is not ripe for a political decision. I think I may say I have shown often enough in my life that I know how to score political triumphs ; I need hardly add that I wont let a suitable opportunity pass. But obviously it is infantile and naive to look for a favorable political initiative at a moment of grave military defeats. There may be such initiatives once one has the upper hand again. . . . The outburst was directed as much against Foreign Minister Ribbentrop as against Field Marshal Kluge. The day before, August 30, Ribbentrop had submitted a memorandum asking for authority to put out peace feelers ; it began with a quotation from Mein Kampf: The job of diplomatists is to ensure that a people does not founder heroically, but survives. Any means to this end is justified ; to spurn such means can only be termed a contemptible crime.
But Hitler was waiting, yearning for a wholly different eventthe moment when the differences between East and West finally brought the Russians into open conflict with their allies. He hinted to a French diplomat on September 1 that this was one hidden blessing of the German retreats : when the Bolsheviks filled the vacuum, their true brutal nature was not concealed for long. Was this perhaps the secret reason for Hitlers new readiness to evacuate his troops from the Balkansto provide bait for his enemies to squabble over ? One remarkable episode suggests that it was.
On September 2, Field Marshal von Weichs cabled Hitlers headquarters that British officers had asked for a meeting in which to coordinate Germanys step-by-step withdrawal from Greece with the British advance, so as to leave no such momentary vacuum for Communists to fill. Weichs reminded Jodl that the F¸hrer had disclosed his intention of abandoning southern Greece. But captured documents clearly betrayed the Communists intentions of seizing the key posts there before the British could take over. Dr. Hermann Neubacher, the foreign ministers special envoy to the Balkans, supported Weichss appeal for permission to meet the British. But Hitlerhis eye now on more distant aimsrefused. Already the Russians were south of Bucharest, thrusting toward the Danubeprobably, in Hitlers view, racing for the Aegean Sea and the Dardanelles before the British could get there. As the great German withdrawal from southern Greece began, the British took no action to disrupt itanother sign, in his view, that Stalin had laid claim to the entire Balkans. It is politically desirable to foment trouble between Communists and nationalists in every region we abandon, quoted Jodl in his diary.
Besides, Hitler had another card up his sleeve. By way of Japan, loud and unmistakable hints reached Hitler late in August that Stalin was reluctant to destroy Germany, as Russia would need all Germanys industrial expertise in the coming conflict with the West. Stalin is evidently willing to conclude a peace treaty even with a National Socialist Germany under Adolf Hitler, the telegram from Tokyo read. This was why the Soviet offensive had stopped short of Russias 1940 frontiers, and this was why Stalin had not emulated his western allies terror-bombing of German cities. General Guderian agreed with Hitler that Germany still held some trump cards. If only Germany could survive the next monthsand that means holding the eastern and western fronts at all costsher military and political position could only get better.
Not sharing Hitlers strategic motivation, Finland and Bulgaria shortly followed Romanias distressing example. On August 21 a German counteroffensive by the Third Panzer Army had restored contact with Sch–rners isolated Army Group North, and he came to see Hitler six days later to plead for permission to abandon Estonia. On this occasion Hitlers silence alone persuaded Sch–rner to withdraw his request. But a few days later the political situation altered, for Hitler learned that Finland had begun armistice talks in Moscow. On September 2, General Kreipe wrote in his diary : The Finns jump overboard. At war conference [F¸hrer] swears about Mannerheim, takes immediate decisions. Himmler warned Hitler the same day of secret reports that Hungary was also planning to defect. Bulgaria too was unmistakably steering a course out of the war, and Hitler had to rule against any armed German intervention in Sofia ; on the eighth the Bulgarian government formally declared war on the Reich. Finally, in Slovakia, smoldering partisan troubles blazed into open rebellion late in August, obliging Hitler to send in security forces and disarm the Slovak divisions.
All these diminutions of Hitlers empire produced one certainty : that within months his arms factories would no longer have the oil or raw materials to manufacture the weapons the Wehrmacht would need. It was a trend which did not take Hitler by surprise, for in August he had instructed Albert Speer to analyze just how long the war could be protracted, given a minimum economic region. These instructions anticipated the German evacuation of Finland, Norway, and all southern Europe as far as the Alps in Italy, the Sava River in Yugoslavia and the Tisza River in Hungary. With France overrun by the enemy, all the machine tools and materials sent to the French factories by Speer were lost.(1)
The Reich had lost Ukrainian manganese, Turkish chrome, Portuguese and Spanish tungsten, Romanian petroleum, Balkan ores, southern Frances bauxite, and probably the Finnish nickel of Petsamo. How long Sweden would supply iron ore was uncertain. On September 3, Speer had assured D–nitz he already had enough iron ore for the whole of 1945. But later, his experts final verdict on Hitlers minimum economic region came to a very different conclusion : If the present production of special steels is continued, chrome supplies will be exhausted by January 1, 1945. Then armament production will come to a complete standstill. Assuming this bottleneck could somehow be surmounted, steel output would end by August 31, 1945. This prognosis reached Hitler on September 5, 1944. Hitler suddenly began talking of the war, a doctor treating him at this time recalled. He said the British and American gentlemen had made a huge miscalculation. They had not been able to meet their invasion deadline. And he still had all the raw materials he needed to last one year ; we even had enough gasoline stockpiled for eleven months. And his experts had talked of a new electrosteel process for hardening armor plate which would make them independent of foreign chrome and tungsten.
Even so, one year put a very clear deadline on any breach between East and Westif such a breach was to avail Hitlers Germany.
Under Albert Speer and Karl-Otto Saur, arms production was still soaring. A new peak had been reached in August 1944. With trembling and barely legible handwriting Hitler put the finishing touches and signature to a document commending his arms manufacturers.
His arm was still far from healed. He jokingly said to his secretaries, Before the bomb I had this shake in my left leg ; now its in my right hand. Im glad it hasnt reached my head yet. Itll be a bad day when I cant keep my head from nodding ! Worse, he had caught a head cold from his barberfor he still couldnt shave himselfand now sinus headaches kept him awake all night. His head felt as though it was bursting, and Morells treatment did not improve it. Another doctor elicited the fact that Morell was using a sulfonamide drug, Ultraseptylpreferring this to the more usual I.G. Farben sulfa drug Tibatin because it was made by a Budapest firm in which Morell had a controlling interest. At the end of this Ultraseptyl treatment, Hitler was almost paralyzed by stomach pains and lay awake with dreadful nightmares. On August 18, Professor von Eicken had examined him and recommended a different drug ; but Morell sharply rebuked him : Out of the questionthe F¸hrer is allergic to anything else. The army doctor, Erwin Giesing, tested the drug on himself and experienced the same side effects after five days. To ease the sinus pains, he began cocaine treatment of Hitler, using a 10 percent solution suppliedlike everything elseby the SS pharmacy in Berlin. Hitler sensed an immediate relief, though the cocaine reaction often brought out a sweat ; on one occasion Giesing suspected it had brought on a mild heart attack, because Hitler felt giddy, things went black in front of his eyes, and for a full ninety seconds he had to lean heavily on the table in order not to fall over.
Over the next weeks the F¸hrer began beggingindeed, importunately imploringthe army doctor to prolong the cocaine treatments ; and in return he obediently found time to sit hunched over inhaling apparatus or in front of shortwave radiation equipment. He began to take a morbid interest in his own body, borrowed medical lexicons from Giesing, and experimented on his orderlies with Giesings mirrors and instruments after the doctor had gone. He came to look forward to the cocaine and once said admonishingly to the doctor, I hope you are not making an addict out of me. No longer did he have to salute with his left arm ; no longer was his pillow bloodstained when he awoke each morning. But his memory was fading, he noted with concern ; he forgot names and faces too easily. But what does my health matter, when the entire nations existence is at stake ? he would hoarsely ask the doctor.
At war conferences with his generals, Hitler awkwardly fumbled with vitamin and other unlabeled tablets and consumed them in seemingly random quantities.
He trusted only Martin Bormann, and he spent many hours alone with him. But July 20 had left him increasingly irritable and snarling. Emerging from his bunker to walk to the conference hut, he found his six-foot SS adjutant, Schulze, waiting to escort him. Herrgott ! Hitler burst out. Must somebody always follow me ? Cant I ever go alone ! Everybody was suspect, new or old : the new Luftwaffe Chief of Staff, Kreipe, was under telephone surveillance, but SS blood-hounds were also following every movement of Rommel now that he had risen from his sickbed.
To be out of Hitlers favor was to be persona non grata with his staff as well. General Blumentritt related how he reported to the Wolfs Lair on September 13 with a cloud over his head after being replaced by General Siegfried Westphal in Hitlers housecleaning of Kluges and Rommels staffs. Guderian cut him dead outside the hut with a loud rebuke : You dare come hereafter what happened in the west ? But then Hitler approached through the woods, with slow and weary steps, escorted by five or six men, and greeted Blumentritt most courteously. At this the other generals were also nice to him, and Keitel invited him to tea.
In the west, at Keitels suggestion, Hitler had reappointed Field Marshal von Rundstedt as Supreme Commander ; his loyalty was beyond reproach. Model had tactical command, as commander of Army Group B ; Rommel was formally relegated to the F¸hrer-reserve. On September 3, Brussels fell, and the next day the Allies captured the port of Antwerp with hardly any resistance ; almost no effort had been made to destroy the port installations. Thus a huge breach was torn in the German line from Liege to the North Sea, through which a determined enemy might well sweep forward into northern Germany or encircle the Ruhr. Model reported that the Allies had two thousand five hundred tanks ; the entire German tank strength in the west was less than one hundred. Without air cover he was helpless. The first Me-262 jets had still not arrived.
The V-1 flying-bomb organization in northern France had been overrun but on September 3, Hitler ordered air launchings of the deadly weapon from Heinkel launching-aircraft to continue. Production had just reached 3,419 a month. The damage inflicted on London had been enormousin one suburb during August over 20,000 houses a day had been severely damaged by flying-bomb explosions. The British government now conceded that 450 aircraft with 2,900 flying personnel had been lost in the fight against this weapon. And now Hitler opened fire with what he called V-2the armys fourteen-ton A-4 rocket designed at Peenem¸nde. Launching sites for the V-2 were in Holland, and to ensure that all went well the F¸hrer appointed one of Himmlers best SS generals, Hans Kammler, to direct the V-weapon attack. The rocket had overcome its chronic air burst problem, and 374 had been manufactured by slave labor during August in an underground factory in the Harz Mountains. The initial attack on Paris was called off after two launchings miscarried on September 6, but two evenings later the first missiles slammed into Central London without warning. Hitler triumphantly ordered Himmler to decorate Wernher von Braun and his chief engineers, and he instructed Speer to step up V-2 output to 900 a month. (In September and October, 629 and 628 were produced, and in November 662.)
Hitler angrily forbade any discussion of the Me-262 as a jet fighter but grudgingly conceded that every twentieth Me-262 manufactured could be supplied to the fighter squadrons. His discontent with the Luftwaffe was almost pathological. After General Kreipe set out the fuel situation on September 3it was now so grave that all bomber and some fighter and dive-bomber operations would have to be curtailedhe stunned the Chief of Staff by remarking : I am considering disbanding the air force altogether and tripling the antiaircraft artillery instead. He repeated his attack on the Luftwaffe when G–ring again deigned to appear at the Wolfs Lair on the fifth. Kreipes diary recorded :
F¸hrer spoke first : a tirade against the Luftwaffe. No good, gets worse year after year, he was lied to permanently about production figures and also about aircraft performances. Absolute collapse in France, ground staff and signals troops had left their airfields in headlong flight to save their own skins instead of helping the army to fight.
Again the question of Me-262 operations was ventilated. The same arguments as to why only high-speed bomber can be considered. In milder form he again developed his idea of manufacturing only Me-262s in the future, while tripling the antiaircraft instead.... Our fighter designs were all wrong. What we need to fight the four-engined bombers are heavy twin-engined fighters with large-caliber armament. At the Reichsmarschalls request, Colonel [Hans] Boehm-Tettelbach, who had commanded a fighter squadron, was called in. From his own experience he explained why even heavy fighter aircraft with fighter escorts were not the best way of combatting heavy bombers. Boehm-Tettlbach was rudely sent away.
For about ten minutes Hitler and G–ring then talked privately. Then I was called in again. The F¸hrer promoted me very cordially to full general and said I had been an excellent representative of the Luftwaffe these last weeks.... Afterward I sat a long time with G–ring, who was extremely pleased with himself and said the idea of disbanding the air force was a dead duck. He promised to get Himmler to stop tapping my telephone.
G–ring had provided Hitler with the means to plug the yawning breech between the Seventh Army on the German frontier and the North Sea : his paratroop regiments, training or reequipping under General Kurt Student in Germany. On September 4, Hitler ordered Student to establish a new army, the First Parachute Army, along the Albert Canal in Belgiuma meager force with twenty-five tanks and thirty-five batteries of 88-millimeter antiaircraft guns to defend a sixty-mile line from Maastricht to Antwerp ; the line from Antwerp to the sea would be taken over by the remnants of the Fifteenth Army struggling over the Scheldt Estuary.
Farther south the rout was also halted, after Hitler, Keitel, and Bormann issued draconian orders to the commanding generals and the Gauleiters. Squads of military police separated even the highest-ranking officers from their truckloads of chaises-longues and French women, and caught deserters fleeing from their units. When the Gauleiters warned Bormann that the military headquarters were moving into luxury hotels and chateaux inside the German frontier, Hitler stepped in with an order to his generals to house their staffs in the most humble quarters practicable ; in one case a general had even tried to take over a military hospital. All along the western frontier women and children, young and old, were digging hastily improvised fortifications, an operation for which Gauleiter Kochs achievements in East Prussia served as an example. To halt the Allied invasion, the factories were turning out bazookas by the hundred thousand, in addition to the extra tanks, artillery, and ammunition Hitler had ordered for his great winter counterattackthe great opportunity that fog, night, and snow would afford him, as he prophesied on September 1.
Hitlers first plan had been to counterattack from Lorraine into the inviting flank of the American thrust toward Belgium. The Allies were short of fuel, as the best and closest French ports were still denied them by determined German garrisons. But Jodl argued against launching any attack until November 1, which would allow for time to replenish the divisions concerned ; besides, Himmlers Volksgrenadier training program and Speers special arms production effort were geared to the November 1 date Hitler had set in mid-August.
Hitler accepted Jodls advice. The hours of inactivity forced on him by his doctors gave him time to think. As he gazed for hours on end at the ceiling of his shabbily furnished bunker bedroom, hearing only the hiss of the oxygen bottle in the corner, a far more adventurous campaign took shape in his mind. On about September 12 he sent for Jodl, who fetched a map which they spread out on the white bedspread. Together they sketched the direction of the attack and its necessary breadth and depth. Hitler had decided to strike again through the Ardennesscene of his 1940 triumphand seize Antwerp as soon as winter closed in. That day he established a new SS panzer army in Germany and transferred the robust SS General Sepp Dietrich from the Fifth Panzer Army to command it, camouflaging the moves importance by telling General Hasso von Manteuffel, his successor, that he felt better use could be made of Dietrich at home than in the field.
The Sixth SS Panzer Army was to be the spearhead of Rundstedts Ardennes campaign. But Dietrichs skills were at best questionable. So, why the SS ? The answer lay in the regular armys unencouraging record in the west. Besides, the Gestapo reports on the armys renegadesremorselessly fed to Hitler by Bormann and Fegeleinlaid bare the moral decay into which most army generals had apparently relapsed : Beck, an amiable procrastinator, an Olympian academic, and embittered ponderer ; Witzleben, the pessimist whose only reading was schoolgirl books from his wifes library ; Eduard Wagner, a bureaucratic empire builder of pathological vanity ; Tresckow, whose rebellion had been initiated when Schmundt had rebuffed his ambitions to succeed Heusinger as chief of operations in the General Staff. In a Germany bomb-blasted and rationed, these army plotters had lived the easy lives of grand gourmets. In Olbrichts cellars investigators found a thousand bottles of wine. A champagne orgy lasting far into the night had been their reaction to news of Hitlers death. Fromm had flown regularly by plane on private hunting parties, sending his empty Mercedes on ahead by road. While the armies cried out for troops, the conspirators had squandered able-bodied soldiers on petty household jobs or on guarding their damaged homes. Because of the fuel crisis, teams of oxen were now having to haul the Me-262 jet aircraft onto the runways of German airfields. But according to Gestapo reports Stauffenberg had had his army chauffeur drive him a hundred miles a day or more on private excursionsin addition, his home was said to have been full of black-market alcohol and other scarce goods.
These reports must have made some impression on the prudish and ascetic Hitler in Septemberalthough it was he himself who had initiated the armys decline by leaving it leaderless when he dismissed Brauchitsch in December 1941.
After the regular war conference on September 16, Hitler asked certain men to remain behindamong them Jodl, Guderian, Buhle, Fegelein, and Hewel. Kreipes diary records that Jodl began by stating that some fifty-five German divisions at present confronted ninety-six enemy divisions in the west, and that ten more Allied divisions were en route from England ; the enemys main strategic reservean airborne armywas still in Britain. The German divisions were short of heavy guns, ammunition, and tanks. The F¸hrer interrupts Jodl : he has resolved to mount a counterattack from the Ardennes, with Antwerp as the target. He considered that the German defensive position was strong enough to outweigh the enemys numerical advantage. The present front can easily be held ! Our own attacking force will consist of thirty new Volksgrenadier divisions and new panzer divisions, plus panzer divisions from the eastern front. Split the British and American armies at their seam, then a new Dunkirk ! But with Antwerp in German hands, this time the encircled enemy armies would have no port from which to escape. Guderian objects because of situation on eastern front, Kreipes diary adds. Jodl refers to enemy air supremacy and fears of parachute landings in Holland, Denmark, and northern Germany. Hitler demands one thousand five hundred fighters by November 1 ! Kreipes reasoned objections were overruled. Acid comments. Thats why our offensive will begin in a bad-weather period, when the enemy air force is grounded too. Von Rundstedt will take command. All preparations by November 1. The F¸hrer sums up his decision in a lengthy speech. On pain of death, he ordered them to keep this secret to themselves and their most trustworthy staff officers.
American troops were now standing on German soil, and a bloody fight for Aachen, the first big German city, had begun. The Party ordered the city evacuated, but the German divisional commander, General Gerd von Schwerin, rescinded the order and provided a city official with a letter in English commending the citizens to the American troops mercy. Schwerin was relieved of his command at once. Hitler issued the following secret message to his commanders, instructing them to pass it on to their troops by word of mouth.
The fighting in the west has now spilled over onto German soil. German towns and villages will become battlefields. This fact must instill fanaticism into our fight and spur on every able-bodied man in the combat zone to make a supreme effort, so that every pillbox, every city block, every village becomes a fortress against which the enemy bleeds to death or which entombs its defenders in the man-to-man fight.
No longer will this be a war of movement, but a choice between holding the line or annihilation....
On the Russian front, the Red Army had begun a new stubborn attack on Sch–rners Army Group North : twenty Soviet armies (equivalent to German corps) were pitted against Sch–rners Sixteenth and Eighteenth armies. The Narva line was breached, and on September 16, Guderian and Sch–rner both came to Hitler to appeal for permission to abandon Estonia and withdraw Army Group North to a bridgehead at Riga. With Finland now out of the Nazi coalition, the political arguments no longer weighed ; but Hitler was still reluctant, as Sch–rners thirty-three divisions were tying down over a hundred of the enemythe familiar Crimea argument. Besides, he disclosed to the generals, he had to keep some pawns in hands, as the Russians were currently extending feelers to him. One of Ribbentrops staff had passed this news to him ; this time Hitler authorized his minister to put out counterfeelersbut the Russian intermediary never showed up at the rendezvous. Perhaps an overeager agent had misinterpreted a sign. When some weeks later Frau von Ribbentrop wrote to Hitler suggesting that she should unofficially contact the Soviet ambassadress in Stockholm, Madame Kollontay, Hitler forbade her to. Probing the Soviet attitude, he reflected, is like touching a glowing stove to find out if its hot.
On September 17, 1944, German speculation about the Allies next move in the west was dramatically terminated. Instead of attempting a direct frontal assault on the West Wall, the Allies launched a sudden airborne attack on key river bridges in Holland ; the attack was designed to capture a succession of important crossings from Eindhoven as far as the Rhine bridge at Arnhem, fifty miles to the north. British and American armored spearheads plunged northward along the corridor thus created toward the Zuider Zee ; their mission was to cut off all Hitlers troops in Holland and destroy the V-2 rocket-launching sites near The Hague. If the Arnhem bridge was captured, the Allies could circumvent the billion-Reichsmark West Wall altogether. Small wonder that Hitlers heart sank at the news. His Luftwaffe chief recorded in his diary : Nonstop telephoning and issuing of orders for the defense. F¸hrer telephones. Afternoon, to see him and Jodl again. Quite a flap on.
The bold assault took the Germans completely by surprise, even though their Intelligence had been watching the enemys airborne army for some weeks. Over fifteen hundred Allied troop transports and five hundred gliders had taken part. The Luftwaffe flew six hundred and fifty sorties against the airborne landings that day.
Arnhem was not even in the German combat zonefor the first hour only the proverbial cookhouse parties could defend the town. The town commandant had been killed in an air raid that morning, leaving only his elderly operations officer, one Major Ernst Schleifenbaum, in chargean unlikely Horatio to hold the bridge. But for some reason the British paratroops had been set down five miles west of the bridge, at Oosterbeek (by chance the very place where Model had his army group headquarters); and this gave Schleifenbaum time to raise an emergency force for Arnhems initial defense. In one unit were men of twenty-eight different commands, World War I veterans every one ; each was given a captured gun and twenty rounds, and sent out to defend Arnhem against ten thousand enemy paratroops until help arrived. Schleifenbaum was to write some weeks later : When Field Marshal Model came on the telephone and said, You are responsible to me for holding Arnhem ! I felt quite faint, until the old Siegerland nerves came to my aid. . . . We old fellows still have something in us yet. Undetected by the enemy, the Second SS Panzer Corps was only fifteen miles away and licking its wounds after defeat in France. Of these two divisions, Model threw Colonel Walter Harzers 9th SS, the Hohenstaufen Panzer Division, into the fight. Moreover, the entire Allied battle plan was captured from a wrecked glider that same day. Although the Allies threw in fresh airborne forces the next morning, September 18, Arnhem and the bridge remained in German handsafter Aachen, the second defensive triumph for Hitler following a long run of defeats in the west. When the exhausted British fell back toward Nijmegen, they left over 1,000 dead and 6,450 prisoners at Arnhem.
Hitler did not at first recognize it as a tactical success. He thundered at the idiocy of allowing the enemy to capture bridges [at Nijmegen] undestroyed; and although the Luftwaffes General Student deserved much credit, it could not offset the Partys campaign against Reichsmarschall G–ring. Gauleiter Lauterbacher had just detected nine hundred Luftwaffe troops idling at G¸strow airfield ; another one thousand five hundred at a camp near Flensburg wondered why they still had neither uniforms nor work. In addition, the British night raids had begun again. Ancient K–nigsberg was now in ruins, and one recent saturation attack on Darmstadts center had left twelve thousand civilian dead in half an hour. The Me-262 jet had been unable to intervene at Arnhem, as its home airfield at Rheine had been plowed over by night raids. In consequence of all this, Hitler began to consider replacing G–ringat least de factoby a real Luftwaffe commander like General von Greim ; Richthofen, alas, had undergone a brain operation and might not live much longer.
The gathering storm is clearly described in Kreipes diary on September 18a day already made grim for Hitler by a painful headache which had allowed him no sleep. During the F¸hrers conference, wrote Kreipe, there are fresh reports of airborne landings in Holland. The F¸hrer loses his temper and rages at the Luftwaffes failure ; he demands to know immediately what fighter sorties were flown in Holland to engage the enemy. I telephone Luftflotte Reich and find out that because of the weather hardly any sorties were flown today. The F¸hrer takes my report to this effect as an excuse for the most biting criticism. The entire air force is incompetent, yellow, and leaving me in the lurch. Ive had fresh reports that numerous Luftwaffe units are retreating across the Rhine. I inform him that under General Putzier we have set up an organization along the roads and at the Rhine crossings to catch them. I asked for concrete examples for me to follow up. Hitler retorted, I have no desire to speak with you again. Tomorrow I want to talk to the Reichsmarschallno doubt you can arrange that ! G–ring still refused to see the danger signals. When I warn him the whole witch-hunt is aimed at him, he just scoffs, wrote Kreipe the next day. The F¸hrers war conference follows : icy atmosphere. I am ignored completely. At its end G–ring sees Hitler. He tries to take me too, but Hitler indicates that he wants to speak with him alone. About 8 P.M. the Reichsmarschall comes back from the F¸hrer, absolutely broken and washed up. After a long silence he tells me the F¸hrer doesnt like me, as I have no faith in him, I am a typical staff officer type and calculating machine, defeatist and unreliable ; I am just full of objections and contradictions.... I responded that he must realize that the whole campaign is really directed against himself. G–ring shot up and angrily rejected this. The F¸hrer has expressly assured me of his confidence in me !
Shortly after midnight Fegelein informed General Kreipe that Hitler had forbidden him to set foot within the Wolfs Lair again. For the next two months the Luftwaffe had no Chief of Staff, and G–ring kept a safe distance between himself and Hitler.
Deep-rooted factors contributed to this arbitrary and irrational behavior. One was that on the eighteenth he had just authorized Sch–rners army group to abandon Estonia on the Baltic after all. Many thousands of Estonians who had fought to keep out the Red Army would be suffering now. Another factor was his own failing health, and the unspoken fear that with each cumulating illness since July 20 his own life was slipping inconclusively away as surely as was that of his beloved General Schmundt, who was dying of his wounds at Rastenburg hospital two miles away.
With his splitting headache undiminished, he drove to the hospital for head X-rays to be made on September 19. The X-ray department was searched for bombs, and guards were posted on every exit. After three X-ray photographs had been takenall of which were found by the Allies in 1945(2)he shook hands with the Catholic nursing sisters, then asked his doctor, Hasselbach, to guide him around the wards where the victims of July 20 lay. Schmundt was now in high fever (his wife wrote in her diary : Afternoon : F¸hrer here again, works like medicine); at his bedside Hitler began to weep, because the doctors had advised him his adjutant had not long to live : gangrene had set in. I was called in too late, Morell had gravely assured him that morning. Otherwise I could have saved him with my penicillin. (In fact his penicillinanalyzed by Giesingproved quite valueless.)
Word of Hitlers presence had spread, and when he rejoined his car he found several hundred people thronging outside, who burst out cheering as they recognized him. Half were civilians from Rastenburg town, the rest were invalid troopsincluding many cripples, many on stretchers, and many without an arm or leg, whose emotion at this, their first encounter with their F¸hrer at such close quarters, could be seen glistening in their eyes. Even now his very proximity still infused many Germans with the certainty of eventual victory. A few days before, one of his SS staff had written privately : Never have I been so confident as to our war position. Up here one gets a far broader view, you see things with a different eye.... With our F¸hrer, nothing can possibly go wrong for Germany or any of us ; he is quite simply wunderbar.
Over the next week Hitlers dimly lit bunker rooms seemed crowded with doctors. Professor von Eicken came from Berlin to perform the sinus irrigation. Giesing and Hasselbach were treating his other injuries. A fresh electrocardiogram was made to test the progress of his coronary sclerosis. His stomach spasms had returned, and even Dr. Koesters antigas pills were failing to exorcise themHitlers valet, Heinz Linge, showed the little black pills to Giesing at his request. In the daylight more than one of Hitlers staff thought his skin and eyes were turning an unhealthy yellow. General Nikolaus von Vormann, the retiring commander of the Ninth Army, visited him on September 26 ; he has described how he was frisked for hidden weapons, then led into a small room some ten feet square, with a small round table and some chairs.
Through a curtain, Hitler came in alone from the next room ; it was a tired, broken man who greeted me, then shuffled over to a chair, his shoulders drooping, and asked me to sit down. Without waiting to find out my business, he began to speak of our coming final victory and the new secret weapons. When I tried to tell him of the impossible situation on the Vistula and in Warsaw, from whence I came, he interrupted me, Your successor [General Smilo Freiherr von] L¸ttwitz will get help. He spoke so softly and hesitantly it was hard to understand him. His hands trembled so much he had to grip them between his knees. This was not the same Hitler I had last seen at war conferences on July 15 and 18before the murder attempt of the twentieth.
Later that day, September 26, Heinrich Himmler arrived with a bulging briefcase of things to discuss. The real blockbuster was noted on his agenda simply as Treason since 1939. In a locked safe at Abwehr headquarters outside Berlin Gestapo investigators had found documents proving that Mayor Goerdeler, General Oster, General Beck, and above all Admiral Canaristhe slippery former chief of Intelligencehad been plotting Hitlers overthrow since 1939 at least. More revolting still for Hitler was the proof that it was Canaris and his men who had deliberately betrayed the plans and dates of his 1940 western campaign (Yellow) to the enemy. These documents extended only to mid-1940. They had been assembled by two of the admirals staff General Oster and Hans von Dohnanyiwith a view toward someday prosecuting Brauchitsch, then the armys Commander in Chief, for refusing to aid the anti-Hitler plotters. Hitler could only speculate on the harm Canaris had done to Germany since then. From General Munoz Grandes, who had commanded Spains contingent in Russia, he had learned some time ago that Canaris had personally warned Franco against bringing Spain in to the war on Hitlers side ; but this clue had not been followed up.
It was all of only academic interest now, with the Russians poised to invade East Prussia and the Allies massing on the West Wall. Since his arrest in July, Canaris had told ingenious tales to save his neck, but those who had rejected the Third ReichOster and Dohnanyibetrayed their friend Canaris as their accomplice under Gestapo questioning and in a face-to-face encounter. General Alexander von Pfuhlstein, former commander of the Brandenburg (Commando) Division, was arrested on September 4, and he had strongly implicated Canaris in the murder plot as well : the admiral had once discussed using the division to storm the Wolfs Lair. (Canaris hotly denied it : I only discussed with you using the division to protect Abwehr buildings if such a revolution should break out !) Pfuhlstein told his interrogators that Canaris had confidently predicted Germanys defeat for December 1943. Colonel Georg Hansen advised his questioners to search for Canariss diaries, and these other damning documents had been found in the locked safe of another Abwehr colonel who had succumbed to the suicide epidemic after July 20.
The documents showed that the plotters had sent the then Colonel Georg Thomasanother of Keitels department headsto win Halder and Brauchitsch over in November 1939. Halder had refused : Brauchitsch would never join in, the German army would not rebel, and besides Britains fight was against Germany, not Hitler. A 1939 study by Oster dealt explicitly with a coup detat. There were voluminous memoranda by General Beck, and scattered pages of the fabled Canaris diary throwing a revealing new light on the 1943 Black Chapel case and Abwehr dealings with the Vatican. In April 1940, the documents indicated, Thomas had shown Halder a message from one Dr. Josef M¸llera Bavarian lawyer friendly with the Pope : the Vatican was willing to intercede with the British and French provided Hitler and Ribbentrop were first eliminated. On being informed of this approach, Brauchitsch had proposed to Halder that Thomas be arrested. The same Josef M¸ller had betrayed the date of Yellow to the Vaticanevidently on Abwehr instructions, since when Abwehr investigations of the leak led to M¸ller, Canaris ordered the affair hushed up. This explained how the Belgian envoy to the Vatican had been able to telegraph a coded warning to Brussels, as Hitler had learned from the Forschungsamt in May 1940. Oster had also warned the Dutch directly. This must explain why the Brandenburg agents detailed to capture the Meuse bridges in Holland had been massacred and why the bridges were blown before the Germans could make use of them. Hitler grimly informed Jodl of the news Himmler had brought. The facts about Admiral Canaris were so terrible that he could not make them public until the war was over ; then there would be a state trial at which the German people could take their revenge.(3)
A personal catastrophe was about to fall upon Hitler, immobilizing him for two weeks.
First, Martin Bormann secured from him one last signature on September 26, 1944, ordering the Party to raise a peoples army, a Volkssturm, by public levy on every able-bodied man between sixteen and sixty for the defense of German soil. The original idea was Guderians. Alarmed to see his siege-defense troops in the east drained off to the West Wall, he had proposed a local territorial reserve (Landsturm) for temporarily plugging any breaches in his eastern defenses. Guderian had suggested Wilhelm Schepmann, chief of the SA, as their leader, because since 1934 the army had always got on well with the paramilitary Brownshirt organization. Bormann, however, could point to the results the Party had achieved in the west ; Rundstedt had highly praised him. On the twenty-third the field marshal had sent four thousand sets of the necessary army blueprints to the seven western Gauleiters, and already the Party had half a million men erecting tank obstacles, bunkers, and fortifications. Hitler trusted Bormann, and the Party got the job of raising the Volkssturmto mobilize the people just as Stalin had mobilized the factory workers of Moscow and Leningrad in 1941.
During the night Hitler was attacked by stomach cramps of such intensity that he had to bite back his need to scream. The next morning he refused to get up ; wearing a gray flannel dressing gown over his shapeless army nightshirt, he lay with empty and expressionless eyes on his bed. A loaded revolver was on the night table. He refused to eat that day or the next. Morell was summoned, diagnosed only the old intestinal troubles, and gave him liver-extract injections ; but the pains got worse. The fat doctor was seen leaving the bunker pale and sweating, for his medical experience had its limitations. Professor von Eicken arrived on the twenty-seventh from Berlin, but Morell sent him back without allowing him near his patient. Martin Bormann, sick with worry, remained constantly in the bunker for three days. Doctor Giesing recognized a case of jaundice, but Morell angrily denied it and attributed Hitlers yellow color and spasms to a gall bladder blockage caused by nervous worry ; he began dosing his agonized patient with castor oil at one end and warm chamomile-tea enemas at the other in the hope of unblocking the intestinal tracts. The pain got worse, and between September 28 and 30, Hitler lost six pounds. Blood tests and urinalyses were taken, but Morell refused to show them to his fellow doctors.(4) The Wolfs Lair was paralyzed. The war conferences were canceled for days on end. Admiral Puttkamer, recovering from his bomb injuries, hobbled in on crutches to read to Hitler the daily notes on the war situation. But for days Hitler just lay there with no comment or reaction at all.
By October 2 he had begun to dress again but still stayed in his little bedroom, where Blondi and her new puppies lay in a big wooden box in the corner. On the night before, General Schmundthis chief adjutant since 1938 and one of the organizing architects of the Wehrmachthad died of his injuries from Stauffenbergs bomb. Richard Schulze, his SS adjutant, found Hitler sitting on the edge of his bed in black trousers, collarless shirt, and suspenders. It was Schulzes thirtieth birthday. Hitler summoned up a smile and handed him the obligatory Glashutte gold watch. I dont suppose Ill be presenting any more of these ! he exclaimed. Three days later, Puttkamer ushered in Schmundts widow. Hitler was still frail and ill, and began to weep as she came in. It is you who must console me, he sighed, for mine was the greater loss.
Frau Schmundt then explained that the Gestapo were harrying her for access to Schmundts secret diaries. She begged Hitler to take them into his personal custody. Jawohl, agreed Hitler after some reflection. Will it suffice if they are locked up in the Chancellery safe, and you have one key and Puttkamer the other ?
During Hitlers illness, Giesing sampled the little black antigas pills himself and suffered the same testiness, aversion to light, thirst, loss of appetite, enhanced sense of taste, and stomach cramps that had afflicted Hitler ; it might even explain his jaundice too. From the Latin label it seemed that the quantities Hitler had consumed since Stalingrad must have cumulatively poisoned him with strychnine and atropine. Hitler somberly thanked Giesing ; he had thought them just charcoal tablets for absorbing stomach gases.
All Morells rivalsand they were manyclosed in for the kill. Professor Brandt, Hitlers surgeon since 1934 and a staunch adviser of Speers ministry, hurried from Berlin and accused Morell of criminal negligence. But Bormann was now out for Speers blood, and he knew of Hitlers irrational affection for Morell as the only doctor who had helped him earlier. Every other German has the right to choose his own doctor, Hitler confirmed. I have chosen Morell. Morell, pale and frightened, apologized profusely for his oversight. Bormann dismissed both Brandt and Hasselbachusing the latters indiscreet revelations on the pills affair to Hitlers adjutants during the journey back from Schmundts funeral at Tannenberg as a formal pretext. On October 9, Giesing too was paid off. Even Himmler was cold and unsympathetic to the doctors. He was next seen heading toward Hitlers bunker with his own personal doctor in towthe thirty-six-year-old orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Ludwig Stumpfegger, a tall slim SS major with a brilliant reputation for bone and muscle surgery. Morell remained Hitlers doctor, but the consumption of the antigas pills was stopped. And Stumpfegger, Himmlers nominee, replaced Brandt, Hasselbach, and Giesing on Hitlers staff.
Hitlers irrational and often infuriating loyalty to his old faithfuls saved G–ring as it had saved Morell.
Enraged by the Luftwaffe record, he had sacked Kreipe and determined to get rid of G–ring too. On September 21 he interviewed General von Greim, commander of the Sixth Air Force, from the eastern front and asked him to become G–rings Deputy Commander in Chief; it would be a new position, and Greim discussed it thoroughly with Himmler, Fegelein, and Bormann over the next two weeks before G–ring rebelled and sent him back to the east. The Reichsmarschall then sent for General Kurt Pflugbeil, commander of the First Air Force, and offered him Kreipes job ; Pflugbeil took one look at the situation at Luftwaffe headquarters and fled back to his own command. G–ring gave up. In mid-October he went hunting on Rominten Heide, and here, he remarked, he proposed to staykeeping a strict eye on Himmler and Bormann nonetheless, for the Reichsf¸hrer had now demanded air force squadrons of its own for the SS. At the Wolfs Lair, General Eckhard Christian alone represented the Luftwaffe when Hitlers war conferences resumed.
Fortunately, Hitlers adjutants remarked, the war stagnated during his two-week illness. Ominous rumblings still came from Hungary ; the auguries of an East-West split became louder ; planning for the Ardennes offensive continued ; in Warsaw the Polish uprising collapsed ; in northern Norway, Hitler authorized the Twentieth Army to fall back on the Lyngen Fjord-Narvik line ; in the Balkans he ordered all Greece, southern Macedonia, and southern Albania abandoned to the enemy.
A melancholy report reached him on the last days of German rule in Estonia, too. Sch–rner had allowed ten days for the evacuation starting on September 18. In seventy ships the German navy had snatched the last Germans from the Baltic ports and evacuated a hundred thousand Estonian refugees as well. The oil-shale works were demolished, and the last Germans embarked in Revel (Tallin) on September 21. The local population could hardly believe that the Germans were letting the Russians return, and many announced that they would vanish into the forests and wait for the Germans to come back, as come they surely must. On the twenty-first, knots of civilians gathered in the streets of Revel, armed with rifles. The last Germans to sail out could see a huge Estonian flag unfurled from the tower of the ancient Teutonic castle, Lanky Hermann, and the German war ensign flew alongsidea sign that there were still Estonians minded to put up a fight, however hopeless, against the Bolsheviks. As far as we know, the report concluded on the twenty-eighth, the Bolsheviks have liquidated all Estonians suspected of collaboration with the German administration and transported the able-bodied as slaves.
On October 7 a big Russian attack began, and the news that East Prussia itself was threatened brought Hitler out of his sickroom and back into the conference but again. The generals urged him to leave the Wolfs Lair, but his answer was always the same : The East Prussians would say I was leaving them to the Russians, and theyd be right. However secret we kept it, theyd still find out. The wretched people here have already had one taste of the Russian reign of terror in 1914 and 1915. I want to spare them a second dose.
In mid-October one problem could no longer be shelved : the future of Erwin Rommel. The field marshal, Hitlers favorite until recently, the first commandant of his HQ (in 1939), had recovered from his crash injuries at the family home near Ulm. The agents shadowing his movements reported that he went for walks leaning on his son; but local Nazi officials reported that Rommel was still uttering mutinous remarks. If any one popular hero could persuade the Germans to call a halt to the war, it was Rommel. The evidence against him seemed also complete : Lieutenant Colonel Hofacker had before his execution testified in writing that Rommel had assured the putschists that they could count on him if the plot succeeded.
Hitler showed Keitel the Hofacker document. Keitel sent for Rommel, but the field marshal declined to come. This left only a direct appeal to Rommels sense of dignity.
At Hitlers dictation, Keitel wrote Rommel a letter advising him to come to see the F¸hrer if he considered himself innocent or to behave as an officer should if he did not ; otherwise he would be arrested and put on trial by the Peoples Court. General Wilhelm Burgdorf-Schmundts burly successor as Hitlers adjutant and chief of army personneland his deputy, General Ernst Maisel, took the letter and the Hofacker statement in person to Rommels home at Ulm, using a small unmarked Mercedes from Schaubs motor pool ; the autobahns were closed to prevent Rommels escape. At the evening war conference on October 14, Hitler was informed briefly that Rommel had just died of his injuries. His only comment was an expressionless There goes another of the Old Guard. He ordered no press announcement for the moment. Burgdorf returned to the Wolfs Lair with the field marshals cap and baton and reported to Hitler and Keitel. Rommel had asked him if the F¸hrer was aware of the Hofacker statement and then asked for time to think. Burgdorf had asked him to choose poison rather than the conventional pistol, to avoid causing public speculation. The F¸hrer had, he said, promised a state funeral with full honors to preserve Rommels popular reputation. The alternative would be trial andif found guiltydishonor, and execution.
Secret and promise were well kept. Even Hitlers adjutants did not find out. On October 15 or 16, Colonel von Amsberg drafted the usual obituary announcement for the Army Gazette. For a field marshal only the F¸hrer himself could sign ; Amsberg left it on Hitlers tray. Days passed, until Amsberg inquired whether the wording ought perhaps to be altered in some way. Hitler bit his lip and virtuously exclaimed, I will not sign this obituary. I will not lie !
1 Martin Bormann observed in an uncharitable memorandum of August 17, 1944 : This shows again how wrong Minister Speers agreements with the French economics minister [Jean] Bichelonne [in October 1943] were. It would have been far better to follow Sauckels demands to fetch as many [French] workers as possible into the Reich.... Now we have lost both the machine tools and the materials Herr Speer sent over to them.
2 I obtained these X-rays in 1967 ; they do indeed show a cloudiness of the left maxillary sinus, needing irrigation. In 1968 the Soviet author Lev Bezymenski published good photographs of the jaw taken from a corpse found in the Chancellery garden in Berlin in 1945. As I first demonstrated in Die Zeit (Hamburg) on January 14, 1972, this jaw was identical to that in the X-rays and to that sketched from memory by Hitlers dentist, Professor Blaschke, under American interrogation in 1945. More recently the Norwegian-born dental expert Dr. Reidar F. Sognnaes, of the section of oral biology at the University of California, confirmed this at a symposium on forensic medicine in Edinburgh.
3 After months of investigation, in November 1945 a British Intelligence report concluded that the Abwehr under Canaris had opposed Hitler only because of its jealousy over the inroads made into their domain by Himmlers agencies. The role of Admiral Canaris has never been entirely clear, but it is now demonstrable that he drew into the Abwehr men whom he knew to be engaged in anti-Hitler activities and on several occasions took steps to defend them. The fact that his attitude concerning the war seems from the first to have been strongly defeatist provides the only clue to the behavior of one of the most obscure figures in the history of the Nazi period.
4 The reports are in Morells papers. The urine tests revealed the presence of bile pigments and increased amounts of urobilinogen and urobilinboth consistent with an attack of jaundace.
p. 698 Ribbentrops description of his peace proposal is partially confirmed by an entry in Kp; After telling G–ring bluntly how hopeless the Luftwaffe situation was, he inquired whether it was not time for the Reichsmarschall to make a political intervention. This question was answered with bitter criticism of Ribbentrophe [G–ring] was the last person who should now make the F¸hrer feel uncertain.
p. 698 Weichss telegram to Hitlers HQ, and the reply, are in Ritters AA files, Serial 1487, pages 368686 et seq.; the fieldmarshal also referred to this after the war (N 19/12), as did Hermann Neubacherunder U.S. State Department interrogationwho stated that the British local commander, General Sir R.M. Scobie, had contacted both himself and the German Commander in Chief, Northern Greece, the mountain corps general Hubert Lanz. Ribbentrop confirmed the bait strategy in a conversation with the Belgian Fascist leader LÈon Degrelle on December 8, 1944 (AA Serial B 16): see also naval staff diary, September 6 and 14, and Jodls diary, September 14, and directive to Weichs (AA Serial 1487); and OKW war diary, Vol. IV page 719.
p. 699 Two Japanese admiralty officers informed the German naval attachÈ of Stalins alleged views on August 25 ; Ambassador Heinrich Georg Stahmers telegram from Tokyo reporting this reached Ribbentrops train on August 26 (AA, Ritters files, Serial 1436, page 363344). Most probably this was connected with the recent return of the Soviet ambassador Jakob Malik to Tokyo from Moscow. A few days later the Japanese foreign minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, visited Stahmer in the same connection. Finally, on September 4, Ambassador Oshima came from Berlin to the Wolfs Lair to put the same proposals directly to Hitler. (Ribbentrops report on this talk to Stahmer two days later is in Ritters file, Serial 1436.) Hitler however painted an optimistic picture of Germanys sound strategic positiona coming counteroffensive with fresh divisions, new fighter aircraft, new submarine types, and adequate raw materials for two yearsand emphasized that there was so far not the slightest sign that Stalin wanted peace. Only a military impasse would convince Stalin ; for the time being Hitler asked the Japanese to refrain from such steps. Thus the Japanese attempt to mediate between Hitler and Stalin failed. On this whole episode see also naval staff war diary, September 5, 1944, and Speers testimony at Nuremberg, Vol. XVI, page 533. That Guderian shared Hitlers view was reported by his liaison officer to the naval staff (diary, September 17).
p. 700 Speers prognosis on the nickel supply was also inconsistent. On September 13, 1944, the naval staff noted Speers clear announcement that the Petsamo nickel supply was no longer of great importance to Germanys arms industrya view the naval staff diary strongly disputed five days later.
pp. 703-704 See Keitels draconian order to the infantry General Hans-Karl von Scheele on September 10, 1944, ordering immediate court martialing and public execution of deserters (T77/869/5928 et seq.).
p. 704 The plan for a western counteroffensive began to crystalize in Hitlers order of August 29, 1944 : There is only one possibility, and that is to wade into the American right flank and thus endanger the enemys advance into Belgium itself from the rear (Army Group B, war diary annexes); the plan took clearer shape in his order of September 3 to Rundstedt (ibid., and war diary, Commander in Chief West). Kreipes diary of September 11 shows that Hitler was still half-looking at the Vosges offensive idea, but then he switched attention to the Ardennes. See the ETHINT interrogations of Jodl and his staff officer Major Herbert B¸chs.
p. 704 Kaltenbrunners damning reports are in BA file N6/41.
p. 706 Sch–rners visit is recorded in Jodls diary, September 16, 1944. When D–nitz heard of the plan to abandon Estonia, he hurried to Hitler but could not change his mind ; on the eighteenth the evacuation began (naval staff diary, September 15 ; and see Sch–rners teletype to Keitel, September 9, in film T77/778).
p. 706 Frau von Ribbentrop confirmed the episode of Madame Kollontai to me. Both Ribbentrop and Colonel Bogislav von Boninof the General Staff reported Hitlers pawn in hand argument under interrogation in 1945. Interestingly, on September 12, 1944, Himmler jotted down as Item 9 on his agenda for discussion with Hitler the words Britain or Russia; and as Item 10, Russia-Japan. Both items are endorsed dealt with (T175/94/5062).
pp. 706-707 On the Arnhem operation I used General Kurt Students account in the journal Der Frontsoldat Erz”hlt, 1952 ; Schleifenbaums letter to a Herman Giesler, January 11, 1945 (T81/122/4665 et seq.); an unpublished letter by Colonel W. Harzer to Quick magazine, December 1955 ; and entries in the naval staff war diary.
p. 710 Himmlers visit to Hitler on September 26, 1944, is reconstructed from his handwritten agenda (T175/94/5056); from Bormanns letter to his wife that day ; from Kaltenbrunners interrogation of Canaris and Pfuhlstein, September 21, (NS-6/41); the war diary of the chief of army personnel, September 4 ; manuscripts of Jodl, 1944 (T77/775) and Huppenkothen, 1945 (BDC), and Kiessel and Georg Thomas ; and interrogations of Jodl, Lahousenwho privately confirmed in Nuremberg on November 12, 1945, that Canaris and Oster had betrayed the date of Yellow, but declined to say more as both were now deadand of Huppenkothen, Kopkow, and Thomas.
p. 712 Hitlers confinement to bed with jaundice is testified to by Giesing, Hasselbach, and Brandt ; it is referred to in Bormanns letters of September 30 and October 1 and 4, in the manuscripts of the secretary Traudl Junge and Assmann, and in my 1965 interview with Saur and Puttkamer. After visiting him on October 5, 1944 Schmundts widow wrote in her diary : With Puttkamer this afternoon in the Wolfs Lair. F¸hrer bedridden. Said he had lost his finest man.
p. 713 As Professor Morell wrote on October 23, 1944 : The last few weeks have not been too pleasant for me. There was a lot of trouble. But the F¸hrer was so charming to me that this more than makes up for it.
pp. 714-15 Alfred Rosenbergs report to Hitler on the evacuation of Estonia, dated September 28, 1944 (NG-1094).
pp. 715-16 A primary source on Rommels suicide is the testimony of Julius Schaubs chauffeur, Heinz Doose, who drove the car in which Rommel swallowed the poison. When Doose handed the field marshals cap and baton in to Schaub, the latter went pale. I didnt know about this ... I want nothing to do with it ! The rest of my narrative relies on interrogations of Keitel and Jodl ; my interviews of the adjutants G¸nsche, Amsberg, and G–hler ; written statements of the staff stenographers Buchholz and Krieger ; and a handwritten note on Keitels talk with his son in the Nuremberg cells on September 21, 1946.