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Film / Canaris

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1954 West German drama about Wilhelm Canaris, chief of the Abwehr (German military intelligence) during World War II and a central figure in the German Resistance movement against Nazism, who was ultimately executed for taking part in the 20 July plot to kill Hitler.

The main role was played by Otto Eduard "O.E." Hasse, who was himself persecuted by the Nazis for his homosexuality.


This work contains examples of:

  • Cassandra Truth: Canaris repeatedly provides intelligence showing that pressing on against the Allies - and in particular, the Russians - is a waste of time. But the idea that Germany can be beaten by "the lesser races" falls on deaf ears in the corridors of power.
  • Cool Old Guy: Canaris himself - an honourable, cultured, Reasonable Authority Figure with the courage to stand up to Heydrich and the Nazi regime.
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  • Critical Research Failure: In-universe. While spying in France shortly before the war, Althoff blows his cover by giving a German-style military salute (that is, with a very slight bow) rather than squaring his shoulders back, as the French do.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: The real Wilhelm Canaris was a rather more complex character than presented in the film. While it is true that he worked to actively sabotage the Nazi war machine and rescued hundreds of Jews and other persecuted individuals from death, risking and ultimately losing his life in the process, it's also true that he held anti-Semitic views and was at first a supporter of Hitler. At least one biographer has gone so far as to credit him with first suggesting the introduction of the infamous yellow stars.
  • La Résistance: The German military resistance to Hitler.
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  • Prisoner Exchange: How Althoff is returned to Germany after blowing his cover in France.
  • Protagonist Title: His last name, anyway.
  • Stock Footage: Both radio and video, used frequently to illustrate key events of the era.

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