Title:                      Canaris

Author:                 Heinz Höhne

Höhne, Heinz (1979). Canaris. Garden City, NY: Doubleday

LCCN:    7605630

DD247.C35 H6313


Date Updated:  October 17, 2016

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

The translation and editing of the original French edition was done by Ian Colvin, the author of a much earlier biography of Canaris. The Economist review praised Brissaud for “a masterly study” that seemingly consulted every available source. Brissaud, a journalist and the author of a number of works on the Nazis and the Nazi era, has written a fairly well-researched biography. Colvin found the research painstaking and scholarly and did not take issue with the rejection of the old Colvin theory that Canaris might have been a British agent. For Colvin, there was nothing “inherently impossible” in this work.

Yet this work is concerned mainly with Canaris’ attitude toward and connections with conspiracies against the Nazi state. This aspect is emphasized more than his intelligence activities, accomplishments, and failures even though Brissaud himself remarks early that many historians forget Canaris was the head of an intelligence service and not merely a drawing-room conspirator. Though he does not completely neglect Canaris’ intelligence work, Brissaud has not produced a work that treats Canaris the intelligence officer adequately. Mathtech[2], in its study on German rearmament, considered the book surprisingly weak on Canaris’s career before his taking over the Abwehr in 1935, and the Economist thought Brissaud resorted too frequently to direct quotations for which there are no verbatim records. One may add that Brissaud is not quite clear in his mind on the exact meaning of some of Canaris’ activities. At one point he insists Canaris was never guilty of treason in giving information on German military moves to the enemy, but earlier he relates how Canaris warned the Polish military attaché in August 1939 of the date of the impending German attack on Poland. The final and exact picture of Canaris’ opposition role is still to be drawn and is not to be found in this work.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[3]

Andre Brissaud, a prominent French journalist and author of several books on the World War II period, attempts to answer the riddle of Admiral Canaris, Chief of the German Abwehr in World War II. M. Brissaud concludes that this mysterious figure, executed by the SS a month before Germany’s fall, was neither a traitor to Germany nor a British agent. Rather, he was an intellectual who deplored Nazi excesses and, thus, occasionally assisted the Allied war effort. The author’s style often assumes knowledge of World War II events on the reader’s part. (See also for further reading on Canaris see Heinz Hohne: Canaris.[4])

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[5]

A well-written and well-documented biography of the one-time head of the German Abwehr by a free-lance French journalist and television director who, since 1945, has devoted his life to investigating intelligence-related aspects of our times. A vivid portrayal of one of Hitler’s Iesser-known adversaries. The author also wrote a history of the German Nazi party intelligence service, The Naz I Secret Service[6] (see chapter 4, section D). lan Colvin, himself an author of an early book on Canaris, is a British journalist and World War II member of the British foreign office intelligence service.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 94-95

[2] Mathtech, Inc. (1979). “Covert Rearmament in Germany, 1919-1939: Deception and misperception.” Published by Whaley, Barton (1984). Covert Rearmament in Germany, 1919-1939: Deception and Misperception. Frederick, MD: University Publications of America.

[3] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature: A Critical And Annotated Bibliography of Open-Source Literature (7th ed, rev.). Washington, D.C. : Defense Intelligence School, p. 11

[4] Höhne, Heinz (1979). Canaris. Garden City, NY: Doubleday,

[5] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., PP. 159-160

[6] Brissaud, André (1974). The Nazi Secret Service. New York: W. W. Norton

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2 Responses to Canaris

  1. Pingback: Canaris | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: Espionage and Counterespionage, Chapter 14 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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