Al-Ahram Weekly Online   5 - 11 August 2010
Issue No. 1010
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

The Fox's den

THE ROMMEL Museum is located in the cave which the German military leader hid in the mountains during World War II while plotting his next military move. Erwin Rommel, or the Desert Fox, was also known as the man who existed everywhere at once. He was one of the best field commanders in World War II, famous for his battle tricks, great courage, determination and leadership. Rommel fought the 12-day Battle of Alamein which launched on 23 October 1942, but by 4 November, the Germans and Italians were in full retreat in the face of the onslaught by British troops.

The Rommel Museum re-opened last month after a thorough makeover. The second phase of renovations will begin when the building closes again after the summer season is over, according to Alaa Abdel-Shakour, director of Marsa Matrouh Tourism Authority. More of Rommel's possessions and items from the battle will be on display next season.

Most of the items at the museum were gifted by Rommel's son in 1970. His father died in October 1944. According to a plaque at the museum, Rommel was accused of plotting against Adolf Hitler and given a choice to either stand trial or quietly commit suicide to ensure the safety of his family. Rommel chose the latter, and his death was announced as a heart attack.

Already on display are Rommel's coat, maps he drew himself, battle plans and some medals he received from Hitler. The museum also showcases samples of Rommel's military attire and that of his soldiers, alongside some weapons, guns, gunshots, shells and military equipment. Also on display are copies of a German-language newspaper published by Rommel's troops in Africa during World War II called Al-Waha (oasis). Moreover, there are several iron boxes housing the files of German soldiers from that era.

The Battle of Alamein is one of the fiercest in World War II which resulted in high casualty figures. Some estimates put them at 32,000 Germans and Italians, as well as 13,500 British soldiers. Also known as the Battle of the Desert, it was a landmark confrontation because it marked the beginning of the defeat of German troops in Africa. Rommel led both the German and Italian troops, while Bernard Montgomery led the British troops. But Montgomery had an advantage of almost two-to-one in tanks and men: 195,000 troops against 50,000 Germans and 54,000 Italians, and over 1,000 tanks against Germany's 510.

The museum is open daily from 9am until 4pm. Egyptians pay LE1 and foreigners LE10. Egyptians are charged LE10 to take photos, and foreigners pay LE20 for the same concession.

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