The Afrika Korps or German Africa Corps (German : Deutsches Afrikakorps, DAK was the German expeditionary force in Africa during the North African Campaign of World War II . Originally sent as a holding force to shore up the Italian defense of their African colonies, the force fought in Africa from March 1941 until its surrender in May 1943. The term "Afrika Korps" is derived from the original German name (written as one word). The term originally referred to the original formation, the Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK), which became incorporated into the Axis command of the German and Italian forces in North Africa. However, it was often used by the news media and Allied soldiers as a name for all German units in North Africa. The reputation of the Afrika Korps is closely associated with that of its first commander, Erwin Rommel.