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Thread: The death of Rommel

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    Being one of the most charismatic WWII leaders i thought it would be interesting for you guys to have an eye witness account on the way he died:

    Field Marshall Rommel, 1944



    For a time, Erwin Rommel was Hitler's favorite general. Gaining prominence in 1940 as a commander of a panzer division that smashed the French defenses (see "Blitzkrieg, 1940"), Rommel went on to command the Afrika Korps where his tactical genius, ability to inspire his troops and make the best of limited resources, prompted Hitler to elevate him to the rank of Field Marshall. In 1943, Hitler placed Rommel in command of
    Rommel in the African desert, 1941
    fortifying the "Atlantic Wall" along the coast of France - defenses intended to repel the inevitable invasion of Europe by the Allies.

    By the beginning of 1943, Rommel's faith in Germany's ability to win the war was crumbling, as was his estimation of Hitler. Touring Germany, Rommel was appalled at the devastation of the Allied bombing raids and the erosion of the peoples' morale. He also learned for the first time of the death camps, slave labor, the extermination of the Jews and the other atrocities of the Nazi regime. Rommel became convinced that victory for Germany was a lost cause and that prolonging the war would lead only to his homeland's devastation. He came in contact with members of a growing conspiracy dedicated to ousting Hitler and establishing a separate peace with the western allies.

    On July 17, 1944, British aircraft strafed Rommel's staff car, severely wounding the Field Marshall. He was taken to a hospital and then to his home in Germany to convalesce. Three days later, an assassin's bomb nearly killed Hitler during a strategy meeting at his headquarters in East Prussia. In the gory reprisals that followed, some suspects implicated Rommel in the plot. Although he may not been aware of the attempt on Hitler's life, his "defeatist" attitude was enough to warrant Hitler's wrath. The problem for Hitler was how to eliminate Germany's most popular general without revealing to the German people that he had ordered his death. The solution was to force Rommel to commit suicide and announce that his death was due to his wounds.


    Rommel's son, Manfred, was 15 years old and served as part of an antiaircraft crew near his home. On October 14th, 1944 Manfred was given leave to return to his home where his father continued to convalesce. The family was aware that Rommel was under suspicion and that his chief of staff and his commanding officer had both been executed. Manfred's account begins as he enters his home and finds his father at breakfast:


    "...I arrived at Herrlingen at 7:00 a.m. My father was at breakfast. A cup was quickly brought for me and we breakfasted together, afterwards taking a stroll in the garden.

    'At twelve o'clock to-day two Generals are coming to discuss my future employment,' my father started the conversation. 'So today will decide what is planned for me; whether a People's Court or a new command in the East.'

    'Would you accept such a command,' I asked.

    He took me by the arm, and replied: 'My dear boy, our enemy in the East is so terrible that every other consideration has to give way before it. If he succeeds in overrunning Europe, even only temporarily, it will be the end of everything which has made life appear worth living. Of course I would go.'

    Shortly before twelve o'clock, my father went to his room on the first floor and changed from the brown civilian jacket which he usually wore over riding-breeches, to his Africa tunic, which was his favorite uniform on account of its open collar.

    At about twelve o'clock a dark-green car with a Berlin number stopped in front of our garden gate. The only men in the house apart from my father, were Captain Aldinger [ Rommel's aide], a badly wounded war-veteran corporal and myself. Two generals -Burgdorf, a powerful florid man, and Maisel, small and slender-alighted from the car and entered the house. They were respectful and courteous and asked my father's permission to speak to him alone. Aldinger and I left the room. 'So they are not going to arrest him,' I thought with relief, as I went upstairs to find myself a book.


    A few minutes later I heard my father come upstairs and go into my mother's room. Anxious to know what was afoot, I got up and followed him. He was standing in the middle of the room, his face pale. 'Come outside with me,' he said in a tight voice. We went into my room. 'I have just had to tell your mother,' he began slowly, 'that I shall be dead in a quarter of an hour.' He was calm as he continued: 'To die by the hand of one's own people is hard. But the house is surrounded and Hitler is charging me with high treason. ' "In view of my services in Africa," ' he quoted sarcastically, 'I am to have the chance of dying by poison. The two generals have brought it with them. It's fatal in three seconds. If I accept, none of the usual steps will be taken against my family, that is against you. They will also leave my staff alone.'

    'Do you believe it?' I interrupted. 'Yes,' he replied. 'I believe it. It is very much in their interest to see that the affair does not come out into the open. By the way, I have been charged to put you under a promise of the strictest silence. If a single word of this comes out, they will no longer feel themselves bound by the agreement.'

    I tried again. 'Can't we defend ourselves…' He cut me off short. 'There's no point,' he said. 'It's better for one to die than for all of us to be killed in a shooting affray. Anyway, we've practically no ammunition.' We briefly took leave of each other. 'Call Aldinger, please,' he said.

    Aldinger had meanwhile been engaged in conversation by the General's escort to keep him away from my father. At my call, he came running upstairs. He, too, was struck cold when he heard what was happening. My father now spoke more quickly. He again said how useless it was to attempt to defend ourselves. 'It's all been prepared to the last detail. I'm to be given a state funeral. I have asked that it should take place in Ulm. [a town near Rommel's home] In a quarter of an hour, you, Aldinger, will receive a telephone call from the Wagnerschule reserve hospital in Ulm to say that I've had a brain seizure on the way to a conference.' He looked at his watch. 'I must go, they've only given me ten minutes.' He quickly took leave of us again. Then we went downstairs together.

    We helped my father into his leather coat. Suddenly he pulled out his wallet. 'There's still 150 marks in there,' he said. 'Shall I take the money with me?'

    'That doesn't matter now, Herr Field Marshal,' said Aldinger.

    My father put his wallet carefully back in his pocket. As he went into the hall, his little dachshund which he had been given as a puppy a few months before in France, jumped up at him with a whine of joy. 'Shut the dog in the study, Manfred,' he said, and waited in the hall with Aldinger while I removed the excited dog and pushed it through the study door. Then we walked out of the house together. The two generals were standing at the garden gate. We walked slowly down the path, the crunch of the gravel sounding unusually loud.

    As we approached the generals they raised their right hands in salute. 'Herr Field Marshal,' Burgdorf said shortly and stood aside for my father to pass through the gate. A knot of villagers stood outside the drive…

    The car stood ready. The S.S. driver swung the door open and stood to attention. My father pushed his Marshal's baton under his left arm, and with his face calm, gave Aldinger and me his hand once more before getting in the car.



    The two generals climbed quickly into their seats and the doors were slammed. My father did not turn again as the car drove quickly off up the hill and disappeared round a bend in the road. When it had gone Aldinger and I turned and walked silently back into the house…

    Twenty minutes later the telephone rang. Aldinger lifted the receiver and my father's death was duly reported.

    It was not then entirely clear, what had happened to him after he left us. Later we learned that the car had halted a few hundred yards up the hill from our house in an open space at the edge of the wood. Gestapo men, who had appeared in force from Berlin that morning, were watching the area with instructions to shoot my father down and storm the house if he offered resistance. Maisel and the driver got out of the car, leaving my father and Burgdorf inside. When the driver was permitted to return ten minutes or so later, he saw my father sunk forward with his cap off and the marshal's baton fallen from his hand."

    References:
    Hart, B. H. Liddell, The Rommel Papers (1953); Manvell, Roger, Heinrich Fraenkel, The Men Who Tried to Kill Hitler (1964).

    How To Cite This Article:
    "The Forced Suicide of Field Marshall Rommel, 1944," EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2002).



    "Yes, I rather like this God fellow. He's very theatrical, you know,
    a pestilence here, a plague there... He's so deliciously evil."
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    ajimenez3's Avatar Hastatas Posterior
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    A very good article Portuguese Rebel. I knew that he committed suicide, but not the details.
    It is a shame that such a great tactician served under Hitler, but I imagine that the German Army had a number of people who were fighting for their country and not for Hitler.

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    but I imagine that the German Army had a number of people who were fighting for their country and not for Hitler.
    Yes, definitely, many more than what is usually recognized.


    "Yes, I rather like this God fellow. He's very theatrical, you know,
    a pestilence here, a plague there... He's so deliciously evil."
    Stewie, Family Guy

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    Hoglerdanske
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    You should se "Der Undergang"!

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    As a general rule, the oberkommando-wehrmacht were mostly Prussian, or Prussianesque aristocracy who were seeking the repudiation of the treaty of Versailles -- Hitler promised this and duly was supported to the upmost. Colonel Stauffenberg, when he learnt the extent of the horrors of the Eastern Front, duly attempted an assasination attempt on Hitler. He felt some measure of shame in doing it -- all German army swore an oath to Hitler and not Germany.

    But, Germany in his mind still came first, thus his last words before his firing squad 'Lang lebt heiliges Deutschland!' Or 'Long Live Holy Germany'.

    The death of Rommel was indeed one of the most tragic from a man who was always undone by his Fuher's bad judgement, in Afrika, and in the defence of the Atlantic wall. His honour, however, was placed paramount -- the African front is the only 'clean' front of the German war, and certainly he did his duty. The Hitler-Rommel interactions alone make me despise Hitler.
    "Many a man can seem respectable and hide at will behind a spiral staircase" - Wodehouse
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    Murakawa
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    My sig on another forum is a Rommel quote:

    Sweat saves blood, blood saves lives, and brains saves both.
    It is quite helpful to remember that the Nazis were foremost a political party, although present intellectual sloppiness paints an entire country with their perverse ideals in many cases.

    Ol' Erwin refused to segregate his prisoners as was 'requested' by the Berlin crowd, too. If you were brave enough to be out there fighting him, he didn't care what you believed in.

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    Murakawa
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    While taking a ww2 course in the uofc,(calgary not california) I stumbled along some info while researching the war. I started to compile names in categories of loyal and turncoat. The results were astounding! I had about 12-15 names for turncoat and only 4-5 were loyal. I know i didn't get all the names but some of the names were some of hitlers closer aids, and the ratio was quite alarming. It's a wonder the allies didn't win the war sooner than they did.

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    Rapax's Avatar The Colonel
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    Depends on what you call turncoat and what loyal and which people exactly you categorized. There were more than 27 Generals.

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    Murakawa
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    turncoat: Someone who betrays their country, not that i woudn't do it myself in that situation.
    Loyal: defended the country and obeyed its leaders wishes even if you didn't agree with them. Not blind loyal, like himmler, for instance.
    Although stopping hitler might be prudent, relaying information to the allies in order to help them win would hurt the country and therefore be traitorous.

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    Gelatinous Cube's Avatar Sakata
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    Rommel was indeed one of the better figures of World War II. A tactical genius, and honorable. It is indeed a shame that the Nazi party, like other such political groups (USSR back in it's big days, and most any dicatorships), place political reliability above talent.
    Cube: I want a sign from god, in special godly ink, proving his existence.
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    I think that the role of the german army in the atrocities commited is actually underplayed...

    1.On April 28th 1941 Field Marshall Brauhitch issues the famous "Commissar order". All communists, jews, and collective farm directors were to be handed to the SS sondercommando. In cases where the nubers were too great Wermacht should "provide every assistance".

    2.On May 13 1941 Field Marshal Keitel signs the Juristiction Order under wich Soviet citizens have no right of appeal, and exonerated soldiers of any crime commited.

    Stahleberg was made aware of that order by Treskow he commented that this is tantamount to murder, and Trescow replied that"the order came from the system to which you owe your allegiance"

    3. Reichenau, commander of the 6th army in June 1941 issued his own order (as if the others was not enough) It was red by Hoth, commander of the 4th Panzer, to the troops: "The anihilation of the bolshevic jews (???) is a measure of self presevation."

    4. Von Manstein added his own little speech on JUne 24:" Harsh measures against Jewery are necessary because the Jewish -bolshevic system must be rooted once for all.."

    5. Hube commander of the 16th Panzer complained to Paulus (then Reichenau's chief of staff) that the participation of troops in the executions was "demoralising" only to be rebuffed with "...troops need more political education and less morale". Paulus admits that in his memoirs saying that he cannot believe the army had reached "such level of indoctrination that these words seemed natural at the time"

    So, sorry to spoil the party but with the exception of few hundreds of high ranking officers, the rest follow suit, and as for the lower ranking officers they either participated or kept schtum about what was happening.
    I would like to see any EVidencE to the contrary...

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    Originally posted by Garbarsardar@May 5 2005, 06:14 AM
    4. Von Manstein added his own little speech on JUne 24:" Harsh measures against Jewery are necessary because the Jewish -bolshevic system must be rooted once for all.."

    Intereting speech considering that he was suspected to be a Jew by a few people. (His sirname was Lewinsky beofre he was aopted.)

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    yep, Paulus writes that he used to joke himself about that, at least until the beginning of Barbarossa

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    Rapax's Avatar The Colonel
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    Originally posted by Garbarsardar@May 5 2005, 01:14 PM
    I would like to see any EVidencE to the contrary...
    While of course the speeches and orders are true that you mentioned these are still just speeches and orders. Real evidence would be presenting attrocities that were committed by wehrmacht units. A lot of officers would refuse to apply the "Commisar Order" as they saw it as dishonorable.
    I think that the role of the german army in the atrocities commited is actually underplayed...
    I think the contrary is the case as it is popular belief that the whole german army worked as one big unit in committing atrocities which is just not true. They certainly took part in atrocities but not to an extent that would label the whole Wehrmacht as a criminal organization.

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    Adrian Laguna's Avatar Aquilifer
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    To Erwin Rommel, Hitler was almost like a father figure. In order to reconcile Hitler's atrocities with the fact that he liked the guy, Rommel choose to believe that it wasn't ol' Adolf's fault and that he knew little about what was happening in the concentration camps. Towards the end Rommel did begin to realize that Hitler was a raving lunatic, though I don't know if Erwin ever saw through the "it ain't Hitler's fault that 'undesirables' are being murdered wholesale" fantasy he had going. You should note that Rommel was given the option of suicide, instead of a court martial, because Adolf Hitler did like him, and he wasn't entirely sure if Erwin was involved in the conspiracy or the guys they caught were just throwing names around. History's veredict: Unknown, most probable is that Rommel was aware of the plan to assasinate Hitler but wasn't actively involved. So he is guilty of not reporting it.

    EDIT:

    I forgot to mention, study showed that the average person can and will do horrible things against a fellow human if ordered to by an authority figure. The study was done in the 60's by Stanley Milgram. People where ordered to give electric shocks to a screaming victim (actually a talented actor whom they could hear but not see), and they went ahead and did it. This shows that when people commit horrible atrocities when ordered to, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are bad persons. So I caution against demonizing the entire Wermacht, or the SS for that matter.

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    .
    are still just speeches and orders
    In the army? In 1941? During the Nuremberg trial orders were very important for the defence....

    1.There is plenty of evidence that the general staff was completely subjugated to Hitler-the constant change of plans, and generals is proof enough.

    2.There is evidence that the minimum death toll of civilians was 12.000.000 (not counting the non soviet populations and jews)

    3.There are the orders. And the confessions of people like Paulus, Stahlemberg, and Stauffemberg.

    4.There is the fact that sondercommandos alone could not kill and starve to death 12.000.000

    5.The emerging myth is that of the anti-nazi soldier who fought for motherland and not for the party, and the anti-nazi military leader. Except the 300 around Stauffemberg what exactly the rest of the wermacht was doing since 1933. ...just following orders.

    6.In the west things were more civilized. Hitler was secretely hoping that GB would get rid of Churchil and ask for truce. In the east it was rassenkampf. The slaves were systematically dehumanized in the eyes of the german soldier by systematic indoctrination. The fact that soldiers were taking potshots at soviet prisoners is in the wermacht archives...

    Edit: Milgram's experiment (which was never reproduced with the same rate of success-obedience to authority over the lethal voltage) proves only that this can happen in an experiment. Society cannot be modellled in university laboratories and 10 years of systematic indoctrination cannot be equalized to the 10' speech that Milgram was giving on the importance of the experiment to the subjects..

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    Rapax's Avatar The Colonel
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    In the army? In 1941? During the Nuremberg trial orders were very important for the defence....
    Obviously as they were to determine who is guilty to what degree. But my point was that there is a difference between issueing an order and people actually carrying it out. Therefor I prefer evidence in form of "on this and this day, german soldiers did this and that". Orders and speeches are good and fine but somewhat vague to what actually was done.
    2.There is evidence that the minimum death toll of civilians was 12.000.000 (not counting the non soviet populations and jews)
    Well, what civilians, from where, in what timespan?
    4.There is the fact that sondercommandos alone could not kill and starve to death 12.000.000
    Same as above. The question is, where would these 12 mio. have been killed and by whom? You can't just attribute numbers like you see fits.
    5.The emerging myth is that of the anti-nazi soldier who fought for motherland and not for the party, and the anti-nazi military leader. Except the 300 around Stauffemberg what exactly the rest of the wermacht was doing since 1933. ...just following orders.
    It is still not on par with the claim that everybody was a nazi and actively committing atrocities.

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    double post sorry

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    Right... will photos do it for you? No offence but the evidence of the type...."on that day..." usually perish with the victims. Now read this and think what are the chance of a photo being taken during the war in 1941-44 of an atrocity being committed, multiply that by the nubmer of photos and you can deduce the probable instances.


    Germany: No Forgery Found In Controversial Exhibition

    By Roland Eggleston

    A special commission of historians has found no basis for accusations of
    forgery against a controversial photo exhibition showing ordinary German
    soldiers committing atrocities in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and the
    Balkans during World War II. The exhibition -- when it began in 1995 --
    punctured Germans' belief that wartime crimes were mostly the work of
    special units and the SS, and not of the ordinary army -- or Wehrmacht.
    RFE/RL's Munich correspondent reports on the exhibit and the controversy it
    has raised.

    Munich, 23 November 2000 (RFE/RL) -- A special commission of historians has
    found the vast majority of photographs in a controversial German exhibition
    showing ordinary soldiers committing atrocities in World War II are genuine.

    The commission -- made up of seven German historians and one American --
    said only a few of 1,433 photographs in the exhibit should be excluded
    because they show Soviet -- and not German -- forces committing atrocities.

    The exhibition portrays soldiers hanging civilians and committing other
    atrocities in the Soviet Union, Ukraine, Belarus, and the Balkans and
    participating in massacres of Jews and prisoners of war. Entitled the
    "Crimes of the German Army between 1941-44," the exhibition began touring
    German and Austrian cities in 1995 and has been seen by more than 850,000
    people.

    The exhibit was halted last year, however, after critics claimed that some
    photographs were fakes and that others portrayed victims of Soviet -- rather
    than German -- forces.

    The grainy black-and-white photographs were taken either by military
    photographers or by individual soldiers who sent them home to families as
    souvenirs. The photos are supported by copies of documents and personal
    letters. Among them is a letter from a young soldier boasting his unit had
    killed a thousand Jews -- "and," he wrote, "that was not enough."

    For some Germans the shock was unbearable. When the exhibition opened in
    Munich in 1997, one woman, Brigitte Moeller, broke down in hysterics after
    recognizing her father helping to hang a woman in Minsk. She told
    journalists she had always honored her father, who was killed before the war
    ended.

    The exhibition met with strong opposition by former soldiers and officers
    who said it besmirched the image of the Wehrmacht. They said that most
    ordinary soldiers were not involved in the serious crimes shown in the
    pictures.

    In his report, the German chairman of the historical commission, Gerhard
    Hirschfeld, said ordinary soldiers were involved in killing Jews in the
    Soviet Union and in atrocities committed against Soviet prisoners of war and
    civilians. But he said records show only a minority of the huge German army
    was involved in such activity.

    A commission spokeswoman, Helga Fischer, estimates it was only about 1 or 2
    percent of the army:

    "It is true that some members of the German army committed atrocities
    against Soviet prisoners of war and against civilians in occupied countries.
    But one should not overlook it was only a small minority that did so --
    about 1 or 2 per cent of the total German army. That means between 100,000
    and 200,000 men were involved. But just the same it was only a minority."

    The millionaire businessman behind the exhibition, Jan Philip Reemtsma, says
    the commission's ruling vindicates him and that he will resume the tour next
    year. Reemtsma said he was already involved in negotiations and would
    announce his plans in a few days.

    But the possibility of the exhibition continuing has prompted a new round of
    political discussions about whether old war wounds should be reopened in the
    21st century.

    Those who oppose a resumption note that while the commission acknowledged
    the photographs are genuine, it does criticize the overall approach of the
    exhibition for not presenting more balance.

    A respected conservative German newspaper the "Frankfurter Allgemeine
    Zeitung" said in future the exhibition should contain more documents to
    present a background to the atrocities. It said above all the exhibition
    should avoid a blanket condemnation of the Wehrmacht.


    © 1995-2000 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc., All Rights Reserved.
    http://www.rferl.org

    and here is a letter from a german soldier to his friend back home...

    I see the Führer before me. He saved an enslaved and raped humanity, giving it once more divine freedom and the blessing of a worthy existence. The last and deepest reason for this war is to restore the natural and godly order. It is a battle against slavery, against Bolshevist insanity. I am proud, deeply proud, that I may fight against this Bolshevist monster, fighting once again the enemy I fought to destroy during the hard years of struggle in Germany. I am proud of the wounds I suffered during the election battles in Germany, and I am proud of my new wounds, and of the medal that I now wear. It is as if the people here are awakening from a deep sleep. They cannot yet believe in their new freedom; they do not know where to begin. They sit down and wait for orders. Now they have them: "Go back to work, harvest the fields, now you have your own home." That is what all the posters say, and one sees the masses at work in the fields. Man and nature are free again, God has his place once more, his eternal order has been restored. We National Socialist soldiers of Adolf Hitler have restored the godly order, though some call us heathens. That is the way life is. And what did those who spoke about God do? Ask them!"
    (http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/feldpost.htm)

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    Rapax's Avatar The Colonel
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    A commission spokeswoman, Helga Fischer, estimates it was only about 1 or 2
    percent of the army:

    "It is true that some members of the German army committed atrocities
    against Soviet prisoners of war and against civilians in occupied countries.
    But one should not overlook it was only a small minority that did so --
    about 1 or 2 per cent of the total German army. That means between 100,000
    and 200,000 men were involved. But just the same it was only a minority."
    I think that's the point and I've been to that exhibition btw.

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