Admiral Wilhelm Canaris

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by The Scorer, Apr 22, 2020.

  1. The Scorer

    The Scorer Active Member

    Can anyone recommend a biography of the Admiral, please?

    He's always seemed to me as a survivor (until the very end, of course), so I'd like to know more about him. I know of four books, but I won't name them yet in case I prejudice any comments!

    Thank you.
  2. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    One of the first biographies published on Canaris was To The Bitter End by Hans Bernd Gisevius shortly after the war in 1947

    Gisevius,a man of the era, served under Canaris in 1939 a chief of special projects for OKW Military Intelligence. Gisevius was in Zurich as the military intelligence officer in the German Consulate General from 1940-1944 when he maintained contact with Allen Dulles of the US OSS and represented the German opposition to Hitler. He travelled to Berlin get involved in the overthrow of the Hitler regime shortly before the 20 July plot but had to flee back into Switzerland when the coup failed.

    Canaris : A Biography of Hitler's Chief of Espionage by Heinz Hohne 1979.

    Joachim Fest covers Canaris well in his Plotting Hitler's Death.The German Resistance to Hitler. 1933-1945.I must say I have always found Fest's accounts of the Third Reich very informative.

    All German sources which I prefer as a first point of call.There are abundant publications related to Canaris who served as Chief of Military Intelligence until he was dismissed in February 1944 and his department was disbanded progressively by Himmler's henchmen.Kaltenbrunner,Schellenberg and Muller.
  3. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Well there is this from the CIA website in 2007:
    Link to a wider book list: Public Texts in Intelligence — Central Intelligence Agency

    An on-line review of 'Hitler's Spy Chief: The Wilhelm Canaris Betrayal: the Intelligence Campaign Against Adolf Hitler' by Richard Bassett: Hitler's Spy Chief: The Wilhelm Canaris Betrayal: the Intelligence Campaign Against Adolf Hitler | Richard Bassett | download Really a pointer to the book on reading.
  4. The Scorer

    The Scorer Active Member

    Thank you both, that's very useful.

    I found four books on ABE as follows:
    Karl Heinz Abshagen: "Canaris"
    Heinz Hohne: Canaris, "Hitler's Master Spy"
    Andre Brissaud: Canaris The Biography"
    Michael Meuller: Canaris The Life and Death of Hitler's Spymaster"

    Harry > I see that you've mentioned the book by Heinz Hohne - do you know anything about it and would you recommend it, please?
    Alternatively, what about the others - do either of you have any thoughts, please?

  5. The Scorer

    The Scorer Active Member

    Thanks again for your help with this.

    I've found a review of the reprinted version of Michel Meuller's book, so I think that I'll go for that one.

    Best wishes!
  6. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Apologies Scorer

    I do respond as quickly as I can to anything that lands in my "intray".

    However a little behind events at the moment... I have only picked this up by preparing my response.As a prerequiste,my view is that Hans Oster and Canaris should be studied in tandem as being in the vanguard of opposition to Hitler from before the war.
  7. The Scorer

    The Scorer Active Member

  8. The Scorer

    The Scorer Active Member

    I should have said that I do understand - and thanks.
  9. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    I have not read Heinz Holne's work on Canaris. However I have been able to understand his background as head the head of the Abwehr and his opposition to Hitler after the Fritsch affair in 1938.His political background saw him sympathising with Hitler over Versailles and communism but he became disillusioned with the brutality of the regime.In the light of the Munich Agreement,then the outbreak of war, he asked Josef Muller, a lawyer and another dissenter to approach the Vatican to arrange peace talks.(In 1940,Hans Oster who was central to the 1938 opposition to Hitler informed the Dutch military attache of the impending German plan to invade Holland.)

    Canaris was well known in protecting his subordinates and led a dual role in which he was uncomfortable with, by socialising with Heydrich. (as Canaris served in the Kreigsmarine but was thrown out after a failure of service moral standards) .General Edwin Lahausen,one of his subordinates declared that Canaris had human qualities that placed him far above the usual military bureaucrat.On the other hand,Fest claimed that it was his social association with Heydrich,his most dangerous adversary, contributed to him being a controversial personality.Both used enjoy horseback rides in the Berlin Tiergarten while Canaris was acting his two faced role but yet patriotic role.The SS influence increased as the war progressed, and the Abwehr was dismantled by Himmler's henchmen...Canaris and Oster became prisoners of the regime.

    He died on the scaffold in the hurried blood revenge of April 1945.To the end he denied that he was a traitor.

    I think that the disaffected opposition to Hitler from the 1938 Wehrmacht loyalty declaration is a historical study in itself,failing because the Wehrmacht leadership never seriously wavered in their loyalty to Hitler ever to mount a successful coup d'etat .
  10. The Scorer

    The Scorer Active Member

    Thanks, that's interesting.

    Coincidentally, I'm reading "Defending the Rock - Gibraltar and the Second World War" at the moment, and Canaris features quite often in it. This particular mention is about the plan to invade Gibraltar in 1940, and details the mission lead by the Admiral to Spain to see whether it was practical. I haven't finished the chapter, but there's a footnote saying that Rudolf Witzig, leader of the Eben Emael raid in 1940, never trusted Canaris, as he blamed him for leaking "Fall Gelb" to the Dutch.

    Best wishes!
  11. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    I think that is correct regarding Hitler's enticement for Franco to take Gib with the offer of seige guns and the passage of German troops into Spain.Spain was certainly a place where intelligence concerning the British presence in Gib was passed to the Germans .Algeciras on the west side of Gib was a visual observation post for movements in and out of Gib .Gib itself f had its civilians removed for safety but there were many civilians left behind in a military supporting role.A number of these were found guilty of assisting the enemy by passing on military information to the Germans and paid the supreme penalty.

    However Franco did not take Hitler's enticement to seize Gib and wished to stay "neutral". In his hearts of hearts he understood the risk to his regime.Should the Third Reich fail,Spain would be an Allied occupied country, he would be removed from office and the Fascist state banished..
    canuck and Tricky Dicky like this.
  12. The Scorer

    The Scorer Active Member

    Thanks for your comments, and my apologies for not replying sooner.

    All of what you say is included in "Defending the Rock", with later comments by various people, including Hitler and Goering saying that they should have invaded and that it had been a big mistake not to have done so.

    I've just ordered a copy of Michael Meuller's book, so I'll be on the list of "must reads" when I get it!

    Best wishes!
  13. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

    Has anyone checked for German publications?

  14. The Scorer

    The Scorer Active Member

    The Michael Meuller book is originally a German publication, and this version is an English translation.
  15. The Scorer

    The Scorer Active Member

    It's been received, now all I have to do is to find the time to read it …. it's one of about ten on the pile!!

    Thanks, everyone, for all your help with this.

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