Wilhelm Canaris

Wilhelm Canaris was born in Aplerbeck, near Dortmund, on 1st January, 1887. A member of a wealthy family, Canaris entered the German Navy in 1905 and by 1911 reached the rank of lieutenant.

On the outbreak of the First World War Canaris was on the Dresden that took part in the Battle of the Falklands. Forced to land on Juan Fernandez Island, 400 miles from Chile, he was in an internment camp until escaping in August, 1915.

Canaris reached Germany in October, 1915. He was then sent to join the intelligence service for U-boat operations in the Mediterranean and for the next year he worked as an undercover agent in Italy and Spain before becoming a commander of a U-boat in 1917.

After the war Canaris joined the Freikorps and took part in the Kapp Putsch. Later he was involved in secretly building submarines for the German Navy.

In 1931 Canaris was promoted to captain and in 1932 took command of the Schlesien. Two years later he became head of German military intelligence, the Abwehr.

When the Nazi Party took power Canaris had to work with Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich and the SS Intelligence Service. Canaris, who had a deep hatred of communism, persuaded Adolf Hitler to support the fascists during the Spanish Civil War.

During the Second World War Canaris gradually became disillusioned with Hitler and began leaking information to Ludwig Beck and Carl Goerdeler and others plotting against the regime.

Soon after the July Plot Canaris was investigated by the SS Intelligence Service and eventually they discovered his secret diaries that revealed that he had been conspiring against Hitler since 1938. Wilhelm Canaris was executed on 9th April, 1945.

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