The legend of Erwin Rommel, the German Field Marshal who outfoxed the British in North Africa, lives on.
But a new TV documentary seeks to correct that image by arguing that his victories nearly brought the Holocaust to the Middle East.
If Erwin Rommel, lauded as a master military tactician even by his enemies, had managed to fight his way through North Africa, he would have sealed the fate of thousands of Jews who had fled to Palestine from the Nazi terror in Europe.
A new documentary broadcast on Germany's ZDF television channel this week seeks to correct Rommel's image as a gentleman warrior whose campaigns in North Africa weren't connected with the murderous wars of destruction Nazi Germany unleashed in Europe.
Separately, recently published research by two Stuttgart-based historians, Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Martin Cüppers, claims that Hitler had worked out plans to extend the Holocaust to the Middle East, and that the Nazis had forged an alliance with Arab nationalists who wanted to drive the Jewish refugees out of Palestine -- a murderous version of German-Arab friendship founded on common hatred of Jews.
Jews living in the Middle East were petrified by Rommel's victories.
After seizing the British fortress of Tobruk in Libya in June 1942 he set his sights on the Suez Canal, on Palestine and the oil fields of the Middle East.
"Those fighting Jewry can always rely on the sympathy of the Arab population," the German army general staff wrote in an information booklet to prepare troops for the conquest of Palestine.
Arabs Shouted "Heil Rommel" Hitler was celebrated in large parts of the Arab world, and some newspapers even likened him to the Prophet. "Heil Rommel" was a common greeting in Arab countries.
Many Arabs thought the Germans would free them from the rule of the old colonial powers France and Britain.
Hitler had shown how to burst the shackles of the Treaty of Versailles.
After Germany defeated France in 1940, chants against the French and British echoed around the streets of Damascus: "No more Monsieur, no more Mister, Allah's in Heaven and Hitler's on earth." Adolf Hitler assured the exiled Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Amin al-Husseini, at a meeting in Berlin in November 1941 that his goal was the "destruction of Jewry living in Arabia." The Führer had racist objections to Arabs as well, though.