A remarkable tale of espionage and intrigue—the story of Wilhelm Canaris, Hitler’s intelligence chief, and his role in the conspiracy to assassinate the Führer.
Publishers WeeklyA WWI hero, Adm. Wilhelm Canaris specialized in intelligence, remained in the tiny, postwar German navy, and became Hitler’s director of military intelligence in 1935. Unlike the typical thuggish Nazi, he was urbane and sophisticated, and former London Times correspondent Bassett presents an intensely researched and admiring biography. Canaris, certain Hitler was leading Germany to disaster, turned against Hitler in 1938, attempting repeatedly to sabotage the fuehrer’s military efforts. During the Munich crisis, Canaris and other plotters promised to overthrow Hitler provided Britain threatened war over Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain’s appeasement wrecked the scheme. In 1940, Canaris’s advice encouraged Franco to deny the Wehrmacht passage through Spain to capture Gibraltar. After France’s defeat, he dampened interest in a cross-channel invasion with exaggerated estimates of British defenses In 1944 an increasingly suspicious Hitler dismissed him. Although not part of the failed July 20, 1944, assassination attempt, Canaris was arrested and later executed.. A likable Nazi official seems a contradiction, but Canaris qualifies, and Bassett delivers a fascinating account of his courageous, frustrated, and ultimately tragic life. (July)
The Financial Times“An illuminating history.”
The Evening Standard“Fascinating and eminently readable.”
The Literary Review (London)“Canaris himself emerges from these pages as a remarkable man, unassuming and modest, but with an iron will, great courage and a subtle intelligence, who thought that the dirty work of spying became less sordid if conducted by gentlemen.”
Kirkus ReviewsA London journalist makes a convincing case for the quietly subversive pro-British diplomacy of the head of the Abwehr. Bassett portrays Admiral Wilhelm Canaris as a German gentleman of the old school who grew to admire the might and prowess of the British navy. Although he was an eager Nazi apparatchik at the beginning, he began to realize the horrors of Hitler's regime and distance himself from them. Canaris started his career with the Imperial German Navy, and he cut his teeth during the Anglo-German naval race of World War I. He showed a flair for intelligence work, with impeccable English and Spanish, and developed connections within the anti-communist segment consolidating in Germany after the war. He found himself in goodly stead with the rising National Socialists led by Hitler, who was obsessed with the British secret service. Canaris' old navy colleague and protégé Reinhard Heydrich took over the German Security Service and became a close ally and dangerous rival. Canaris' philosophy in leading the Abwehr seemed to be to "run with the party" while cultivating a degree of "independent thought and action." This ultimately led to his arrest and hanging for treason in April 1945. Bassett carefully considers Canaris' rather uneven record, from his pressure on Hitler to support Franco during the Spanish Civil War, and ability to provide Franco with the key intelligence required to withstand Hitler's wooing of Spain to the Axis side, to his subtle foiling of what he considered repugnant Gestapo activity in Poland and Russia. Bassett's thorough work spotlights this relatively unknown character in the Nazi hierarchy. A welcome addition to the war record and a solid elucidation of the Nazi spy system.
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