Walburga Stemmer

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Walburga Stemmer (March 1892–October 1928) was a fruit-seller living in Weingarten (Württemberg) who allegedly had an affair with Erwin Rommel and gave birth to his daughter, Gertrud Stemmer (later Mrs. Gertrud Pan), on December 8, 1913. Rommel turned away from her and in 1916 married another woman, Lucie Mollin.

Stemmer died in 1928, a few months before Rommel had his second child, Manfred, with his wife Lucie. Her cause of death was given as pneumonia, though some claim she committed suicide.

The existence of Gertrude was well known throughout Rommel's life, but she was described by the family as being a niece. The true relationship between Rommel and Gertrude emerged in a collection of over 150 letters and photographs that Gertrude had kept at her home in Kempten, southern Germany. These emerged after Gertrud's death in 2000.

Rommel met Lucie in 1911 in Danzig. During a temporary posting in Weingarten, hundreds of miles away, he met the teenage Walburga Stemmer, and they had an affair.

In 1913 Gertrud, their daughter, was born, to Rommel's delight. He wrote to Walburga, calling her his "little mouse". He said he would like to set up home with her and Gertrud: "It's got to be perfect, this little nest of ours." However this did not happen. Rommel broke off the relationship and married Lucie in 1916. Walburga is said to have never recovered.

Rommel (left) shown wearing the plaid scarf made for him by his daughter, Gertrud

Gertrud's son Josef Pan, 62, a fruit and vegetable wholesaler from Kempten whose family owns the letters, said: "Rommel was Walburga's only love. As long as Rommel and Lucie never had children she held on to the conviction that he would return to her. When Manfred was born in 1928 she took an overdose . . . The explanation given in public was that she had died of pneumonia. Later the family doctor told my mother she had taken her own life."

Gertrud exchanged hundreds of letters with her father. She knitted him a plaid scarf, which is seen in many images of Rommel in the desert. Lucie knew that Gertrud was Rommel's daughter and the family helped support her. Manfred notes she was always referred to as "cousin Gertrud".

She was a frequent visitor to the family and was at Rommel's hospital bedside after he returned ill from Africa. There, she answered the telephone when a furious Hitler ordered him back to Africa. She stayed close to the family even after her father's death.