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Since the early 1980s popular German TV journalist and presenter Guido Knopp has unearthed a wealth of new material about the leading figures of the Third Reich. He has spoken to countless contemporaries and eyewitnesses, relatives and friends of these men, and has been given access to documents that until now have been kept under lock and key. In this, the latest book in Knopp's groundbreaking reassessment of Germany's guilty past, he turns to the careers and the relationship with Hitler of six key military leaders of the Third Reich. Two of Nazi Germany's most brilliant field commanders, Erich von Manstein and Erwin Rommel, are examined alongside Friedrich Paulus, the doomed field marshal encircled at Stalingrad; Wilhelm Keitel, Hitler's intermediary and confidant in the Fuhrerbunker; Ernst Udet, idol of the Luftwaffe; and Wilhelm Canaris, arch-conspirator and head of the Abwehr, Germany's secret service.In this, the latest book in Guido Knopp's reassessment of Germany's guilty past, he turns to the careers of six key military leaders of the Third Reich, and their relationships with Hitler.
Field-Marshal Erwin Rommel, the hero of North Africa, fitted perfectly with the cliches of Nazi propaganda. In October 1944, however, Rommel was forced to take his own life, as Hitler was convinced that the 'Desert Fox' was implicated in the July Bomb Plot. Like many of those who surrounded Hitler, Wehrmacht chief of staff Field-Marshal Wilhelm Keitel was simply too weak to accept where his actions were leading. Instead, he took refuge in obedience without limit.
In January 1943 Friedrich Paulus became the first German field-marshal ever to surrender on the battlefield. Having held Stalingrad for five months against all odds, he defied Hitler and led the remnants of Sixth Army into Russian captivity. He then worked for the Soviets, calling on Germany to surrender. Field-Marshal Erich von Manstein was the architect of the defeat of France in 1940, the greatest triumph in German military history. On military questions Manstein vigorously contradicted the Fuhrer, who suspected his politics and finally dismissed him.
Ernst Udet, the most successful German fighter pilot to survive the First World War, was personally selected by Hitler to build up and equip the Luftwaffe, but all he had ever wanted was to fly. Overwhelmed by his duties, blamed by those around him for German failure in the Battle of Britain and abandoned by his allies, Udet killed himself in November 1941. Finally, no leading figure in Hitler's dictatorship has been surrounded by more mystery than Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of theAbwehr, the Third Reich's foreign intelligence service. Hanged by the SS only days before the war ended, Canaris' last words were: 'I did my duty as a German.'
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