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Hitler's Spy Chief: The Wilhelm Canaris Mystery (Cassell Military Paperbacks) Paperback – International Edition, April 1, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Paperback, International Edition, April 1, 2007

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This book describes, in fascinating detail, the shady and complex workings of the international intelligence world, and the amazing ways in which Canaris tried to subvert Hitler, while apparently serving his loyally.

About the Author

Richard Bassett has worked in the City, advising several of Europe's largest companies. Before that he worked in Central Europe for many years, first as a professional horn player and then as a staff correspondent of the London TIMES in Vienna, Rome and Warsaw, where his dispatches covered the end of the Cold War and gave early warning of the impending disintegration of Yugoslavia. He is married with two children and divides his time between London and other parts of Europe.

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Product Details

  • Series: Cassell Military Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Cassell; New edition (April 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0304367184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0304367184
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,680,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter S. Bradley on June 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Richard Bassett's "Hitler's Spy Chief: The Wilhelm Canaris Betrayal: The Intelligence Campaign Against Adolf Hitler" is a well-written and tantalizing survey of the life of Wilhelm Canaris, the head of German Military Intelligence (the "Abwehr") from 1935 to 1944. Although Bassett cautions against making Canaris a saint - and that caution is obviously well-taken since Canaris wasn't a saint - Canaris comes out of the pages of Bassett's book as an honorable and admirable figure.

Briefly, Canaris started out during the early years of Hitler as a Nazi - at least in the sense of an anti-Bolshevik, German patriot who wanted to see Germany returned to its ante bellum role in the world - but after a surprisingly short period of exposure to Hitler and his coterie, Canaris realized that the Nazis were uncivilized barbarians who would bring ruin to Germany. According too Basset, we can discern from Canaris' activities a two-track policy: the first being to help Germany win the war and the second being to blunt the barbarities of Nazi rule. As to the first, Canaris ran an effective intelligence operation that thoroughly compromised British intelligence. As to the second, Canaris gave orders to the Abwehr that it was not to be involved in atrocities.

Bassett details how Canaris was also the background figure in various plots by German generals to arrest or depose Hitler. The earliest of these plots was actually derailed by Chamberlain's surprise trip to Munich, which allowed Hitler to avoid the necessity of conquering Czechoslovakia, the initiation of which was the pre-set signal for the arrest of Hitler. Canaris was also involved in the von Stauffenberg plot, the failure of which led to the cashiering of Canaris and the roll-up of the Abwehr into the SD.
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Format: Hardcover
I only would like a small detail that perhaps Richard Bassett do not know.

The other day I was ready the memoirs of Vittorio Mussolini, a book he wrote while in exile in Buenos Aires which was printed in Italy in 1952. Vittorio MUssolini was the elder son's of il Duce.

He mention that while in Munich with his father, at the end of 1943, after the liberation of Mussolini by Skorzeny, he asked his father why Germany did not invaded Great Britain in 1940.
The answer of his father was that he was discussing the same point with Hitler a few days earlier and Hitler told him that it was due to a mistake made by Canais about the real strengh of the British Army. He gave him a report showing their strenght 3 times higher of what was in reality. Because of that he did cancel the operation Sea Lion, which knowing now the truth was certian he would have suceeded.
It seems that not only Spain should built a statue to Canaris, but also Great Britain.
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Format: Hardcover
Not since Anthony Cave Brown wrote "Bodyguard of Lies" has there been a really thorough discussion about the role of Wilhelm Canaris in the shadow war against Hitler. Bassett brings a lot of recently-available detail to this book and draws some interesting conclusions. To his credit, he also admits that some aspects of the life of this fascinating character will never be unraveled. The writing style is sometimes a bit choppy but it moves quickly. Had Canaris succeeded in his plans, had Neville Chamberlain been more visionary, had Kim Philby not interfered, the history of World War II would have been very different.
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Format: Hardcover
Hitler's Spy Chief is subtitled "The Wilhelm Canaris Mystery," but it is not entirely clear what should be so mysterious about this perhaps somewhat enigmatic but ultimately more frustrating than indecipherable man.

Bassett begins with a glimpse of Canaris' youth, and quickly moves into very strong and informative chapters on his start with the German Imperial Navy prior to and during World War I. His adventures in South America and then Spain are fascinating, and make clear Canaris' patriotism, intelligence, and resourcefulness. Germany's collapse in 1918 affected him deeply, and he became fervently anti-communist and somewhat reactionary. Bassett's writing on the interwar period is excelent, highlighting the fascinating world of arms trading and multinational business against the backdrop of illegal German rearmament in the wake of Versailles. Canaris' networking skills were invariably at work on behalf of the German military, whether cooperating with the British, the Russians, or the Spanish; his personal preferences seemed to play no part, he had no private agenda to speak of. The biography so far is of a promising soldier and intelligence man. By the time Hitler was appointed Chancellor, and Canaris was eventually made chief of military intelligence, he was a loyal and obedient Nazi. Only two years later he was working behind the scenes to bring the government of Nazi Germany down. What changed?

Bassett's position seems to be that Canaris was appalled was the immoral/illegal conduct of Hitler and his henchmen, although he himself did not appear to waver when pursuing illegal activities during the interwar period, not excluding political assassination.
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