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Ludwig Rothe
Fictional Character
The War That Came Early
POD: July 20, 1936;
Relevant POD: September 29, 1938
Appearance(s): Hitler's War
Type of Appearance: Direct POV
Nationality: Germany
Date of Death: 1939
Cause of Death: Shot to death
Occupation: Soldier, Tank Commander
Affiliations: Wehrmacht


Ludwig Rothe (d. 1939) commanded a German Panzer II during the opening months of the Second World War. He died six months into the war, but saw substantial fighting before that.

Rothe was part of the invasion of Czechoslovakia. His crew included driver Fritz Bittenfeld and radio operator Theo Hossbach. Rothe often lamented the fact that he was forced to fight in a Panzer II, which was designed specifically for training. Rothe also found himself alternatively amused and frustrated by Bittenfeld's voracious sexuality and Hossbach's almost fanatical devotion to his radio, which allowed him to tune out the rest of the world.

The invasion was successful, and Czechoslovakia was subdued in about a month. Rothe and his crew were then transferred to west, where they participated in the invasion of the Netherlands, which fell in a week. Rothe and his crew then pressed on into Belgium. Throughout these battles, Rothe was keenly aware of how vulnerable his tank was. Moreover, in between action, Rothe routinely found himself doing substantial maintenance on it.

In 1939, as the German forces in Belgium prepared to press on into France, word began leaking that certain generals had been conspiring against Adolf Hitler. To Rothe's surprise, Hitler himself came to the Belgian front to investigate one of Rothe's senior officers. Hitler was accompanied by two officers of the Waffen-SS. Hitler took the time to speak to Rothe and the crew, which surprised them all. He surprised Rothe further by discussing the problematic fuel pump on the Panzer II. Hitler assured Rothe that there would be an improved model shortly.

Rothe was awed by Hitler's confidence in Germany's ultimate victory. Rothe was unnerved by Hitler's SS guards, who were concerned that Hitler had said too much and that Rothe and his men might be a liability. Hitler ordered the SS men to leave Rothe and his men alone.

Not much later, Rothe and his crew were part of the invasion of France. After several months of a continuous drive, Rothe's luck ran out during an Anglo-French counter-offensive. The Panzer II was stopped by a shell. All three men made it out of the tank, but Rothe and Bittenfeld were gunned down by a French soldier. Only Hossbach survived.

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