Obituary: Manfred Rommel / Ex-Stuttgart mayor, son of World War II's 'Desert Fox'

Dec. 24, 1928 - Nov. 7, 2013

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Manfred Rommel, the former mayor of the German city of Stuttgart and the son of the World War II field marshal dubbed the "Desert Fox," has died. He was 84.

Mr. Rommel died Thursday, local authorities said in a statement on Stuttgart's official website. He had suffered from Parkinson's disease since 1996.

Mr. Rommel, who served as mayor for 22 years in the city of his birth, came to prominence in the 1970s and '80s as a municipal politician who earned international respect for his tolerance and liberal policies, standing up for the fair treatment of immigrant workers who helped rebuild Germany's automotive industry in the postwar years. Stuttgart is home to Daimler and Porsche.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to convey her condolences to the Rommel family, Steffen Seibert, her spokesman, said.

Manfred Rommel "was a leading figure in municipal politics, a remarkable and important mayor of a major German city," Mr. Seibert said.

Mr. Rommel was a member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.

"Our country has lost a passionate democrat and an immensely popular figure, who made an outstanding contribution to his city of birth and to the political culture of this country," Norbert Lammert, the president of the German Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, said in an emailed statement.

Manfred Rommel was deeply traumatized by the death of his father, Erwin Rommel, by suicide in 1944, minutes after the German military commander had revealed in a conversation with his son that Adolf Hitler had forced him to take a cyanide pill or face dishonor and retaliation on his family. Manfred Rommel, who was conscripted at age 14, disclosed the true nature of his father's death in a letter to Allied forces after his capture in 1945.

Hitler suspected Erwin Rommel, who commanded the 7th Panzer Division during the 1940 invasion of France and led German and Italian forces in North Africa, of being involved in a plot to kill the German dictator, a charge the field marshal denied.

Erwin Rommel, whose military skills in North Africa earned him the "Desert Fox" nickname, forbade his son to join Hitler's SS paramilitary guard. His Afrika Korps was known for treating prisoners of war humanely.

His legacy haunted the younger Rommel for the rest of his life. He struck up friendships with the sons of his father's war adversaries, including U.S. Army Maj. Gen. George S. Patton and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.

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