Thursday, March 18, 2021

Skorzeny: Hitler's Fixer, Israel's Assassin



By the time that Otto J.A. Skorzeny closed his eyes for the last time, on July 5th, 1975, it marked the end of a life or murder and intrigue that reached back to 1939. Then, he was a civil engineer who decided to join the German Air Force following the Nazi occupation of Poland. 

Otto Skorzeny

Skorzeny came from a military family. He was born in Vienna, Austria on June 12th, 1908. Aside from German, Skorzeny spoke French and English very well. While a university Student in Vienna he was also a well-known collegiate fencer. It was due to his fencing that Skorzeny endured a dueling scar on his cheek. In 1931 joined the Nazi Party's military arm, known as the SA. 

While Skorzeny was a young man he cut a dashing, colorful figure. However, it would have been hard for anyone to envision him as Hitler's pre-eminent soldier and a life-long mercenary and assassin. 

After the German "Blitzkrieg," or Lightning War, swept Poland Skorzeny was rejected from the German Air Force at 31 because he was 'too tall' to serve there, at 6-feet, 4-inches. Instead, Skorzeny went someplace where his height was not a detractor. And that post was as one of Hitler's bodyguards in the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler. 

The Eastern Front

Skorzeny's wish, however, was to take part in combat operations in the field. In October, 1941 he got his wish when he took part in the German invasion of the Soviet Union, codenamed "Operation Barbarossa." The invasion itself took place between June 22, 1941 and December 5, 1941. So, Skorzeny reached the Eastern Front with more than enough time to make his mark in his new unit, SS 2nd Panzer Division Das Reich

Crest for 2nd Panzer Div. Das Reich

In Ocrtober, 1941, Skorezeny was placed in charge of a special operations unit that was intended to seize Communist Party buildings in Moscow. However, with the Germans being whipped at the gates of Moscow by the Russians, that plan never came to fruition. Instead, what happened was that Skorzeny was hit in the back of the head with shrapnel and was evacuated to the rear for treatment. Whatever the circumstances of that wounding was, it was good enough to garner the former civil engineer the Iron Cross. 

Skorzeny: Creator of New Warfare

After being treated for his wound and convalescing, Skorzeny was given a staff role in Berlin. It was there that he developed what amounted to unconventional warfare tactics for German Forces. This included 'partisan-type fighting,' sabotage and espionage deep behind enemy lines. 

Skorzeny's proposals made sense to his superiors. Consequently, Skorzeny was appointed head of Nazi schools to train German soldiers in sabotage, espionage and paramilitary tactics. Even though, by then, it was late 1943 and the Nazi Reich's continued existance was an open question, Skorzeny and his commandos ran a number of operations throughout the Nazi sphere of influence. Skorzeny's specialized soldiers were responsible for:

Skorzeny rose to the rank of

OPERATION FRANCOIS: Coordinating geurilla activities; OPERATION OAK The rescue of cornered Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, in September 1943; OPERATION LONG JUMP: A planned operation to assassinate Allied world leaders, which never came to pass; OPERATION KNIGHT'S LEAP: A failed plan to capture Josip Broz Tito alive; OPERATION ARMOURED FIST: The kidnapping of Miklos Horthy Jr. to force his father to resign as regent of Hungary; OPERATION GRIFFIN: A false flag operation to spread disinformation during the Battle of the Bulge and finally OPERATION WEREWOLF SS: A planned Nazi underground resistance against an Allied-occupied Europe.

The Knight's Cross Ribbon
Perhaps the best known of these operations or failed plans was the rescue of  Mussolini a few weeks after the invasion of Sicily by Allied Forces and Allied bombardments of Rome. With his grip on power slipping every day, Skorzeny saved Mussolini's life and returned him to Germany. This turned out to only be a delay, though, as Mussolini and his mistress and driver would be killed and end up strung up in an Italian town square in the closing days of the war. 

The German Defeat

On March 17th, 1944 Skorzeny was leading German Army units in the protection of Schwedt Bridgehead, East Prussia and Pomerania when he was given orders to blow the bridge he was protecting, as well as the Bridge at Remagan. This ended up only delaying the inevitable. 


Skorzeny and his commandos were charged with infiltrating Allied lines in American uniforms in order to produce confusion in U.S. Forces by an Allied Court at Dachau, in 1947. During Skorzeny's operation, about two dozen Nazi soldiers in captured U.S. uniforms and driving recovered U,S. jeeps sent U.S. troops in wrong directions and misled them whenever possible. This was in direct contravention of the Hague Convention of 1907. However, Skorzeny got away with it by saying that before any combat his men would change back into their German uniforms. This was apparently supported by a British agent that confirmed this story. And, this enabled Skorzeny and his men to edge past charges at the trial. 

Life After the War

Even though Skorzeny had made it past the Dachua Trials, he was not out of the woods yet. Skorzeny was next interred at a camp in Darmstadt, and he awaited a decision by a denazification court. On July 27th, 1948, Skorzeny escaped from this camp with three other SS officers...dressed as U.S. Military Policemen. In his later life, Slorzeny insisted that U.S. officials assisted in his escape. Subsequently, Skorzeny hid out in Bavaria. Like a lot of people who hide out, Skorzeny was identified and was forced to flee to Salzburg. Eventually, he made his way to Madrid, in Spain. 

Skorzeny's Next Career

So, what does an on-the-run ex-Nazi commando do to pay the bills? He goes with what he knows, I guess. In 1952, Egypt was taken over by Mohammed Naguib. The next year, Skorzeny was sent to Egypt to serve as Naguib's military advisor. But...who sent him? Well, that was former General Reinhard Gehlen, who was indirectly working for the American CIA at that time. Think about that for a moment, Skorzeny is literally on the lamb and he is given an assignment from a former German general officer indirectly on behalf of the CIA. I think that sentence begs more questions rather than answers many of them. 

Skorzeny filled up Mohammed Naguib's 
military staff with Nazis after the war.

Skorzeny recruited a staff for Naguib comprised of former SS and Wehrmacht officers and it was these men who went about training the Egyptian Army. And, by 'former SS officers,' I am not talking about all lieutenants or captains. No, Skorzeny recruited from the ranks of the former Gestapo, Most notably, he hired Oskar Munzel, who was head of the Nazi Department for Jewish Affairs, among others. As well as training up Egyptians, Skorzeny's rogues gallery also trained some displaced Palestinian geurillas, among them a young Yasar Arafat, future head of the Palestine Liberation Organization. 

While all of this was going on, roughly during the mid-1950s, Skorzeny (and certainly some of his recruited staff) were actively wanted by the state of Israel to answer for their crimes during the war. Skorzeny stayed on in Egypt after Naguib was succeeded by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nassar. While doing this, Skorzeny was known to shuttle back and forth between Egypt and Argentina, where the ex-Nazi commando also served as a military advisor for Argentinian dictator Juan Peron, and as a bodyguard for Peron's wife, Eva. While Skorzeny was doing all of his military and bodyguarding he was also trying to help raise a "Fourth Reich" in South America.

Argentine dictator
Juan Peron

The "Fourth Reich" was a pipedream hardcore Nazis had of resurrecting a Nazi army and reclaiming its lost glory and power, bbe it in South America or germany or anyplace else that might want a lot of Nazis (which is nowhere in the world). The Fourth Reich was a poor attempt at organizing to take over some government, somewhere to create this new Nazi state. But, this effort died not in flame and fire but in the whimpering of old Nazi war criminals on the run from due justice for decades. As they grew older, clinging to their canes and failing health, as well as their paranoia, the movement just disintegrated. The world had enough of Nazis, barring the occasional rogue state or mad dictator.

Skorzeny and his Mossad connection

The next part of this story is the craziest in Skorzeny's life, which had a fair amount of crazy to start with. The Mossad is basically Israel's C.I.A. The Mossad is a regular feature in the world intelligence community and they are there to represent the intelligene needs of the Jewish State, Israel. 

Well, in a 1989 article published in Matara, an Israeli security and intelligence magazine (only the Israelis would have a magazine dedicated to intlligence and security, it was claimed Skorzeny was approached by Mossad to obtain information on German scientists who were working on an Egyptian project to develop rockets for use against Israel. The major Idraeli daily Yedioth Ahronot actually confirmed this story. And, in those days of the late 20th century, large print newspapers worldwide had a reputation for fact-checking that cannot be approached nowadays. 

Journalists Ian Black and Benny Morris wrote in 1991 that Skorzeny may not even have known who he was working for at the time. But, in 2010, journalist Tom Segev wrote that Skorzeny sought to be removed from the list of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal's list of at-large criminals. This did not happen, though, and Skorzeny remained a criminal on the run. 

Otto Skorzeny died of cancer in 1975

It is believed that Mossad, at first, planned to kill Skorzeny. However, Israeli handlers believed they had a better idea in Skorzeny assassinating German rocket scientist Heinz Krug because he was working with the Egyptian Government. Though Skorzeny was never directly linked to Krug's death, the German arms scientist did turn up dead around the time Mossad was allegedly dealing with Skorzeny. 

During his lifetime, Skorzeny married and divorced three times. He also had a daughter, whom I will not name because no one can help the parents they are born to. 

Skorzeny's death: The end of an era

In 1970, Skorzeny was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his spine. Two tumors were later removed while he was staying at a hospital in Hamburg (how he did not get caught there is conveniently miraculous). But, the surgery left him paralyzed from the waist down. Finally, Skorzeny's wretched existance was ended on July 5, 1975 when he died of lung cancer at 67 years old. He never denounced Nazism and he always thought Adolf Hitler was a great guy. His funeral was attending by several of his old SS colleagues and the rest of the world was too busy that day to show up to the event. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

No profanity, vulgar language, personal attacks, libel or defamation, nudity of any kind or sexual imagery is permitted on this site. The site's management reserves the right to screen all messages for appropriateness through this venue.