he one thing that the Nazis hated the most was treason. Not only the idea of betraying your country but befriending the cunning enemy was something unheard of. Admiral Canaris was a wise man who decided to betray his country because he wasn’t ok with the way that Hitler was running the country and the atrocities that were taking place such as the Holocaust. He also deciphered that the war was lost even before it began.
Wilhelm Franz Canaris (1887–1945)
Wilhelm Franz Canaris was a German admiral and chief of the Abwehr (German military intelligence service), so he had access to all the information going through the German army’s headquarters, this includes all of the actions of the SS troops. Before entering the military intelligence service he became an Admiral during World War I, even in the Second World War he was seen as a very good tactician as well as a brave captain which took part in some naval campaigns against the British in World War I, ironically the same nation that he allied with, in 1938.
With all of his efforts, Hitler saw him as a very wise man, therefore entrusted him to work for the German secret service as a spy that was supposed to find out information about future attacks against the Germans and the type of propaganda used by the Allied nations to demote Germany.
Since 1938, Canaris had a strong connection with the British, informing them of any future plans that Germany had as well as informing the British of any future bombardments towards London. In trying to ensure that he would not be caught, many of these messages weren’t received.
Trial for Treason
In 1950 the results of Canaris’s trial have been publicly published outlining that Canaris was sentenced to be executed from 20th of July 1944. This is how the truth was found, Canaris was never executed at that date, oh no, he was executed 8 months later. During these 8 months, he was healed as a prisoner at Flossenburg. The reason for this was that Hitler knew that Canaris held valuable information from the British, information which he desperately needed in 1944.
Hitler ordered Katlenbrunner to torture Canaris in order to gain this valuable information. From Canaris’s journal that was confiscated by the Gestapo from a safe in Zossen, Kaltenbrunner found out that Canaris was speaking with the British since 1938. Meanwhile, the British were trying to do anything possible to save Canaris.
Kaltenbrunner took Canaris out of his cell and took him to the courtyard of the prison to have a discussion with him, to tell him about all the information he knew about coming outside of Germany. Canaris refused to give any information which gave Kaltenbrunner no choice but to torture him. After many days of torture, Canaris would still not speak, this is where Kaltenbrunner showed his dark side.
Kaltenbrunner ordered the SS troops around him to hang Canaris, but only for a few seconds and then cut the rope. He was hanged, then after a few second the rope was cut while he was still alive. Kaltenbrunner then asked Canaris if he had seen in those brief seconds what death tasted like. Seeing that nothing made this man speak, he was hanged for good (for the second time) on the 9th of April 1945.