Klaus Seelbach reports how his father Hermann spent December 24, 1942: Christmas in the desert – Holte-Stukenbrock Castle

A newspaper clipping from the early 1950s shows the photo of Hermann Seelbach, who describes an extraordinary Christmas story. “We had arrived in Syrte and our anti-aircraft unit brought up the rear with artillery and anti-tank defense. It was the day of the big march back from El Alamein and Tommy was on our heels. Nevertheless we had set up a few tents to celebrate Christmas Eve. In the afternoon we drove into the desert to some advanced bases to bring the men Christmas presents, mail and a decorated tree that had come from home on a long journey. But nothing came of the celebration. British base crackers were rolling in with tanks and trucks. Ironically, on Christmas Eve, they wanted to push us from our place. Change of position was the order. Nevertheless, the Christmas tree was still honored. The tree stood on the seat of a motor vehicle, the candles were lit, out of sight of the enemy. One look at the lights, one look at the African starry sky over the desert, and then it was time to march. Into Christmas Eve. Silent. ”

Hermann Seelbach had a battalion under him and was closely linked with Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the “desert fox”. Hermann Seelbach was in contact with his son, the Lord Mayor of Stuttgart Manfred Rommel, for a long time after the war. Erwin Rommel’s work as commander of the German Africa Corps and the Panzer Army Africa in North Africa, with whose troops he advanced to El Alamein in July 1942, earned him great popularity at home and open respect abroad. After the assassination attempt on July 20, 1944, Adolf Hitler accused him of involvement and forced him to commit suicide.

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Rommel had an ambivalent relationship to National Socialism and the resistance. While his change to Hitler’s opponent is accepted in research, his involvement in the July 20, 1944 assassination attempt remains controversial. Recent research indicates that Rommel not only knew about the coup d’état of July 20, but also supported it and moved to the camp of the conspirators. In order to honor this, the Augustdorfer Kaserne insists on their name. It is called Generalfeldmarschall-Rommel-Kaserne. Efforts to change the name have been rejected.

Hermann Seelbach brought 300 photos from the Africa campaign. “Illustrierte Kristall published a documentary with these pictures in the late 1950s,” reports Klaus Seelbach. His father sent the prints on request. Especially members of the association of former members of the German Africa Corps and their relatives are interested in it.

In contrast to other scenes of the Second World War, the African campaign was considered a “fair war”. Klaus Seelbach says British commander Bernard Montgomery and Erwin Rommel valued each other as strategists. “The war opponents could make agreements that were kept – for example an agreement on the ceasefire at certain times.”

Hermann Seelbach was taken prisoner by the Americans, from which he returned in 1946. Three of his brothers also served in World War II, some on the Eastern Front. They all returned home unharmed.

Klaus Seelbach was branch manager of a bank and for 15 years president of a tennis club in Siegerland. In retirement he joined FC Stukenbrock, where he played tennis with Karl Marxcord and Dieter Robrecht. He is also the sports director of the bocce department, which pettles in winter. Not this winter, though. The corona pandemic prevents that. “Compared to what our parents experienced, you can’t complain,” he says.

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