Many of high ranking officers in Hitler's army are remembered with disgust, but the fact is that there were several leaders within the Nazi party who should be considered as heroes. Admiral Wilhelm Canaris is certainly high on this list, primarily because of his role in managing a spy network that worked to thwart various plans that Hitler put into place. However, his position within Hitler's network required that he also take steps to fight against those who were opposed to Hitler, primarily to maintain the illusion that he was still an ally.
Canaris rose to his position during the First World War and was appointed to the head of the Abwehr Military Intelligence department in 1935. Just 3 years later his first efforts to work against Hitler began, when he worked to hinder Hitler's attempts to attack Czechoslovakia. During this time, he also played a dual role as he continued to pretend to support Hitler, all the while secretly working against him.
The execution of 200 Jews at a synagogue in Poland, where the victims were forced into the building and burned alive, is one of the earliest atrocities that Canaris witnessed and one of the main factors that is suspected to have led to his secret opposition to Hitler. Canaris' vast network of spies continually told the Admiral of massacres throughout Nazi occupied territory. Canaris protested to his superiors, but was told to remain silent.
Following this, Canaris began to funnel information out of the Nazi party and to the Vatican. These reports were frequently focused on the atrocities the Nazi party was committing in Poland and elsewhere. Canaris also thwarted Hitler's plan to kidnap the Pope and that his clandestine efforts frequently prevented the executions of numerous Jews as well as foreign POWs.
It wasn't until an assassination attempt on Hitler's life that the Fuhrer realized Canaris wasn't all he seemed to be. After this assassination attempt Canaris and others were arrested and imprisoned. Torture, humiliation, and other horrors awaited Canaris. Finally, on April 9, 1945, Canaris and many of his associates were executed in the Flossenburg concentration camp. Their naked corpses were left hanging from the scaffolds to rot. Just two weeks later American troops liberated the camp.
Canaris spent the last years of his life trying his best to bring down the worst tyrant in the history of the world. As such, he deserves some level of respect and reverence in the history books.
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