Canaris, Walter Wilhelm

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Canaris, Walter Wilhelm


Born Jan. 1, 1887, in Aplerbeck, near Dortmund; died Apr. 9, 1945, in the Flossenbürg concentration camp. Fascist German military figure, admiral (1940). The son of the director of a steel mill.

Canaris joined the navy in 1905. During World War I he served on the cruiser Drezden and in 1915 was interned in Chile after the Drezden was sunk. In 1916, Canaris was sent to Spain by the German secret service; there he was involved in espionage activities and arranged for German submarines to be provisioned from Spain and Portugal. After the November Revolution of 1918 in Germany, he was an aide to G. Noske, the war minister; he helped organize the assassination of K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg and then headed the “investigation” of this incident. He also took part in the so-called Kapp putsch of 1920. In the following years, he served in the German Navy, establishing close bonds with the National Socialists. After 1935, Canaris directed the secret service and counterespionage service (Abwehr), under the War Ministry and then in 1938 subordinated to the supreme command of the armed forces.

Canaris organized international military provocations and diversions (in the seizure of Austria in 1938 and of Czechoslovakia in 1939 and in the assault on Poland in 1939). He set up a broad espionage and diversionary network in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. In February of 1944 he was discharged. With the approaching defeat of fascist Germany, Canaris in 1944 took part in the generals’ conspiracy against Hitler and was arrested and hanged.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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