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Wilhelm Franz Canaris was born January 1, 1887, in the Ruhr village of Aplerbeck, Germany. The son of a Westphalian industrialist, Canaris entered the Imperial navy in 1905 and during World War I commanded U-boats in the Mediterranean as well as carrying out military espionage missions in Spain and Italy.

Canaris was celebrated as a war hero for his exploits as a submarine captain, and during the twenties he was active in naval affairs. Canaris was appointed to head the Abwehr Military Intelligence in the Reich War Ministry in 1935.

In 1938, he made efforts to hinder Hitler from attacking Czechoslovakia and later he played an active role as a peace keeper. He personally went to Franco and told him not to allow passage to the Germans for the purpose of capturing Gibraltar.

Admiral Canaris underlined the Swiss will of resistance and Switzerland’s economic strength and geographic advantages. It was due to the views of Canaris that Hitler gave up his plans to incorporate Switzerland into his New Europe. Shortly before Canaris left office, he paid a visit to Bern, where he expressed to the German Ambassador his satisfaction about the success of their reports.

Canaris was directly involved in the 1938 and 1939 coup attempts.


Himmler, Goebbels and Canaris

Canaris was an eye-witness to the killing of civilians in Poland. At Bedzin, SS troops pushed 200 Jews into a synagogue and then set it aflame. They all burned to death. Canaris was shocked. On 10 September, 1939, he had traveled to the front to watch the German Army in action. Wherever he went, his Intelligence officers told him of an orgy of massacre.

At a conference two days later aboard Hitler's train, which had stopped at the Silesian border town of Ilnau, Canaris protested to Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the Armed Forces High Command. "I have information," Canaris told Keitel, "that mass executions are being planned in Poland and that members of the Polish nobility and the clergy have been singled out for extermination."

Canaris warned Keitel that ".. the world will one day hold the Wehrmacht responsible for these methods since these things are taking place under its nose". But Keitel responded that the Führer and Goering had worked these things out between themselves and he urged Canaris to take the matter no further.

Later during the war Canaris gave Hitler an account of the atrocities and the Führer answered: "You are getting soft, sir! I have to do it, because after me no one else will!"

 

Louis Bülow - www.folkeeje.dk -  ©2010-12
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