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Sale 38 Lot 978A

ADOLF HITLER
We offer one of the most significant, history-making World War II documents extant, Hitler's official order removing Field Marshal Erwin Rommel from his position as Commander-in-Chief of Army Group B, following Hitler's discovery that Rommel had been implicated in the unsuccessful July 20, 1944 bomb attempt on his life. This pristine document, 8 1/2" x 11 1/2", issued at "Fuhrerheadquarters" on Sept. 4, 1944, is typed in German and is boldly signed by Hitler and his Chief of Personnel, Gen. WILHELM BURGDORF (1895-1945) at bottom. Hitler transfers "Field Marshal Rommel from...Commander-in-Chief of the Army Group B into Command Reserve at my Disposition...". Hitler also transferred Field Marshal WALTHER MODEL to replace Rommel as head of Army Group B, and further transfers Field Marshal GERD VON RUNDSTEDT to Commander-in-Chief West and Commander-in-Chief Group D to replace Model. Very fine condition. This order essentially served as Rommel's death notice. After the unsuccessful July 20 plot against Adolf Hitler, a widespread investigation was conducted to identify possible participants in the plot. Rommel was identified in some of the coup ringleaders' documentation as a potential supporter and an acceptable military leader to be placed in a position of responsibility should their coup succeed. No evidence was found that directly linked Rommel to the plot, but unfortunately for Rommel, the "Court of Military Honour" that was to decide whether or not to hand him over to Roland Freisler's People's Court included Heinz Guderian and Gerd von Rundstedt, two men with whom Rommel had crossed swords before,. The Court decided that Rommel should be handed over to the People's Court. It was likely at this time that Rommel received notice of his removal from command. Certainly Hitler knew of his alleged complicity in the plot, and his firing of Rommel was the first step to be taken before his arrest. But of course, the arrest of Germany's most popular general, a war hero, would not sit well with the public. Rommel was instead approached at his home by Burgdorf and Ernst Maisel on October 14, 1944, about forty days after our document was signed. Burgdorf offered him a choice - he could face the People's Court and potential persecution of his family, or choose to commit suicide quietly, and in the latter case the government would assure his family pension payments and a state funeral. Burgdorf had brought a vial of poison for the occasion. After a few minutes' thought alone, Rommel announced that he chose to end his own life and explained his decision to his wife and son. Returning to Burgdorf's Opel while carrying his field marshal's baton, Rommel was driven out of the village. The driver, SS Sgt. Doose walked away from the car, leaving Rommel with Maisel. Five minutes later, Burgdorf gestured to the two men to return to the car, and Doose noticed that Rommel was slumped over. Doose, while sobbing, replaced Rommel's fallen cap atop his head. Ten minutes later the group phoned Rommel's wife to inform her that General Rommel was dead. Of course, Hitler went the way of his victim, Rommel, putting a bullet in his head in the few days before his shattered Berlin would fall to the Russians. His loyal adjutant Burgdorf, with Joseph Goebbels, Hans Krebs, and Martin Bormann witnessed and signed Hitler's last will and testament on Apr. 29, 1945. On May 1 or 2, following the suicides of Hitler and Goebbels, Burgdorf and his colleague Chief of Staff Hans Krebs also committed suicide. Model would fare no better than the others. After a crushing defeat in the Ruhr pocket, his decision to commit suicide was sealed when he learned that the Soviets had indicted him for war crimes, specifically the deaths of 577,000 people in concentration camps in Latvia and the deportation of 175,000 others as slave labor. After his attempts to seek death on the front line came to nothing, he shot himself in the head in a wooded area on April 21, 1945. Von Rundstedt was charged with war crimes as the ultimate leader of various "einsatzgruppen", but finagled a deal with British complicity and avoided a prison term...but had to deal with his own demons for the rest of his life. A powerful, historic document that literally changed the course of the war.
Estimate $ 40,000-60,000

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