Wilhelm Canaris
Overview
 
Wilhelm Franz Canaris was a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 admiral
Admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

, head of the Abwehr
Abwehr
The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

, the German military intelligence
Military intelligence
Military intelligence is a military discipline that exploits a number of information collection and analysis approaches to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions....

 service, from 1935 to 1944 and member of the German Resistance
German Resistance
The German resistance was the opposition by individuals and groups in Germany to Adolf Hitler or the National Socialist regime between 1933 and 1945. Some of these engaged in active plans to remove Adolf Hitler from power and overthrow his regime...

.
Canaris was born in Aplerbeck (now a part of Dortmund
Dortmund
Dortmund is a city in Germany. It is located in the Bundesland of North Rhine-Westphalia, in the Ruhr area. Its population of 585,045 makes it the 7th largest city in Germany and the 34th largest in the European Union....

) in Westphalia
Westphalia
Westphalia is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Arnsberg, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Minden and Münster.Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia"...

, the son of wealthy industrialist Carl Canaris and his wife Auguste (née Popp). In 1938, however, research showed that his family was of North Italian
Italian people
The Italian people are an ethnic group that share a common Italian culture, ancestry and speak the Italian language as a mother tongue. Within Italy, Italians are defined by citizenship, regardless of ancestry or country of residence , and are distinguished from people...

 descent, originally called Canarisi, and had lived in Germany since the 17th century.
Encyclopedia
Wilhelm Franz Canaris was a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 admiral
Admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

, head of the Abwehr
Abwehr
The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

, the German military intelligence
Military intelligence
Military intelligence is a military discipline that exploits a number of information collection and analysis approaches to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions....

 service, from 1935 to 1944 and member of the German Resistance
German Resistance
The German resistance was the opposition by individuals and groups in Germany to Adolf Hitler or the National Socialist regime between 1933 and 1945. Some of these engaged in active plans to remove Adolf Hitler from power and overthrow his regime...

.

Early life and World War I

Canaris was born in Aplerbeck (now a part of Dortmund
Dortmund
Dortmund is a city in Germany. It is located in the Bundesland of North Rhine-Westphalia, in the Ruhr area. Its population of 585,045 makes it the 7th largest city in Germany and the 34th largest in the European Union....

) in Westphalia
Westphalia
Westphalia is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Arnsberg, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Minden and Münster.Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia"...

, the son of wealthy industrialist Carl Canaris and his wife Auguste (née Popp). In 1938, however, research showed that his family was of North Italian
Italian people
The Italian people are an ethnic group that share a common Italian culture, ancestry and speak the Italian language as a mother tongue. Within Italy, Italians are defined by citizenship, regardless of ancestry or country of residence , and are distinguished from people...

 descent, originally called Canarisi, and had lived in Germany since the 17th century. His grandfather had converted from Catholicism
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

 to Lutheranism
Lutheranism
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

.

In 1905, aged seventeen, Canaris joined the German Imperial Navy
Kaiserliche Marine
The Imperial German Navy was the German Navy created at the time of the formation of the German Empire. It existed between 1871 and 1919, growing out of the small Prussian Navy and Norddeutsche Bundesmarine, which primarily had the mission of coastal defense. Kaiser Wilhelm II greatly expanded...

 and by the outbreak of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 was serving on board the SMS Dresden as intelligence officer. This cruiser was the only ship that managed to evade the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 Fleet for a prolonged period during the Battle of the Falkland Islands
Battle of the Falkland Islands
The Battle of the Falkland Islands was a British naval victory over the Imperial German Navy on 8 December 1914 during the First World War in the South Atlantic...

 in December 1914, largely due to his excellent deception tactics. Whilst anchored in Cumberland Bay, Robinson Crusoe Island
Robinson Crusoe Island
Robinson Crusoe Island , formerly known as Más a Tierra , or Aguas Buenas, is the largest island of the Chilean Juan Fernández archipelago, situated 674 kilometres west of South America in the South Pacific Ocean...

, the Dresden was trapped and forced to scuttle
Scuttling
Scuttling is the act of deliberately sinking a ship by allowing water to flow into the hull.This can be achieved in several ways—valves or hatches can be opened to the sea, or holes may be ripped into the hull with brute force or with explosives...

 after fighting a battle there
Battle of Más a Tierra
The Battle of Más a Tierra was a First World War battle fought on 14 March 1915, near the Chilean island of Más a Tierra, between a British squadron and a German light cruiser...

 with the British. Most of the crew became prisoners in Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 in March 1915, but Canaris escaped in August 1915, using his fluency in Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

; with the aid of some German merchants he returned to Germany in October 1917 via, among other countries, Great Britain.

He was then given intelligence work and sent to Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, where he survived a British assassination
Assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

 attempt. Returning to active service, he ended the war as a celebrated U-boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

 commander from late 1917 in the Mediterranean, credited with eighteen sinkings. He spoke English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 fluently (as well as four other foreign languages) and as a naval officer of the old school, he respected Great Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

's Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 despite the rivalry between the two nations.

During the German Revolution of 1918–1919, Canaris helped organize the formation of vigilante forces in order to suppress the revolutionary movements. He was also a member of the military court that tried (and mostly acquitted) those involved in the assassination of Karl Liebknecht
Karl Liebknecht
was a German socialist and a co-founder with Rosa Luxemburg of the Spartacist League and the Communist Party of Germany. He is best known for his opposition to World War I in the Reichstag and his role in the Spartacist uprising of 1919...

 and Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg was a Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and activist of Polish Jewish descent who became a naturalized German citizen...

. He was appointed to the adjutancy of defence minister Gustav Noske
Gustav Noske
Gustav Noske was a German politician of the Social Democratic Party of Germany . He served as the first Minister of Defence of Germany between 1919 and 1920.-Biography:...

.

In 1919, Canaris married Erika Waag, also the child of an industrialist. They had two daughters, Eva and Brigitte.

Interwar years

Canaris remained in the military after the war, first as a member of the Freikorps
Freikorps
Freikorps are German volunteer military or paramilitary units. The term was originally applied to voluntary armies formed in German lands from the middle of the 18th century onwards. Between World War I and World War II the term was also used for the paramilitary organizations that arose during...

and then as part of the Reichsmarine
Reichsmarine
The Reichsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Weimar Republic and first two years of Nazi Germany. It was the naval branch of the Reichswehr, existing from 1918 to 1935...

. He was promoted rapidly, becoming a Captain in 1931, the Executive Officer
Executive officer
An executive officer is generally a person responsible for running an organization, although the exact nature of the role varies depending on the organization.-Administrative law:...

 of the cruiser Berlin and then the Commanding Officer
Commanding officer
The commanding officer is the officer in command of a military unit. Typically, the commanding officer has ultimate authority over the unit, and is usually given wide latitude to run the unit as he sees fit, within the bounds of military law...

 of the battleship Schlesien. At this time, he became involved in intelligence work again. He made a series of contacts with high-ranking German officers, politicians and industrialists for the purpose of creating order in German politics. During his Freikorps
Freikorps
Freikorps are German volunteer military or paramilitary units. The term was originally applied to voluntary armies formed in German lands from the middle of the 18th century onwards. Between World War I and World War II the term was also used for the paramilitary organizations that arose during...

period, he was on intimate terms with the people such as Horst von Pflugk-Harttung who were accused of political assassinations of leaders of the left, and was even accused himself, although later acquitted, of being involved in the assassinations and other crimes (such as his alleged involvement in Rosa Luxembourg's "trial"). During the 1930–33 period, Canaris was following a course quite parallel to the one followed by the future Nazi party leaders although never a party member himself. Indirectly, though, he promoted the forces that later became part of the Nazi power structure.

After Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

's rise to power
Machtergreifung
Machtergreifung is a German word meaning "seizure of power". It is normally used specifically to refer to the Nazi takeover of power in the democratic Weimar Republic on 30 January 1933, the day Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany, turning it into the Nazi German dictatorship.-Term:The...

 in 1933, Canaris was made head of the Abwehr
Abwehr
The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

, Germany's official military intelligence agency, on 1 January 1935. Later that year, he was promoted Rear Admiral. During the period 1935–36, he made contacts in Spain to organize a German spy network there, due to his excellent Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

. He was the moving force behind the decision that sided Germany with Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

 during the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

, despite Hitler's initial hesitation to get involved in such an adventure.

In 1937 he was still a supporter of Hitler, considering him to be the only solution against communism and a hope for the national revival of Germany. By 1938, however, he had realised that Hitler's policies and plans would lead Germany to disaster and secretly began to work against the régime. His personal style as a gentleman was incompatible with the thuggish behaviour of most of the Nazi party members. A letter from a Spanish contact of his has been preserved and unambiguously confirms his opposition to the Nazi regime.

He tried to hinder Hitler's attempts to absorb Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 and he also advised Franco not to permit German passage through Spain for the purposes of capturing Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

. Arguments used by Franco to counter Hitler's demands for German access to Spanish territory were influenced directly by Canaris, who met with a number of his top advisors. Additionally, a significant sum of money had been deposited by the British
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 in Swiss
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 accounts for Franco and his generals to maintain their neutrality.

Munich Agreement

He also became involved in two abortive plots to depose Hitler, first in 1938 and again in 1939. During the 1938 crisis over Czechoslovakia that culminated in the Munich Agreement, Canaris was together with the army chief of staff, General Ludwig Beck
Ludwig Beck
Generaloberst Ludwig August Theodor Beck was a German general and Chief of the German General Staff during the early years of the Nazi regime in Germany before World War II....

 and the Foreign Office’s state secretary Ernst von Weizsäcker
Ernst von Weizsäcker
Ernst Freiherr von Weizsäcker was a German diplomat and politician. He served as State Secretary at the Foreign Office from 1938 to 1943, and as German Ambassador to the Holy See from 1943 to 1945...

, a leader of the "anti-war" group in the German government, which was determined to avoid a war in 1938 that it felt Germany would lose.

This group was not necessarily committed to the overthrow of the regime, but was loosely allied to another, more radical group, the "anti-Nazi" faction centered around Colonel Hans Oster
Hans Oster
Hans Oster was a German Army general, deputy head of the Abwehr under Wilhelm Canaris, and an opponent of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. He was a leading figure of the German resistance from 1938 to 1943.-Early career:...

 and Hans Bernd Gisevius
Hans Bernd Gisevius
Hans Bernd Gisevius was a German diplomat and intelligence officer during World War II. A strong opponent of the Nazi regime, he served as a liaison in Zürich between Allen Dulles, station chief for the American OSS and the German Resistance forces in Germany.-Pre World War II:Gisevius was born...

, which wanted to use the crisis as an excuse for executing a putsch to overthrow the Nazi regime.

His most audacious attempt was in planning, with Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin
Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin
Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin was a lawyer, a conservative politician, resistance fighter in Nazi Germany and a member of the July 20 Plot.- Biography :...

, to capture and eliminate Hitler and the entire Nazi party before the invasion of Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

. At this particular moment, von Kleist visited Britain secretly and discussed the situation with British MI6 and some high ranking politicians. There, the name of Canaris became widely known as the executive hand of von Kleist in the event of an anti-Nazi plot. The high ranking German military leaders believed that if Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, or any other country, then Britain would declare war on Germany. MI6 was of the same opinion. The British declaration of war would have given the General Staff, in their belief, both the pretext and support for an overthrow of Hitler.

The British reaction, however, to Hitler's demands on the Sudetenland
Sudetenland
Sudetenland is the German name used in English in the first half of the 20th century for the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, specifically the border areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Silesia being within Czechoslovakia.The...

 was more cautious. At a meeting with Hitler in Munich
Munich Agreement
The Munich Pact was an agreement permitting the Nazi German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along Czech borders, mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without...

, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

, (1869 – November 1940), and French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier
Édouard Daladier
Édouard Daladier was a French Radical politician and the Prime Minister of France at the start of the Second World War.-Career:Daladier was born in Carpentras, Vaucluse. Later, he would become known to many as "the bull of Vaucluse" because of his thick neck and large shoulders and determined...

 chose diplomacy over war. Munich was a severe disappointment for Kleist and Canaris. It gave Hitler's international reputation an important boost for two reasons: one, he was able to play the part of a man of reason and compromise; and two, he could boast that his predictions that Great Britain and France would not respond with war had proven to be correct. There are claims that Canaris, who was extremely shocked by this 'dishonest and stupid decision' (his own words), decided to be cautious and wait for a better time to act against Hitler.

In January 1939, Canaris manufactured the "Dutch War Scare", which gripped the British government. By 23 January 1939 the British government received information to the effect that Germany intended to invade the Netherlands in February 1939 with the aim of using Dutch air-fields to launch strategic bombing offensive intended to achieve a "knock-out" blow against Britain by razing British cities to the ground. All this information was false, and it was intended by Canaris to achieve a change in British foreign policy. In this, Canaris was successful, and the "Dutch War Scare" played a major role in causing Chamberlain to make the "continental commitment" (i.e. sending a large British ground force to the defence of France) in February 1939.

Nevertheless, it appears likely that MI6 maintained contact with Canaris even after the Munich Agreement
Munich Agreement
The Munich Pact was an agreement permitting the Nazi German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along Czech borders, mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without...

 signed on 30 September 1938. When Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 came to power after the resignation of Chamberlain in May 1940, Canaris' hopes were renewed, given the new Prime Minister's strong position against Hitler.

World War II

In the meantime, Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

, previously a naval cadet who had served under Canaris and was at the time the Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

(SD) leader, despite being his protégé, friend and neighbour, became his rival. Presumably, the Canaris posting in Abwehr had the secret approval of the dynamic Heydrich, who preferred him to his predecessor, Commander Pfatz, who was not in line with the Nazi party members. Heydrich wanted a controllable Abwehr and was keeping a close eye on Canaris. Canaris appeared outwardly to side with his friend Heydrich, but only in order to give Abwehr a chance to grow and become a considerable force. In Bassett's account, Canaris was deeply frustrated by a briefing from Hitler before the attack on Poland. During the briefing, he was informed about a series of exterminations that had been ordered and which Canaris was required to take notes on. These notes, the book confirms, were sent to MI6. After the outbreak of war between Germany and Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, in September 1939, Canaris visited the front and witnessed examples of the war crimes committed by the SS
Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

 Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen were SS paramilitary death squads that were responsible for mass killings, typically by shooting, of Jews in particular, but also significant numbers of other population groups and political categories...

. Among these were the burning of the synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

 in Będzin
Bedzin
Będzin is a city in Zagłębie Dąbrowskie in southern Poland. Located in the Silesian Highlands, on the Czarna Przemsza river , the city borders the Upper Silesian Metropolitan Union - a metro area with a population of about 2 million.It has been situated in the Silesian Voivodeship since its...

, where the town's Jewish residents were burned to death. He also received reports from Abwehr agents about many other incidents of mass murder
Mass murder
Mass murder is the act of murdering a large number of people , typically at the same time or over a relatively short period of time. According to the FBI, mass murder is defined as four or more murders occurring during a particular event with no cooling-off period between the murders...

 throughout Poland. Canaris kept detailed records of these atrocities in his personal diary which he entrusted to Werner Schrader
Werner Schrader
Werner Schrader was a German military officer involved in the 20 July plot, a coup d'état attempting to assassinate Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

, one of his subordinates and fellow resistance member.

After hearing reports of and witnessing massacres in Poland, Canaris on 12 September 1939 travelled to Hitler's headquarters train, at the time in Upper Silesia, to register his objection to the atrocities; prior to reaching Hitler he encountered General Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Bodewin Gustav Keitel was a German field marshal . As head of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and de facto war minister, he was one of Germany's most senior military leaders during World War II...

 whom he informed: "I have information that mass executions are being planned in Poland, and that members of the Polish nobility and the Roman Catholic bishops and priests have been singled out for extermination." Keitel admonished Canaris to go no further with his protest as the detailed plan of atrocities came directly from Hitler, himself.

Shocked by these incidents, Canaris began working more actively, at increasing risk, to overthrow Hitler's régime, although he cooperated with the SD to create a decoy. This made it possible for him to pose as a trusted man for some time. He was promoted to full Admiral in January 1940. With his subordinate Erwin Lahousen, he formed a circle of like-minded Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

officers, many of whom would be executed or forced to commit suicide
Forced suicide
Forced suicide is a method of execution where the victim is coerced into committing suicide to avoid facing an alternative option they perceive as much worse, such as suffering torture or having friends or family members imprisoned, tortured, or killed...

 after the failure of the 20 July Plot.
At an officers conference in Berlin, December 1941, Canaris is quoted as saying "Abwehr has nothing to do with persecution of Jews....no concern of ours, we hold ourselves aloof from it" (MI6 Sub-section Vf files NA HW 1/327).
It has been speculated that there was contact with British intelligence during this time, despite the war between the two countries. It is thought that during the invasion of Russia, Canaris received a detailed report of all the enemy positions that was known only to the British. The head of MI6, Stewart Menzies
Stewart Menzies
Major General Sir Stewart Graham Menzies, KCB, KCMG, DSO, MC was Chief of MI6 , British Secret Intelligence Service, during and after World War II.-Early life, family:...

, who shared Canaris’s strong anti-communist beliefs, praised Canaris’s courage and bravery at the end of the war. Reinhard Heydrich and Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

, however, investigated in detail the sources of Canaris's information on Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, arriving at the conclusion that there had indeed been contact between him and the British.

After 1942, Canaris visited Spain frequently and was probably in contact with British agents from Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

. In 1943, while in occupied France, Canaris is said to have made contact with British agents: he was conducted blindfolded to the Convent of the Nuns of the Passion of our Blessed Lord, 127 Rue de la Santé, where he met the local head of the British Intelligence Services, code name "Jade Amicol", in reality Colonel Claude Olivier. Canaris wanted to know the terms for peace if Germany got rid of Hitler. Churchill's reply, sent to him two weeks later, was simple: "Unconditional surrender".

During Heydrich's posting in Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

, a serious incident put him and Canaris in open conflict. A Czech agent — Paul Thümmel — was arrested by Heydrich, but Canaris intervened to save him, claiming he was a double agent actually working for Abwehr. Heydrich suspected that Thümmel was actually Canaris's MI6 contact. Heydrich requested that Canaris put the Abwehr under SD and SS control. Canaris appeared to retreat and handled the situation diplomatically, but there was no immediate effect on the Abwehr for the time being. In fact, Canaris had established another two links with MI6 — one via Zurich, and the other via Spain and Gibraltar. It is also possible that Vatican contacts provided a third route to his British counterparts.

Canaris also intervened to save a number of victims of Nazi
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 persecution
Persecution
Persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another group. The most common forms are religious persecution, ethnic persecution, and political persecution, though there is naturally some overlap between these terms. The inflicting of suffering, harassment, isolation,...

, including saving Jews, some by getting them to Spain. Many such people were given token training as Abwehr "agents" and then issued papers allowing them to leave Germany. One notable person he is said to have assisted was the then Lubavitcher Rebbe in Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

, Rabbi
Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

 Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn. This has led Chabad Lubavitch to campaign for his recognition as a Righteous Gentile
Righteous gentile
Righteous gentile may refer to:* Ger toshav, "stranger-foreigner", Aramaic and Hebrew term for a resident alien in a Jewish state.* Righteous among the Nations, an honorific bestowed by the State of Israel to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis...

 by the Yad VaShem
Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem is Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, established in 1953 through the Yad Vashem Law passed by the Knesset, Israel's parliament....

 holocaust memorial.

The assassination of Reinhard Heydrich
Operation Anthropoid
Operation Anthropoid was the code name for the targeted killing of top German SS leader Reinhard Heydrich. He was the chief of the Reich Main Security Office , the acting Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, and a chief planner of the Final Solution, the Nazi German programme for the genocide of the...

 in Prague, organized by MI6, was done in part to preserve Canaris in his important position.

Foiling Hitler's plot to kidnap Pope Pius XII

Colonel Wessel von Freytag-Loringhoven's son Niki, testifying in Munich in 1972 and in recent revelations, reports that Canaris was involved in the foiling of Hitler's plot to kidnap Pope Pius XII
Alleged plot to kidnap Pope Pius XII
Several authors have alleged a plot to kidnap Pope Pius XII by the Nazis when they occupied Rome during World War II. SS General Karl Wolff stated that he had been ordered on September 13, 1943 to kidnap the pope....

. Colonel Freytag-Loringhoven was a subordinate of Canaris, and his son, Niki von Freytag-Loringhoven, reported that within days of the arrest of Benito Mussolini as ordered by King Victor Emmanuel III, the Führer commanded the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (the Third Reich’s Security Headquarters) to retaliate against the Italians via the kidnapping or murder of Pius XII and King Victor Emmanuel.

The colonel’s son, Niki Freytag Loringhoven, now 72, recently came forward to reveal new details about the plan, reporting that on 29 and 30 July 1943 his father and Erwin von Lahousen
Erwin von Lahousen
Generalmajor Erwin von Lahousen was a high-ranking Abwehr official during World War II, as well as a member of the German Resistance and a key player in attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler on March 13, 1943 and July 20, 1944.- Background :...

, who were employed in the section of German intelligence dealing mainly with sabotage, attended a meeting in Venice where Canaris informed the Italian General, Cesare Amè, of the plot. General Amè relayed the news which allowed the plot to be foiled. The Italian paper, Avvenire
Avvenire
Avvenire is an Italian daily newspaper affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. It was founded in 1968 in Milan through the merger of two Catholic magazines: L'Avvenire d'Italia of Bologna and l'Italia of Milan.-History:...

, maintains that the younger Freytag von Loringhoven’s accounts comport with the Von Lahousen’s Nuremberg war crimes trials deposition.

Downfall and execution

The evidence that he was playing a double game grew, and at the insistence of Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

, who had suspected him for a long time, Hitler dismissed Canaris from the Abwehr in February 1944, replacing him with Walter Schellenberg
Walter Schellenberg
Walther Friedrich Schellenberg was a German SS-Brigadeführer who rose through the ranks of the SS to become the head of foreign intelligence following the abolition of the Abwehr in 1944.-Biography:...

 and merging most of the Abwehr with the Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

(SD). Some weeks later, Canaris was put under house arrest
House arrest
In justice and law, house arrest is a measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to his or her residence. Travel is usually restricted, if allowed at all...

, preventing him from taking part directly in the 20 July Plot, 1944, to assassinate Hitler.

However, just after the Stalingrad disaster
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

, Canaris had already planned a 'coup' against the entire Nazi regime in which many Nazi officials would be accused for known crimes, while Hitler would be arrested as an insane person based on his exposure to poison gas in World War I, then imprisoned for life. After the 20 July Plot, Canaris's long-time rival, SS leader Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

 discovered that one of the officers involved in the plot, a friend of Canaris who had committed suicide, had kept the plot details in a metal box. The investigations also revealed that a number of other assassination plots (possibly another 10 or 15) had been activated but had failed and were covered up at the last minute. Most people who participated in these plots were people Canaris knew well. In the aftermath of the attempt on Hitler's life, the Gestapo found no direct evidence tying Canaris to the plot, but his close association to many of the conspirators that were arrested was enough to seal his fate.

Himmler kept Canaris alive for some time because he planned to use him secretly as a future contact with the British in order to come to an agreement to end the war with himself as the leader of Germany. Hitler also wanted to keep him alive in order to get the names of additional conspirators. When Himmler's plan failed to materialize, he received the approval of Hitler to send Canaris to an SS drumhead court-martial
Drumhead court-martial
A drumhead court-martial is a court-martial held in the field to hear urgent charges of offences committed in action. The term is said to originate from the use of a drumhead as an improvised writing table, altar for religious services, and a traditional gathering point for a regiment for orders...

 presided over by Otto Thorbeck
Otto Thorbeck
Dr Otto Thorbeck was a German lawyer and Nazi SS judge.In 1941 Sturmbannführer Thorbeck was appointed the chief judge of the SS and police court in Munich for which SS Standartenführer Walter Huppenkothen was the prosecutor...

 with Walter Huppenkothen
Walter Huppenkothen
Walter Huppenkothen was a German lawyer and Nazi SS prosecutor.Huppenkothen attended school in Opladen and studied Law and Political Science at the University of Cologne and University of Düsseldorf and then qualified as a lawyer. On May 1, 1933, he joined the Nazi Party and the Allgemeine SS...

 as prosecutor that sentenced him to death.

Together with his deputy General Hans Oster
Hans Oster
Hans Oster was a German Army general, deputy head of the Abwehr under Wilhelm Canaris, and an opponent of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. He was a leading figure of the German resistance from 1938 to 1943.-Early career:...

, military jurist General Karl Sack
Karl Sack
Karl Sack was a German jurist and member of the resistance movement during World War II....

, theologian Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and martyr. He was a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and a founding member of the Confessing Church. He was involved in plans by members of the Abwehr to assassinate Adolf Hitler...

 and Ludwig Gehre
Ludwig Gehre
Ludwig Gehre was an officer and resistance fighter involved in the preparation of an assassination attempt against Hitler.-Life:...

, Canaris was humiliated before witnesses and then executed on 9 April 1945, in the Flossenbürg concentration camp
Flossenbürg concentration camp
Konzentrationslager Flossenbürg was a Nazi concentration camp built in May 1938 by the Schutzstaffel Economic-Administrative Main Office at Flossenbürg, in the Oberpfalz region of Bavaria, Germany, near the border with Czechoslovakia. Until its liberation in April 1945, more than 96,000 prisoners...

, just weeks before the end of the war. He was led to the gallows barefoot and naked. Just before his execution he tapped out a message in Morse code
Morse code
Morse code is a method of transmitting textual information as a series of on-off tones, lights, or clicks that can be directly understood by a skilled listener or observer without special equipment...

, which was heard by another prisoner, claiming he acted for the good of Germany and denying he was a traitor. At the time of his execution, Canaris had been decorated with the Iron Cross
Iron Cross
The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

 First and Second Class, the Silver German Cross
German Cross
The German Cross was instituted by Adolf Hitler on 17 November 1941 as an award ranking higher than the Iron Cross First Class but below the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross respectively ranking higher than the War Merit Cross First Class with Swords but below the Knight's Cross of the War Merit...

, the Cross of Honour and the Wehrmacht Twelve and Twenty-Five Year Long-Service Ribbons.

Erwin von Lahousen and Hans Bernd Gisevius
Hans Bernd Gisevius
Hans Bernd Gisevius was a German diplomat and intelligence officer during World War II. A strong opponent of the Nazi regime, he served as a liaison in Zürich between Allen Dulles, station chief for the American OSS and the German Resistance forces in Germany.-Pre World War II:Gisevius was born...

, two of Canaris' main subordinates, survived the war and testified during the Nuremberg Trials
Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....

 about Canaris' courage in opposing Hitler. Lahousen recalled a conversation between Canaris and General Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Bodewin Gustav Keitel was a German field marshal . As head of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and de facto war minister, he was one of Germany's most senior military leaders during World War II...

 in which Canaris warned Keitel that the German military would be held responsible for the atrocities in Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

. Keitel responded that they had been ordered by Hitler. Keitel, who also survived the war, was found guilty of war crimes at Nuremberg and hanged.

Popular culture

  • The 1954 movie Canaris is based on his biography.
  • In the 1961 novel, 'Es muss nicht immer Kaviar sein' by German author Johannes Mario Simmel
    Johannes Mario Simmel
    Johannes Mario Simmel was an Austrian writer.He was born in Vienna and grew up in Austria and England. He was trained as a chemical engineer and worked in research from 1943 to the end of World War II...

     Canaris is the primary benefactor of agent Thomas Lieven during his time as German Agent in World War II. The novel is claimed by the author to be authentic.
  • In the 1968 Soviet film The End of Saturn, Canaris was portrayed by actor Bruno Freindlich
    Bruno Freindlich
    Bruno Arturovich Freindlich was a Soviet/Russian actor of German ancestry who became People's Artist of the USSR in 1974. His daughter Alisa Freindlich is also a notable actress.-Biography:...

    .
  • In the 1970 Colin Forbes
    Colin Forbes (novelist)
    Raymond Harold Sawkins was a British novelist, who mainly published under the pseudonym Colin Forbes, but also as Richard Raine, Jay Bernard and Harold English. He only published three of his first books under his own name.Sawkins wrote over 40 books, mostly as Colin Forbes...

     novel The Heights of Zervos, Canaris is mentioned along with the Abwehr
    Abwehr
    The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

    .
  • In the 1976 film The Eagle Has Landed
    The Eagle Has Landed
    The Eagle Has Landed is a book by Jack Higgins set during World War II. It first published in 1975. It was made into a film of the same name in 1976 starring Michael Caine...

    , Canaris was played by actor Anthony Quayle
    Anthony Quayle
    Sir John Anthony Quayle, CBE was an English actor and director.-Early life:Quayle was born in Ainsdale, Southport, in Lancashire to a Manx family....

    .
  • In the Frederick Forsyth
    Frederick Forsyth
    Frederick Forsyth, CBE is an English author and occasional political commentator. He is best known for thrillers such as The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File, The Fourth Protocol, The Dogs of War, The Devil's Alternative, The Fist of God, Icon, The Veteran, Avenger, The Afghan and The Cobra.-...

     novel The Odessa File
    The Odessa File
    The Odessa File is a thriller by Frederick Forsyth, first published in 1972, about the adventures of a young German reporter attempting to discover the location of a former SS concentration-camp commander....

    , set in the mid-1960s, the hero infiltrates the organisation of former SS members by claiming to have commanded, as a 19-year-old sergeant, the firing squad which executed Canaris. This is not in fact how Canaris was executed, which was by hanging
    Hanging
    Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

    .
  • In the 1980 Brian Garfield
    Brian Garfield
    Brian Francis Wynne Garfield is an American novelist and screenwriter. He wrote his first published book at the age of eighteen and wrote several novels under such pen names as "Frank Wynne" and "'Brian Wynne" before gaining prominence when his book Hopscotch won the 1976 Edgar Award for Best Novel...

     novel The Paladin, Canaris is visited by an agent acting for Churchill. It is apparent that in this book, Canaris is acting as a knowing conduit for British misinformation
    Misinformation
    Misinformation is false or inaccurate information that is spread unintentionally. It is distinguished from disinformation by motive in that misinformation is simply erroneous, while disinformation, in contrast, is intended to mislead....

    .
  • In the 1996 Daniel Silva novel The Unlikely Spy, Canaris is the head of the Abwehr
    Abwehr
    The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

     who initiated the infiltration of SHAEF
    Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force
    Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force , was the headquarters of the Commander of Allied forces in north west Europe, from late 1943 until the end of World War II. U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was in command of SHAEF throughout its existence...

     to discover its invasion plans of Normandy.
  • In the Phillip Kerr novel Hitler's Peace, Canaris attempts to have Hitler poisoned during a secret appearance at the 1943 Tehran Conference.

Further reading

  • Bodyguard of Lies, by Anthony Cave Brown
    Anthony Cave Brown
    Anthony Cave Brown was an English-American journalist, espionage non-fiction writer and historian.-Early years:...

    , 1975.
  • C: The Secret Life of Sir Stewart Graham Menzies, Spymaster to Winston Churchill, by Anthony Cave Brown
    Anthony Cave Brown
    Anthony Cave Brown was an English-American journalist, espionage non-fiction writer and historian.-Early years:...

    , 1987, Macmillan Publishing, New York, ISBN 0-02-517390-1.
  • Hitlers Krieger, by Guido Knopp
    Guido Knopp
    Guido Knopp is a German journalist and author. He is well known in Germany, mainly because he has produced a great number of TV documentaries, predominantly about the "Third Reich" and National Socialism, but also about other topics, such as Stalinism.- Life and work :After gaining his doctorate...

    , 2000, Goldman Verlag, ISBN 3-442-15045-0.
  • “The German Military Opposition before the Second World War” by Klaus-Jürgen Müller pages 61–75 from The Fascist Challenge and the Policy of Appeasement edited by Wolfgang Mommsen
    Wolfgang Mommsen
    Wolfgang Justin Mommsen was a German historian. He was the twin brother of Hans Mommsen.-Biography:He was born in Marburg, the son of the historian Wilhelm Mommsen. He was educated at the University of Marburg, University of Cologne and University of Leeds between 1951–1959...

     & Lothar Lettenacke, George Allen & Unwin: London, United Kingdom, 1983, ISBN 0049400681.
  • "The Structure and Nature of the National Conservative Opposition in Germany up to 1940" by Klaus-Jürgen Müller pages 133-178 from Aspects of the Third Reich edited by H.W. Koch, Macmillan: London, United Kingdom, ISBN 0-333-35272-6.
  • Hitler's Spy Chief: The Wilhelm Canaris Mystery, by Richard Bassett, 2005, Cassell, London, ISBN 0-3043-6718-4.
  • The Unseen War in Europe, by John H. Waller, 1996, Random House, New York, ISBN 0-679-44826-8

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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