Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: [It's] too late for me. I'm seventy now - too old to fight, too old to challenge authority, however evil... but not too old, however, to wish you and your friends the best of luck in their extremely interesting enterprise.
Field Marshal Keitel: Have you any better suggestions?
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: Yes, one very much better. Make peace, you idiot!
Gen. Fritz Bayerlein: I don't know how the men on the line feel about it, but so far as the staff is concerned, I'd just as soon have a commander-in-chief with a little touch of cowardice about him. Just enough to get him back to his headquarters every now and then.
Commando colonel: [after the failed attack on Rommel's HQ at the beginning, Aldinger finds the wounded commando officer] Did we, did we get him?
Capt. Hermann Aldinger: [smirking] Are you serious, Englishman?
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: [Hitler just sent an order not to retreat from El Alamein] It's an order, Bayerlein, a military order from General Headquarters. A clear, straight, stupid, criminal military order, from General Headquarters.
Gen. Fritz Bayerlein: And what are you going to do, double the insanity by obeying it? We've got the best soldiers in the German Army here. They may be just hanging on now, but they're still a force, they're still fighting. If we take them out now, they can fight again tomorrow. But this! This is sheer madness! It's out of the Middle Ages. Nobody had said "Victory or Death" since people fought with bows and arrows. Why, this is an order to throw away an entire army!
Gen. Schultz: If I may remind you, sir, here in the field, these men are yours, not his.
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: I just can't understand it.
Gen. Fritz Bayerlein: I can. He's insane.
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: He's not insane! He's - but neither am I.
[tears up the message and throws it away]
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: Pull them out, Bayerlein! I'll argue with him about it later.
Adolf Hitler: Where's Goering?
Staff Member: He's on his way.
Adolf Hitler: Well, when you are fat you don't move so fast.
[a British officer steps from the back of his tralier to address the officers before him]
British officer: Gentlemen, the following order from General Auchinleck, is to all commanders and chiefs-of-staff of the Middle East Forces.
British officer: "There exists a real danger that our friend Rommel is becoming a kind of magician or bogeyman to our troops, who are talking far too much about him. He is by no means a superman, although he is undoubtedly very energetic and able. Even if he were a superman, it would still be highly undesirable that our men should credit him with supernatural powers. I wish you to dispel by all possible means the idea that Rommel represents something more than an ordinary German general. Please ensure that this order is put into immediate effect, and impress upon all commanders, that from the psychological point of view, it is a matter of the highest importance. Signed, C.J. Auchinleck, General, Commander-In-Chief, M.E.F."
Gen. Fritz Bayerlein: Nothing yet, though?
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: No, but he
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: knows the situation. I sent him the whole story last night. If there's anything he can do, he will.
Gen. Fritz Bayerlein: No matter what you say, to Berlin we're only a sideshow - and you know it.
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: From the moment the Bohemian corporal promoted himself to the supreme command of our forces, the German Army has been the victim of a unique situation: not only too many of the enemy, but one too many Germans.
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: His astrologers have informed him that this is only a feint, that the real invasion is yet to come, north of Calais. The Fifteenth Army is sitting on those cold beaches up there, waiting for an invasion that is already taking place, is an excellent example of war by horoscope.
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: I tell you this in confidence, Rommel: I don't think anything we can do would be of the slightest use. The pattern for defeat has already been set. "Hold fast. Don't give up a millimeter of ground. Victory or death." Wars simply can't be won by men whose knowledge of tactics is based on copybook maxims. They may stir schoolchildren, but they don't stop troops. But give me a free hand for a few months and I'd make them pay for it. I'd make them pay such a price in blood they'd wish they'd never heard of Germany. I might not be able to stop them all, but they'd know they'd fought an army, not a series of stationary targets.
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: You've been uncommonly fortunate, I see, in deathbed confessions.
Gen. Wilhelm Burgdorf: It's all perfectly legal, I assure you, sir.
Narrator: During that last short ride, what may Rommel's thoughts have been? Were they bitter, that he had learned too slowly and struck too late? Or did they go back to the desert, where his military genuis had first electrified the world? First at Mechili, then Tobruk, yes and even El Alamein. In any case, his life and fate may have been summed up, ironically enough, in the words of Nazi Germany's sternest enemy, the Honorable Winston Churchill.
Churchill: His ardor, and daring, inflicted grevious disasters upon us. But he deserves the salute, which I made him, in the House of Commons, in January, 1942. He also deserves our respect, because, although a loyal German soldier, he came to hate Hitler, and all his works, and took part in the conspiracy to rescue Germany, by disgracing the maniac and tyrant. For this, he paid the forfeit of his life. In the somber wars of modern democracy, there is little place for chivalry.
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: I'm told you once called me a clown... A clown of Hitler's. I must tell you I've said worse about you... Many times.
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: I find it very hard to concentrate on remarks made about me.
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: Did you say it?
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: Whoever said it, you've given ample reason to regret such a foolish remark.
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: I'm told you once referred to me as a clown. A clown of Hitler's circus.
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: Oh, did I?
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: If so, I think you should know that I've been a great deal more explicit about you, many times.
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: Oh, that's quite all right, Field Marshal. I find it almost impossible to keep my mind on anything harsh said about me.
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: Did you say it?
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: Whoever said it, you've given them ample reason to regret such a foolish remark.
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: Thank you, Field Marshal.
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: Not at all.
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: Is there anything else?
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: I don't believe so, at the moment.
[Rommel salutes and heads for the door]
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: One suggestion, perhaps, in view of our cordiality. If I were you, I wouldn't be altogether unguarded about what I had to say about this new strategic arrangement. I think you should know that from now on, you'll be under more or less constant observation.
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: From Berlin?
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: [shrugs] Friends of the management, I believe.
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: Have you any information as to why I should be singled out for such attention?
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: Oh, but you are not, we all are. Apparently you didn't have it in Africa, but here on the continent, it's an honor that goes with staff rank.
Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Rommel: You too?
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt: [chuckles] My dear fellow, I'm the commander-in-chief.