Saturday, September 5, 2009

10 Nursery Rhymes and Their Origins

What child doesn’t love nursery rhymes? It is this love which has allowed so many of these tales to survive hundreds of years. While many nursery rhymes are innocent stories, some contain morals and others have sinister or political underlying meanings. This list looks at ten popular nursery rhymes and their origins (or speculated origins).

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty was first printed in 1810. At the time, a humpty dumpty was a clumsy person, so the nursery rhyme was meant as a riddle. It doesn’t actually state that Humpty Dumpty is an egg, so the aim of the reader is to guess what he really is. Of course there is not a person who knows the tale these days that doesn’t know he is an egg. There is speculation that the nursery rhyme had an underlying meaning – in which Humpty Dumpty represents King Richard III of England and the wall his horse. Others have suggested that it refers to the downfall of Cardinal Wolsey at the hand of King Henry VIII.

Sing a Song of Sixpence

Sing a song of sixpence dates back to at least the eighteenth century. In the original, the tale ends with a blackbird pecking off the nose of the maid in the garden; in the mid-nineteenth century this was sanitized with the addition of a final verse in which a doctor sews it back on. While interpretations vary wildly, the four and twenty blackbirds are most likely simply a reference to a common practice in the sixteenth-century in which large pies were baked then filled with live birds which would escape when the pie was cut. This stems from the fact that a meal was meant not just as nourishment, but entertainment.

Rock-a-bye Baby

Originally titled ‘Hushabye Baby’, this nursery rhyme was said to be the first poem written on American soil. Although there is no evidence as to when the lyrics were written, it may date from the seventeenth century and have been written by an English immigrant who observed the way native-American women rocked their babies in birch-bark cradles, which were suspended from the branches of trees, allowing the wind to rock the baby to sleep. An alternative interpretation states that the baby is the son of King James II of England, who was widely believed to be someone else’s child smuggled into the birthing room in order to provide a Catholic heir for James. In this interpretation, the cradle represents the Stuart monarchy.

Little Jack Horner

The first recorded version of Little Jack Horner comes from the eighteenth-century but it is most likely to have be known since the seventeenth. In the nineteenth century the story began to gain currency that the rhyme is actually about Thomas Horner, who steward to Richard Whiting, the last abbot of Glastonbury Abbey before the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII of England. The story is reported that, prior to the abbey’s destruction, the abbot sent Horner to London with a huge Christmas pie which had the deeds to a dozen manors hidden within it and that during the journey Horner opened the pie and extracted the deeds of the manor of Mells in Somerset. It is further suggested that, since the manor properties included lead mines in the Mendip Hills, the plum is a pun on the Latin plumbum, for lead. The current owners of Mells Manor have stated that they doubt this interpretation.

Little Bo Peep

The earliest record of this rhyme is in a manuscript of around 1805, which contains only the first verse. There are references to a children’s game called “Bo-Peep”, from the sixteenth century, including one in Shakespeare’s King Lear (Act I Scene iv), but little evidence that the rhyme existed. The additional verses are first recorded in the earliest printed version in a version of Gammer Gurton’s Garland or The Nursery Parnassus in 1810, making this one of the most modern nursery rhymes on the list.
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary has been seen as having religious and historical significance, but its origins and meaning are disputed as is often the case. The most common interpretation identifies “Mary” with Mary I of England. The “How does your garden grow?” may make mocking reference to her womb and the fact that she gave birth to no heirs, or to the common idea that England had become a Catholic vassal or “branch” of Spain and the Habsburgs, or may even be a punning reference to her chief minister, Stephen Gardiner (”gardener”). “Quite contrary” could be a reference to her attempt to reverse ecclesiastical changes made by her father Henry VIII and her brother Edward VI. The “pretty maids all in a row” could be a reference to miscarriages or her execution of Lady Jane Grey. Capitalizing on the Queen’s portrayal by Whig historians as “Bloody Mary”, the “silver bells and cockle shells” could be colloquialisms for instruments of torture.

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep is an eighteenth century nursery rhyme sung to the same tune as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. It is possible that this rhyme is a description of the medieval ‘Great’ or ‘Old Custom’ wool tax of 1275, which survived until the fifteenth century. Contrary to some commentaries, this tax did not involve the collection of one third to the king, and one third to the church, but a less punitive sum of 6s 8d to the Crown per sack, about 5 per cent of the value. In the 1980s the theory was advanced that it made reference to slavery, but most scholars disagree.

Mary Had a Little Lamb

The nursery rhyme was first published as an original poem by Sarah Josepha Hale on May 24, 1830, and was inspired by an actual incident. As a girl, Mary Sawyer (later Mrs. Mary Tyler) kept a pet lamb, which she took to school one day at the suggestion of her brother. A commotion naturally ensued. Mary recalled:

“Visiting school that morning was a young man by the name of John Roulstone, a nephew of the Reverend Lemuel Capen, who was then settled in Sterling. It was the custom then for students to prepare for college with ministers, and for this purpose Mr. Roulstone was studying with his uncle. The young man was very much pleased with the incident of the lamb; and the next day he rode across the fields on horseback to the little old schoolhouse and handed me a slip of paper which had written upon it the three original stanzas of the poem…”

London Bridge is Falling Down

“London Bridge Is Falling Down is a well-known traditional nursery rhyme and singing game, which is found in different versions all over the world. One theory of origin is that the rhyme relates to supposed destruction of London Bridge by Olaf II of Norway in 1014 (or 1009). Another postulates that the rhyme refers to the practice of burying children alive in the foundations of the bridge – though there is no evidence to support this. The fair lady referred to could be Matilda of Scotland who was responsible for the building of a series of London bridges, or Eleanor of Provence who had custody of the bridge income from 1269 to 1281.

Ring a Ring o’ Roses

Ring a Ring o’ Roses first appeared in print in 1881 but it was being sung from at least the 1790s. Most people consider the nursery rhyme to be making reference to the Great Plague of London in 1665 but this view did not appear until after World War II. Furthermore, the symptoms don’t describe the plague particularly well, and the words upon which the plague interpretation is based don’t even exist in the earliest forms of the rhyme. The earliest form recorded is:

Ring around the rosy,
A pocket full of posies;
ashes, ashes
we all fall down!

Despite the fact that it is extremely unlikely to refer to the plague, the concept is so deeply set in the modern English speaker’s psyche that it is unlikely to fade in the future.

Top 10 Worst Military Decisions In History

The effective prosecution of any war requires a load of decisions at all junctures. Many times, commanders will blunder through misinformation, faulty intelligence, or a misreading of the tactical or strategic situation. We, safely ensconced here in the future can play Monday morning quarterback with the decision of the past often without acknowledging the fact that the commanders in question lack our brilliant hindsight; however, some decisions are simple unconscionable. One has to think that someone, somewhere had to look at this choice and say “God, this is stupid!” This list represents, in chronological order, ten of what I consider to be the dumbest decisions anyone ever made. Each of these decisions either resulted in tremendously unnecessary loss of men and materiel or it resulted in the ultimate loss or needless prolonging of the war in which it took place.

Invading Russia
Napoleon Bonaparte (June 1812)
The only motivation I can fathom behind this idiotic blunder by a military genius is sheer boredom. To this point in his military career, Napoleon has known nothing but victory after victory. He’s conquered pretty much all of Europe that refused to ally with him and suddenly he was sitting around with the largest army ever gathered in Europe up until then with nothing to do. So Napoleon looks west, to Mother Russia.

We all know how it turned out but you have to think someone in that huge army knew it was a bad idea. In any event, he didn’t say anything and the rest is history. Napoleon invaded Russia with three quarters of a million men and didn’t fight much of a battle. The Russian retreated into the vastness of their country and burned everything in their wake. Result? Napoleon gets to Moscow only to find smoking ruins. Dejected at not getting to move his toy soldiers around on his big map, he turns the Grand Armee around and begins for home.

But then the real trouble began. Constant harassment by tiny, mobile Russian units. Constant hunger because the supply lines are cut in more places than Danish lace and, worst of all, winter sets in and the soldiers start freezing to death in droves. Three quarters of a million went in, but less than one in three would made it out.

The Alamo
Gen. Santa Anna (February 1836)
Someone has remarked that the Alamo seems to show up on nearly every military list. Well, it’s a great story. Not the least great part about it was it was so totally unnecessary. All the Alamo consisted of was a tiny adobe walled mission in the middle of a prairie. Basically, Santa Anna, aka Napoleon of the West, decided the tiny garrison in the tiny fort had to be taught a lesson about Mexican politics by his great big army.

One just has to think that someone, some hard campaigning Sergeant in the Mexican force had to look around at the wide open prairie on both sides of the Alamo and think to himself, “Why don’t we just go around? We can even shoot at them as we go by, but let’s get to the rebel capital and put down the rebellion.”
Instead, mainly as a result of Santa Anna’s pride, the main Mexican army spends days and days held up attacking this insignificant little outpost. This needless delay gives the Texas government time to get organized, gives people time to flee, and gives the main Texan army time to get reinforced and into better position. The end result was the Battle of San Jacinto where old Santa Anna got caught napping – literally – and the Republic of Texas was born.

Add Lard to Rifles
Some British Bureaucrat (May 1857)
This one will be a little obscure to some, but in the grand scheme of things, it was a world-changing event. The cartridge in question was for the new Pattern 3 Enfield rifle that was to be issued to all the Empire’s troops and replace the older, less efficient models. On the surface this doesn’t seem like a big deal and to us, it probably wouldn’t be. However, in 1857, cartridges weren’t brass, they were paper, and to load them, one had to first BITE the end off the cartridge and pour the contained powder down the barrel of the muzzle loaded weapon. Again, no big deal, until one realizes one singularly important fact. The lubricating lard smeared on the cartridges was made from animal fat. This fat could be obtained from either pigs or cows. In and of itself, that doesn’t present a problem until one realizes that the vast majority of foreign troops in the British Empire were either Muslim or Hindu, especially in India. Now, pigs are unclean to Muslims and cows are sacred to the Hindus so the thought of putting a cartridge with lard into their mouths was anathema to both parties. It didn’t help matters much that the political climate in India was becoming a powder keg, but the lard cartridges proved the final straw – the match that blew the keg, so to speak.

What resulted is known to history as the Sepoy Rebellion or the Sepoy Mutiny. Basically, without going into the very involved, tense and delicate political situation, the Sepoys or Indian soldiers, refused to touch the cartridges which constitutes mutiny. When the first few were seen being punished by the British colonial overlords, the rest rose up and began a bloody rebellion that lasted 13 months and saw tremendous bloodshed and cruelty on both sides. The British severity in putting down the revolt – many leaders were tied to the mouths of cannon and blasted to bloody vapor — remained in the minds of the Indian people through the rest of the 19th century and through two world wars in the 20th. In many ways, the Indian Independence Movement lead by Gandhi can trace its roots to this one monumentally boneheaded decision.

Losing Your Battle Plans
Unknown CSA Officer (September 1862)
During the American Civil War, one of the qualities that made General Robert E. Lee of the Confederacy so effective was the mysteriousness with which he moved and operated. His troops seemed to appear, fight, and melt away with uncanny speed. Now in reality, this was nothing more supernatural than very detailed and well-executed battle plans. Imagine what the Union generals could have done if they had only possessed a copy of one of Lee’s battle plans. In a wildly providential moment, that is exactly what happened on the eve of the Battle of Sharpsburg in September of 1862.

Union General George McClellan’s 90,000-man Army of the Potomac was moving to intercept Lee, and occupied a campsite the Confederates had vacated just a few days before. While setting up their tent, two Union soldiers discovered a copy of Lee’s detailed battle plans wrapped around three cigars. The order indicated that Lee had divided his army and dispersed portions, intending to bring battle near Antietam Creek. Everything was there in writing. It was a colossal blunder by some Confederate officer.

The outcome would have been even more disastrous for the Confederates had not McClellan waited about 18 hours before deciding to take advantage of this intelligence and reposition his forces. As it was, the Battle of Sharpsburg (or Antietam) would be the single bloodiest day of combat in American history with 23,000 killed and countless wounded before the sun set.

All that saved Lee was McClellan’s indecision. Still, the battle sapped numbers of soldiers that the Confederacy could ill afford to lose. More importantly, though, was the fact that England had been teetering on the fence of coming into the war to aid their cotton supplying Confederates, but with the outcome of Antietam, they decided to sit back for a little while longer, thus robbing the Confederacy of help it desperately needed. A different choice of wrapping paper could have made all the difference in the world to the history of North America.

Not Following the Enemy
Gen. George Meade (July 1863)
It sometimes looks like Lee did have some sort of guardian angel; either that or the Northern generals before Grant were all monumentally stupid. The former is more romantic, but the latter is easier to prove. In any event, Meade’s decision to let Lee slip back to Virginia is another example of Lee’s luck and an opposing general’s horrendous decision making ability.

The Army of Northern Virginia was done. Three days at Gettysburg had reduced the proud rebels to a shell of their former strength. Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, the Peach Orchard, and, at the last, Pickett’s Charge up Cemetery Ridge had produced the High Water Mark of the Confederacy. With all his reserves spent, Lee was gathering his badly mauled forces and trying mightily to make it back to the relative safety of Ol’ Virginy.

In his way was the rain swollen Potomac River. On his flanks were the persistent if largely ineffectual Union cavalry pickets. The roads were a quagmire of mud. In all, the stage was set for the final crushing blow to be delivered by the Army of the Potomac, which had several reserves that had seen little if any fighting. They would sweep down on the defeated boys in grey like an avenging blue tide. The Army of Northern Virginia would be crushed and the Civil War would be all but over. All that remained was for General Meade to give the order to attack.

Well, the order never came. For reasons that, to this day, are unclear Meade was reluctant to follow Lee. Instead, he gathered his forces in strength and waited. No one is quite sure what he was waiting for, but when President Lincoln found out that Meade had literally allowed the end of the war to slip through his hands, Honest Abe was incensed. It was largely Meade’s indecision that resulted in General Grant being called east from Vicksburg and placed in command of the Army of the Potomac. Had Meade attacked the defeated rebels at that opportune moment, the Civil War probably would not have drug on in a morass of attrition for nearly two more years. Countless lives, Union and Confederate alike, could have been spared and the Reconstruction Period would likely have looked much different.
Ignoring the Gatling
George A. Custer (June 1876)
It is generally held to be a good idea among most military men that, when the latest and greatest weapons are available, they should be used. The newly patented Gatling Gun was the earliest machine gun and had completed its trials. Custer had two to four of the guns and abundant ammunition available when he set out to uproot a “small Indian village” on the bank of the Little Bighorn River. Custer’s reasoning behind not using them was that the Gatling guns would impede his march and hamper his mobility. More importantly, he also is said to have believed that the use of so devastating a weapon would “cause him to lose face with the Indians.” Considering reports of Custer’s vanity, this is not hard to believe.

These problems do not change the fact that the Gatling guns would have been a decided equalizer in the face of what turned out to be overwhelming Indian superiority, and that elsewhere in the Indian wars, the Indians often reacted to new army weapons by breaking off the fight. Instead, Custer led more than 250 doomed men of the famous 7th Cavalry into the Montana hill country. If he had taken the then greatly improved machine guns with him the outcome of the much-discussed Last Stand would surely have been very different.

What could have been going through Custer’s mind as he stood, the breeze whipping his famous golden hair behind him, his loyal men dead all about him, and several hundred Sioux warriors galloping towards him intent on making him a human pincushion? Could it possibly have been, “I really could use those Gatling guns right about now.”

Invade Gallipoli
Winston Churchill (April 1915)
By the start of 1915, the Great War had ground to a halt. The trench lines stretched from Belgium through Italy and neither side was making progress. The war had devolved into mad suicide rushes across no man’s land into the teeth of the new Maxim guns. Predictably, casualties were mounting daily and the war that “will be over by Christmas” seemed to have no end in sight. To make matters worse, Russia was getting their mess kits handed to them all up and down the Eastern Front and the tsardom was beginning to look shaky. The German navy had cut all the usual supply lines to accessible ports and any port safe from the German fleet was either icebound or entirely too far away to be of any practical use. Something had to be done and quickly.

Enter Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. Now Churchill is well know for his personal bravery as well as his usually keen mind. He is also known for being a fan of a good stiff drink and apparently, he’d had several when he thought of this plan. Churchill proposed that a third front be opened up in the western Mediterranean. Specifically, he planned an attack on the Ottoman Empire held Dardanelles. The attack on what he termed the “soft underbelly of the Central Powers” would open up a warm water resupply depot for Russia and effectively turn the flank of the vast trench network. It was a great idea in theory and on paper.

The Gallipoli Campaign took place at Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey from 25 April 1915 to 9 January 1916. The intent was for a joint amphibian attack by British Empire and French forces up the peninsula to capture the Ottoman capital of Istanbul. To put it mildly, the attempt failed miserably with heavy casualties on both sides. The whole operation was botched from the beginning. The planned invasion was tipped off to the Turks who reinforced the peninsula with heavy guns and additional troops. Once the invasion began, it quickly stalled on the beachhead, thwarted by the Turkish occupation of the high ground.

To make a very detailed and long story short, the allied forces, the bulk of which were Australians and New Zealanders (who ultimately had the highest number of dead per capita of all nations in the war), were essentially trapped on the beaches in the open for months. No real progress was ever made inland despite several dogged attempts all around the peninsula. Promised naval artillery support was cut short as soon as the Admiralty found out – by the sinking of two battleships – that German U-boats were in the waters. The whole event was an unmitigated disaster. Conditions were unreal. In the summer, the heat was atrocious, which in conjunction with bad sanitation, led to so many flies that eating became extremely difficult. Corpses, left in the open, became bloated and stank. The precarious Allied bases were poorly situated and caused supply and shelter problems. A dysentery epidemic spread through the Allied trenches. Autumn and winter brought relief from the heat, but also led to gales, flooding and frostbite.

In the end, Churchill was sacked as Lord of the Admiralty, several generals saw their careers ended but most of all; tens of thousands of men on both sides were killed for absolutely no gain whatsoever. To this day, Gallipoli is remembered as ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand in honor of all the brave ANZACs who gave their lives for a stupid decision.

Soviet Invasion
Adolf Hitler, (September 1941)
Honestly? See item 10. Replace “Napoleon” with “Hitler”, “Russia” with “Soviet Union”, and “Le Grand Armee” with “Wermacht” and you have the gist of the story. Operation Barbarossa was, without a doubt, the worst case of someone who failed to learn from history being doomed to repeat it. Adolf Hitler proved that it’s not only teenagers who think, “It can’t happen to me.”

Micromanaging the War
Lyndon B. Johnson (August 1964)
Wars are best run by the professionals. Lyndon B. Johnson was President, but he was not a professional soldier by any means during the Vietnam War. That did not stop him from blowing what was a small insurgency with American “advisors” into an all out “police action” that would claim the lives of nearly 60,000 American soldiers, sailors, and airmen before it ended two Presidents later.

Johnson expanded American involvement on the ground in Vietnam as soon as he took office after JFK’s assassination. Unfortunately for the troops, LBJ watched opinion polls and it is hard to fight a war if you watch opinion polls. Basically, field commanders couldn’t attack certain high value targets without Johnson’s say-so and, given the distances and the time it would take to brief the President on each given situation, the men were fighting one step behind at all times. He also took fire from the press who said he was too cozy with the defense businessmen and the war was justification for increased defense spending to make these businesses rich. That speculation, like Johnson’s supposed involvement in JFK’s assassination, is better left to the conspiracy theorists.

What is a fact, however, is LBJ’s insistence on being a hands-on Commander-in-Chief seriously handicapped American efforts in the jungles of Vietnam. Ultimately, his decision to try running a war based on opinion polls proved his undoing and he dropped out of the 1968 Presidential elections.

Invading Afghanistan
Yuri Andropov (December 1979)
For centuries, countries outside of Afghanistan – from the Indian Mughals, to the British Empire, to the Islamic fundamentalists – have tried to impose their will upon the Afghan people. As a result, the Afghans are a hardy bunch and they can fight like devils. The are experts at guerilla warfare and it is always a safe bet to assume that whoever is invading them has enemies all to willing to supply the natives with effective weaponry. That is over 1200 years of history totally lost on the Soviets in 1979 when they sent in a massive number of troops to prop up the unpopular communist government in Kabul.

What followed was a ten year blood bath of death among the rocks. For years, Soviet Hind helicopters would hunt in the valleys for any of the Afghan fighters. Upon finding them, the guerillas would be mown down by cannon fire from the craft they called “The Crocodile”. Then the CIA saw a chance to return the favor the Soviets had played on the United States during its involvement in Vietnam and began supplying the Afghan fighters with Stinger surface to air missiles. So much for Soviet air superiority. Stingers shot down 333 Soviet helicopters in the course of the ten year war.

The saddest part is the Soviets had just witnessed the USA’s horrific ten year quagmire in Vietnam, but, like other groups in history, they figured it couldn’t happen to them. They were wrong. The Soviets lost 15,000 men and billions of rubles worth of equipment to Afghanistan and they got nothing in return. For the Afghans, the country was left devastated and ripe for a group called the Taliban to take over.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Admiral Wilhelm Canaris


“I die for my fatherland. I have a clear conscience. I only did my duty to my country when I tried to oppose the criminal folly of Hitler.” - Admiral Wilhelm Canaris

The man behind the Nazi Abwehr spy network, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, was a shrewd, brilliant spymaster who not only managed to keep control of the Abwehr. He outwitted the slippery Himmler at almost every turn, while joined with other high-ranking German officers in a dangerous plot to eliminate Hitler and make a separate peace with the Allies.

Still, today, Wilhelm Canaris is the number one mystery man of the Nazi regime under Hitler - a man historians hardly can classify. A man who only seldomly came out of his shell, who didn’t talk much but was rather a listener. Almost everybody who knew him didn't really know exactly what his purpose and intentions were.

On the one hand he was the great protector of the German opposition against Hitler - on the other hand he was at the same time the one who prepared all the big expansion plans for the acts and crimes of Hitler in the Third Reich. While he highly protected and motivated the opposition members who were eager to fight against Hitler, he was also hunting them as conspirators - one of the many contradictions he was forced to live with to stay in control of the Abwehr.

Wilhelm Canaris, born January 1, 1887, in Aplerbeck, Germany, was celebrated as a war hero during the First World War for his exploits as a submarine captain, and he later became a top military spy for Germany. Canaris was appointed to head the Abwehr Military Intelligence in 1935.

In 1938, he made efforts to hinder Hitler from attacking Czechoslovakia and later he played an active role as a peace keeper. Canaris personally went to Franco and told him not to allow passage to the Germans for the purpose of capturing Gibraltar. Canaris was directly involved in the 1938 and 1939 coup attempts.

Admiral Canaris was an eye-witness to the killing of civilians in Poland. At Bedzin, SS troops pushed 200 Jews into a synagogue and then set it aflame. They all burned to death. Canaris was shocked. On 10 September, 1939, he had traveled to the front to watch the German Army in action. Wherever he went, his intelligence officers told him of an orgy of massacre. Two days later, he went to Hitler’s headquarters train, the Amerika, in Upper Silesia, to protest. He first saw General Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the Armed Forces High Command. “I have information,” Canaris told Keitel, “that mass executions are being planned in Poland and that members of the Polish nobility and the clergy have been singled out for extermination.”

Canaris told Keitel, “The world will one day hold the Wehrmacht responsible for these methods since these things are taking place under its nose.” But Keitel urged Canaris to take the matter no further.

Soon the Vatican began to receive regular, detailed reports of Nazi atrocities in Poland. The information had been gathered by agents of the Abwehr by order of Canaris, who passed them on to Dr. Josef Muller, a devout Catholic and a leading figure in the Catholic resistance to Hitler. And Muller got the reports safely to Rome.

Canaris sent another of his colleagues, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on a flight to Sweden to meet secretly with Bishop Bell of Chichester. Bonhoeffer told Bell of the crimes his nation was committing, and assured Bell of growing resistance in Germany to such acts.

In March 1943, Canaris personally flied to Smolensk to plan Hitler’s assassination with conspirators on the staff of Army Group Center.

The Nuremburg Trials reveal Canaris’s strenuous efforts in trying to put a stop to the crimes of war and genocide committed in Russia by Reinhard Heydrich’s Einsatzgruppen forces. It is also revealed that Canaris prevented the killing of captured French officers in Tunisia just as he saved hundreds of Jews during the war.

In one instance he saved seven Jews from being sent to a concentration camp and certain death by going personally to Himmler, complaining that his Gestapo was arresting his agents. The seven were turned over to the Abwehr and taught a few codes, then smuggled out of Germany.

And Admiral Canaris underlined the Swiss will of resistance and Switzerland’s economic strength and geographic advantages. It was due to the views of Canaris that Hitler gave up his plans to incorporate Switzerland into his New Europe. Shortly before Canaris left office, he paid a visit to Bern, where he expressed to the German Ambassador his satisfaction about the success of their reports.

Canaris appointed his friend, the anti-Nazi Hans Oster, to the number two in the Abwehr agency. From his post, Oster contacted enemies of the regime and turned them into Abwehr agents. The most important of these were Hans Von Dohnanyi, the catholic lawyer Joseph Muller and the protestant priest Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Oster created an anti-Nazi hierarchy in the Abwehr, and soon he directed all of the military plans of the resistance. He used the Abwehr to save people from the Gestapo, to cover resistance actions, to help Jews escape from Germany, and to communicate between the different circles of the resistance.

All of his actions were approved by Admiral Canaris. The commander in chief of the Abwehr supported the resistance, although he claimed that he was too old to take an active part.

Admiral Canaris, along with his second-in-command, Hans Oster, actually helped the Allies while supervising all German espionage, counterespionage, and sabotage. Canaris was revealing almost all of the important German strategy and battle plans to the Allies - from Hitler’s impending western offensive against the Low countries and France to Hitler’s plan to invade Britain. He also misled Hitler into believing that the Allies would not land at Anzio in 1943.

In April that same year, Canaris made contact with the former governor of Pennsylvania, Commander George H. Earle, Roosevelt’s personal representative for the Balkans, stationed in Istanbul. One morning there was a knock on Earle’s hotel room door and there stood - in civilian clothes - Admiral Wilhelm Canaris. The head of the German Secret Service told Earle there were many sensible German people feeling that Hitler was leading their nation down a destructive path. Admiral Canaris continued that an honorable surrender from the German army to the American forces could be arranged.

Earle was convinced of the sincerity of Admiral Canaris and immediately sent an urgent message to Washington via diplomatic pouch, requesting a prompt reply. A month later, Canaris phoned, as had been agreed, but Earle could only say “I am waiting for news, but have none today.”

In the summer of 1943 Canaris met secretly with General Stuart Menzies, Chief of British Intelligence, and William J. Donovan, head of the Office of Strategic Services, at Santander, Spain. Canaris presented Menzies and Donovan with his peace plan: a cease fire in the West, Hitler to be eliminated or handed over, and continuation of the War in the East.

But though Donovan, Menzies and Canaris reached an agreement on the basis of Canaris’ proposal, President Roosevelt flatly declined to negotiate with “these East German Junkers” and called his presumptuous OSS chief to heel. Canaris’ peace offer was rejected .

That he was being misled by Canaris became evident to Hitler only after the conspirators attempted to kill him in July 1944. Canaris and many others were arrested. The principal prisoners were finally confined at Gestapo cellars at Prinz Albrechtstrasse, where Canaris was kept in solitary confinement, and in chains.

In The Canaris Conspiracy, Manvell and Fraenkel tell, how his cell door was permanently open, and the light burned continually, day and night. He was given only one third of the normal prison rations, and as the winter set in his starved body suffered cruelly from the cold. Occasionally he was humiliated by being forced to do menial jobs, such as scrubbing the prison floor, the SS men mocking him.

On February 7, 1945, Canaris was brought to the Flossenburg concentration camp but he was still ill-treated and often endured having his face slapped by the SS guards. But for months Canaris baffled the SS interrogators with one ruse after another, and he denied all personal complicity in the conspiracy. He never betrayed his fellow participants in the Resistance Movement.

During the waning weeks of the Nazi era, SS Obersturmbannf├╝hrer Walter Huppenkothen and Sturmbannf├╝hrer Otto Thorbeckwere detailed to Flossenburg to eliminate Canaris and the other resistance figures. The SS men staged a bogus “trial” before their men hung the victims.

In the closing days of World War II, in the gray morning hours of April 9, 1945, gallows were erected hastily in the courtyard. Wilhelm Canaris, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Major General Hans Oster, Judge Advocate General Carl Sack, Captain Ludwig Gehre - all were ordered to remove their clothing and were led down the steps under the trees to the secluded place of execution before hooting SS guards. Naked under the scaffold, they knelt for the last time to pray - they were hanged, their corpses left to rot.

Two weeks later the camp was liberated by American troops - on 23 April 1945.

One of Canaris’ fellow-prisoners, the Danish Colonel Lunding, former Director of Danish Military Intelligence, was imprisoned in the cell next to Canaris. He had contact with Canaris shortly before he watched the naked figure of the Admiral being led to execution. Through tapping on the wall of his cell Canaris told him: “This is the end. Badly mishandled. My nose broken. I have done nothing against Germany. If you survive, please tell my wife ..”

After the war, Huppenkothen and Thorbeck stood trial on three occasions, but the courts were never able to satisfactorily dispose of their case. In 1956, the German High Court ruled that this ceremony had been enough to render the murders “legal.” The high court judges also held that the killings were “legal” because the Nazi regime had possessed the right to execute “traitors.” The court, in effect, reconvicted the victims.

One of Canaris’ friends, Hans Bernd Gisevius, tells about the Admiral in his book from 1947 To the Bitter End:

“Canaris hated not only Hitler and Himmler, but the entire Nazi system as a political phenomenon .. He was everywhere and nowhere at once. Everywhere he traveled, at home and abroad and to the front, he always left a whirl of confusion behind him .. In reality this small, frail, and somewhat timid man was a vibrating bundle of nerves. Extremely well read, oversensitive, Canaris was an outsider in every respect. In bearing and manner of work he was the most unmilitary of persons ..”