March 22, 2012 / 2:23 PM / 7 years ago

Tender love letters reveal Rommel's romantic side

BERLIN (Reuters) - Adolf Hitler’s favorite commander Erwin Rommel, the “Desert Fox” who relentlessly fought allied forces across North Africa in World War Two, was a hopeless romantic, extracts from love letters published in a German newspaper reveal.

German photographer, Hans Ertl (far left), walks in the Sahara Desert behind a group of German Nazi officers, including their commander, Erwin Rommel (front right), in this undated file photo. Ertl, who photographed the North Africa campaign for Rommel, as well as the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin for Adolf hitler, has lived nearly half a century in the tropical east of Bolivia.

The wily Desert Fox fell in love with 18-year-old Walburga Stemmer from Weingarten in southern Germany in 1910, when he was a young man and a low-ranking soldier.

The future general wooed her with love letters after work commitments forced him to move away.

“I’m in such good spirits, darling, so full of life, so happy, because you care for me too,” Rommel wrote in one of the letters, quoted in Bild newspaper on Thursday.

“I’ll probably have time off at the beginning of July... I could come to Weingarten for eight days. Tender kisses and greetings, your eternally loving Erwin,” he wrote.

Rommel earned the respect of allied forces during the North African military campaigns of World War Two for his skilful command of his troops and his daring in warfare, earning him the nickname of Desert Fox.

The letters belong to Rommel’s grandson, Josef Pan, whose mother Gertrud was the illegitimate daughter of the soldier’s romance with Walburga.

At the time of Gertrud’s birth, Rommel already had another woman in his life, Lucie Mollin, whom he later married.

Walburga killed herself in 1928, the year Rommel’s legitimate son with Lucie was born. But the Desert Fox remained in contact with his first child, Gertrud.

“He lovingly took care of my mother. He often took her on official trips with him, and invited her to his home,” said Pan, who works as a greengrocer in Bavaria.

Rommel was forced to commit suicide by Hitler in 1944 after he was linked to a plot to kill the Nazi leader.

Reporting by Alice Baghdjian, editing by Gareth Jones and Paul Casciato

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