Otto “Scarface” Skorzeny was a legend in his own time. As an SS Commando he was a fearless hero to his men. To the British and Americans he was “the most dangerous man in Europe”.
Otto Skorzeny was an Austrian, but fanatically believed in the cause of Nazism for all “Germanic people”. He enlisted in the German army in 1940. In 1941 he participated in the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. There he fought in numerous battles against the Russians. Once, he was hit in the head with shrapnel from a Soviet Katyusha rocket. He refused evacuation, and asked only for a bandage, some aspirin, and a sip of schnapps! No one ever said he lacked toughness.
Skorzeny was evacuated anyway and spent time behind the lines creating new commando units to be used against the Allies. He created a commando unit that was inserted into Iran in 1943. The goal was to get Islamic groups to destroy Allied supply routes to the USSR! Betcha didn’t know Nazi paratroopers operated in Iran against the Russians and British, did ya? They sure don’t teach that in schools.
His “greatest success” was his personal rescue of the Fascist thug, Benito Mussolini. The Italians had wisely overthrown Mussolini and had him in a mountain fortress called Gran Sasso. There was a narrow little field in front of the fortress with a sheer drop. Access was only by a cable car. Skorzeny organized a group of paratroopers who flew in on two small airplanes that just barely landed on the slope. They rushed the fortress, and without firing a shot they captured the “Duce”, hustled him onto a plane with Skorzeny, flew off, and later presented him to Hitler.
Hitler was so impressed with Skorzeny that he put him in charge of “Operation Greif”–the plan to sneak English speaking Nazi soldiers (dressed in US Army uniforms) behind American lines and cause confusion. The Germans also spread the rumor that they had an assassination team to take out General Eisenhower in Paris. The rumors spooked the Americans terribly, but the plan caused very little damage and most of his troops were captured. Many of those found in US uniforms were executed as spies.
Skorzeny was captured at the end of the war and was put on trial for war crimes, although the Allies could not prove their cases. He escaped from a prison camp (with the help of Nazi soldiers dressed as American MPs), hid in Bavaria for over a year, finally making it to neutral Spain. Over the next ten years or so, Skorzeny was part of the network that shuttled hundreds of Nazi war criminals out of Germany to South America.
In 1952 Skorzeny was hired by the Egyptian government to train their army (many ex-Nazi officers and scientists were welcomed by the anti-Israeli Arab governments). The former SS commando recruited and trained Arab “Palestinian” refugees to raid Israel from Gaza. One of Skorzeny’s students was PLO chief Yasser Arafat.
The Israelis wanted to kill him, but figured he might be more useful if they could “turn” him. So, Mossad (the Israeli version of the CIA) recruited him to spy and assassinate for them! Although Skorzeny never renounced Nazism, he actually worked for the Israelis throughout the 1960’s! On several occasions he went into Egypt and spied on their rocket industry (staffed by former Nazi scientists). He personally killed the German rocket scientist Heinz Krug, and blew up five other scientists with a letter bomb!
At the same time he was doing this, Skorzeny also had a company in Spain that farmed out his skills in counter-insurgency, espionage, and sabotage to South Africa, Greece, and South American countries.
Otto Skorzeny died of cancer on July 5, 1975. He was cremated and his ashes sent to be buried in the family plot in Austria. At the funeral were many former German soldiers giving the Nazi salute. . . and Mossad agents silently watching from a distance.
Truth is often stranger than fiction!