Manfred Rommel: Field-Marshal's son who served as the popular and successful mayor of Stuttgart for 22 years

 

Manfred Rommel was a successful German politician, serving as mayor of Stuttgart from 1974-96. But he inevitably lived in the shadow of his father Field-Marshal Erwin Rommel, the "Desert Fox". He later became friends with the sons of his father's two principal wartime adversaries, General George Patton and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.

Manfred Rommel was born in Stuttgart, the only son of Erwin Rommel and Lucie Maria Rommel, neé Mollin, in 1928. His early childhood was spent in Dresden, Goslar and Potsdam and then from 1938 to 1943 in Vienna, where the then Colonel Rommel served as commandant of the War Academy in the Neustadt district. The family then moved to Herrlingen bei Ulm.

At the age of 15, in January 1944, Manfred joined the growing number of youngsters serving as auxiliaries in anti-aircraft batteries. Given the favourable publicity extended to his father by Goebbels, it was a severe shock when he learned that the Field-Marshal had been forced to commit suicide to save his family; Erwin Rommel had been accused of being involved in the failed 20 July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler. He was accorded a state funeral, and the cause of his death was announced as a heart attack.

In April 1945 Manfred Rommel became a prisoner of the advancing Free French First Army. Released in September 1945, he joined the Wieland-Gymnasium in Biberach an der Riß. On matriculation in 1947 he enrolled in the law faculty of the University of Tübingen. Graduating in 1956, he joined the civil service of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, where he rose rapidly, partly due to being "discovered" by Hans Filbinger, Minister of the Interior – both were members of Konrad Adenauer's Christian Democratic Union.

Rommel worked for Filbinger, who from 1966 to 1978 was Premier of Baden-Württemberg and a leading member of the CDU. Rommel rose with his mentor. Filbinger was a former member of the Nazi party, however, and his days were numbered. In 1978 he was forced to resign after his wartime activities as a military judge were exposed. By that time Rommel was the successful mayor of Stuttgart.

His predecessor, Dr Arnulf Klett, had died unexpectedly in 1974 and Rommel was chosen as the CDU's candidate to succeed him. Klett, who was not affiliated to any party, was a hard act to follow; not having been a Nazi, he was installed by the French in 1945, and was repeatedly re-elected and credited with the rapid rebuilding of the city after the massive destruction caused by Allied bombing. Rommel, who had been urged to stand by Filbinger, faced an imposing opponent in the Social Democrat Peter Conradi, an architect and member of the Bundestag, but Rommel beat him on the second ballot in December 1974.

He was re-elected with larger majorities in 1982 and 1990; his success was the first for a CDU candidate in a town with more than 500,000 inhabitants. Rommel's success was part of a trend towards the right – Chancellor Willy Brandt had been forced to resign in May because of a spy scandal and his Social Democrats had lost ground in regional elections.

Although a member of the CDU from his youth, Rommel attempted to run Stuttgart by consensus. He was known as a fair-minded individual of liberal sentiments, of which he soon faced a severe test. His first term coincided with the Baader-Meinhof terrorist campaign aimed at West Germany's "fascist" system by the young, self-proclaimed revolutionaries of the Red Army Faction.

Once captured, several of the group were held in the top security Stammheim prison in Stuttgart. On the night of 18 October 1977, three of them, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and Jan-Carl Raspe, killed themselves, while a fourth, Irmgard Möller, survived her injuries (she was released in 1994). The terrorist attacks before and after the suicides caused growing anger, fear and dismay, and Rommel became embroiled in the controversy over what to do with the suicides' remains.

To the anger of many he insisted they be given a decent burial, saying, "I am of the opinion that all wrath, justified as it may be, must end with death and that there are no first and second- class graveyards and that all graveyards are the same."

Partly thanks to Mercedes-Benz, which had its headquarters in Stuttgart, immigrants were attracted to the city. With an immigrant population of 24 per cent the city competes with Frankfurt for Germany's highest percentage. This represented a sizable challenge for Rommel, who courted controversy by insisting on equal rights for the incomers, hoping to make his city a model for others to follow.

Experienced in financial management, he reduced the city's debt and put money into roads and public transport. Looking beyond Germany, he sought to develop Franco-German friendship; he was later made a Chavalier of the Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur by France for his efforts. He also worked for reconciliation between Germans and Jews, while among his many other decorations was an honorary CBE.

When he retired in 1996 it was calculated that he had given 5,000 speeches in 22 years. By that time he was worried by the beginnings of Parkinson's disease so he got to work on a memoir. Trotz allem heiter [Stay cheerful in spite of everything] was published in 1998. He wrote other successful books, including 1944, The Year of Decision: Erwin Rommel in France (2012) in which he advances the view that his father was seeking to bring about a capitulation of the Wehrmacht, which he commanded, in the West.

He was married to Liselotte Daiber, whom he had met on a train journey. They had one daughter, Catherine. Norbert Lammert, the president of the German Bundestag, paid tribute to him, saying: "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."

David Childs

Manfred Rommel, politician: born Stuttgart 24 December 1928; Honorary CBE 1990; married Liselotte Daiber (one daughter); died Stuttgart 7 November 2013.

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Central London - £45,000-£55,000 + bonus

£45000 - £55000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: The focus of this is to deve...

Application Support - Enterprise Java, SQL, Oracle, SQL Server

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A well-established financial soft...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape