|Otto Skorzeny - "The most dangerous man in Europe"
Otto Skorzeny (12 June 1908 – 5 July 1975) was an SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) in the German Waffen-SS during World War II. After fighting on the Eastern Front, he became known to the world in September 1943, when boastful German radio broadcasts hailed the previously unknown Skorzeny as "The most dangerous man in Europe" for his key role in the successful and daring airborne raid to rescue the ousted Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who was secretly imprisoned at the almost inaccessible summit of Gran Sasso, the highest mountain in the Italian Apennines, on September 12, 1943.
This was just the first of Skorzeny's successes as Hitler's commando leader. With the successes that followed, western media too, called Otto Skorzeny "The most dangerous man in Europe".
Skorzeny was also the leader of Operation Greif, in which German soldiers were to infiltrate through enemy lines, using their opponents' language, uniforms, and customs. At the end of the war, Skorzeny was involved with the Werwolf guerrilla movement and the ODESSA network where he would serve as Spanish coordinator.
Although he was charged with breaching the 1907 Hague Convention in relation with Operation Greif, the Dachau Military Tribunal acquitted Skorzeny after the war. Skorzeny fled from his holding prison in 1948, first to France, and then to Spain.
Otto Skorzeny was born in Vienna into a middle-class Austrian family with Polish roots which had a long history of military service. In addition to his native German, he spoke excellent French.
In his teens, Otto once complained to his father of the austere lifestyle that his family was suffering from, by mentioning he had never tasted real butter in his life, because of the depression that plagued Austria after its defeat in World War I. His father prophetically replied, "There is no harm in doing without things. It might even be good for you not to get used to a soft life."
In his memoir, regarding his school years, he noted "I recall that I found realistic subjects like mathematics, geometry, physics and chemistry quite easy, while I had to struggle with the foreign languages, French and English." He wanted to be an engineer like his father and brother, he added, thus he enrolled in the Technische Hochschule Wien on his eighteenth birthday. During the winter of 1928 to 1929, he took and passed his first state examinations. "The only political activity in which I participated during my school days was the official demonstration in favor of union with Germany", he noted in his memoir, but he did join a student organization that was soon absorbed into Heimwehr ("Home Guard"), which he said he was disappointed to see becoming a political party. In 1931, he received a degree in engineering and passed the final state examinations to be a certified engineer, quickly finding a job as a manager of a small building business.
Though Skorzeny's skill as an engineer would later prove quite useful in planning his missions of terrorism and sabotage, his time in the Schlagende Verbindung (dueling society) 'Burschenschaft Markomannia' would prove the most influential part of his college experience. Skorzeny was a noted fencer as a university student in Vienna and fought his first duel during his freshman year. He engaged in thirteen personal combats. The tenth, in 1928 resulted in a wound that left a dramatic dueling scar—known in academic fencing as the coveted Schmiss (German for "smite" or "hit"), on his cheek - -the "scars of honor," which would earn him the nickname of "Scarface" among the Americans during World War II. Skorzeny would later credit his success in war to his experiences in the dueling society:
During the war I never felt that afraid than when I had to fought my first single combat in front of my classmates.
My knowledge of pain, learned with the sabre, taught me not to be afraid. And just as in dueling when you must concentrate on your enemy's cheek, so, too, in war. You cannot waste time on feinting and sidestepping. You must decide on your target and go in.
In the summer of 1932, Skorzeny heard German Nazi Party leader Josef Göbbels speak at the Engelmann Arena in Vienna, which convinced him to join the Austrian branch of the Nazi Party at once. He admitted that his ferver soon died down, however, and did little in the following year. His membership in the Nazi Party expired in June 1933 as the party was banned by the Australian government.
There are three seemingly unimportant details from Skorzeny's pre-war life which became important later:
In 1934 Skorzeny and his bride spent their honeymoon in the Abuzzi region of Italy, near Gran Sasso, travelling by motorcycle as far South as Naples.
In 1935, he joined the German Gymnastic Association, which was a para-military organization. On March 12, 1938, the eve of the German annexation of Austria, Anschluß, he led a small German Gymnastic Association contingent to protect President Wilhelm Miklas, claiming that this action could have avoided violent incidents during the German annexation; this action was his small entry onto the political stage, as he was noticed by Austrian Nazi Party leader Arthur Seyß-Inquart, who placed a small group of SS men under his command to bolster his contingent of German Gymnastic Association men, and effectively placed him in charge of all security in the presidential palace for several days.
Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the head of the Austrian branch of the Nazi SS, knew Skorzeny and knew of his action in saving Mikla
In 1939 Skorzeny earned his pilot's licence. He became part owner of a construction firm and is on friendly terms with influential people like the Ingenieur Ferdinand Porsche and Reichsbankpräsident Hjalmar Schacht, whose daughter became his second wife.
The Eastern Front
When World War 2 started on September 1, 1939 with the German invasion of Poland, Skorzeny volunteered for the Luftwaffe, but at 1.92 meters (6 ft 3.6 in) 4" and thirty-one years of age, was considered too tall and too old for flight training. Instead, Skorzeny's superiors assigned him to train as a communications expert, an assignment he hated.
Three months later, Skorzeny's class of 100 would-be Air Force technical personnel was told that 20 of them can volunteer to service as technical officers in the Waffen SS, the military branch of the Nazi party's SS organization. The Waffen SS divisions were the Nazi Party's private army, which fought together with the regular German army, and its all-volunteer units were considered elite combat units.
Only twelve of the class, including Skorzeny, passed the Waffen SS admission tests and were first sent to basic combat soldier training as an officer-cadet in the training barracks of the 1st Waffen SS Division, named Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler Division (LSSHA) for its early origin from Hitler's SS bodyguard unit. In 1940, as an SS Untersturmführer (Second Lieutenant), he impressed his superiors by designing ramps to load tanks on ships.
On May 9, 1940, a day before the German invasion of France, instead of completing his technical officer training, Skorzeny was sent to Berlin and was given an "Expert Mechanic" certificate, and was promoted to the rank of junior sergeant. Eager to participate in the invasion of France that just started, Skorzeny convinced the commander of Leibstandarte's heavy artillery unit to take him as acting technical officer, and mostly spent the days of the invasion "chasing" the war in the trail of the rapidly advancing German forces, fighting in, France and the Balkans.
Skorzeny's fortunes turned in April 1941 when his regiment was sent to Yugoslavia to quell a revolt. The rebellion was engineered by Yugoslav military officers who overthrew the government of Prince-Regent Paul on March 26-27 because they felt their ruler was getting too close to Hitler. Three days after the invasion, Skorzeny and his men achieved distinction, managing to capture fifty-four Yugoslav soldiers and three officers. Skorzeny marched his prisoners to his regiment's headquarters and following which he was promoted to Obersturmführer (First Lieutenant) in the Waffen-SS on the spot.
But fortune would again turn her back on Otto. In June of 1941, Division Reich participated in the invasion of the Soviet Union, where it suffered heavy casualties.
In October 1941, he was in charge of a "technical section" of the German forces during the Battle of Moscow. His mission was to seize important buildings of the Communist Party, including the NKVD headquarters at Lubyanka, and the Central Telegraph and other high priority facilities, before they could be destroyed. He was also ordered to capture the sluices of the Moscow-Volga Canal because Hitler wanted them used to turn Moscow into a huge artificial lake by opening them. The missions were canceled as the German forces failed to capture the Soviet capital.
One day in early winter of that year, Skorzeny was hit in the back of the head by shrapnel from Russian Katyusha artillery rockets which struck near his position some 200 yards from the front line. Taken to a nearby aid station, he refused all treatment except for a few aspirin, a bandage, and a glass of Schnapps. A few hours later, Skorzeny rejoined his regiment, but his health only deteriorated. Eventually a combination of continuous headaches from his head injury and continuous stomach pains forced him to evacuate for proper medical treatment. By January 1942, he was headed back to Germany on a hospital train, promising to return in a few weeks. By the time he recovered, however, the Third Reich would have other plans for Skorzeny.
Once out of hospital, and since his body still needed to recover, Skorzeny was assigned to a non-combat role in Leibstandarte's depot in Berlin. It was, he wrote later, a boring role for him, and he wanted to return to his unit in the front, but in the meantime, he had many months in Berlin with spare time to read and to meet fellow Waffen SS officers, and what he did and what he did was to read all the published literature that he could find about commando warfare, and suggested his ideas about the subject to anyone who would listen to a junior technical officer's ideas about unconventional commando warfare.
Skorzeny's main argument, based on his experience in the Russian front, was that the German army, which demonstrated innovative warfare early in the war, gradually deteriorated to ordinary war of attrition. His proposed solution was to develop units specialized in such unconventional warfare including partisan-like fighting deep behind enemy lines, fighting in enemy uniform, sabotage attacks, and more.
All that talking eventually paid off, when in April 1943 Skorzeny's name was put forward by Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the new head of the RSHA, and Skorzeny was summoned to the Waffen SS headquarters to meet with Walter Schellenberg, head of the SD (the SS foreign intelligence service). Schellenberg needed someone to take charge of the schools being organized to train special agents in sabotage, espionage, and paramilitary techniques. Skorzeny accepted immediately, and was promoted to Captain, appointed commander ofthe recently created Waffen Sonderverband z.b.V. Friedenthal stationed near Berlin. (The unit was later renamed SS Jagdverband 502, and in November 1944 again to SS Combat Unit "Center", expanding ultimately to five battalions.)
Until 1943 the German army did not think that it needed to have special units for unconventional special warfare deep behind enemy lines. Germany had a large army, the best in the world then, and it was not restrained by political diplomatic or moral constraints. In those years, Adolf Hitler did not need to limit himself to sending commandos to neighbouring countries. He simply sent his army to invade and occupy them.
For military action beyond enemy lines during those invasions, two types of units were used, mostly to capture key targets by using the element of surprise, and then to temporarily hold them until relieved by the advancing main German invasion force. These units were the elite German Paratroopers, and the Brandenburg Regiment of the German Abwehr (Military Intelligence), which used soldiers fluent in foreign languages and wearing enemy uniforms to achieve the element of surprise.
But as Skorzeny argued, this was no longer enough for Germany. The war was increasingly turning against Germany, which could no longer quickly invade and occupy enemy territories, and this finally raised a need for having a real behind-enemy-lines military unit, a unit capable of long term activity, sabotage mostly, deep behind enemy lines.
Since unconventional warfare deep behind enemy lines was considered a military extension of the espionage and sabotage activities done by spies, the new unit was going to work for the Ausland-SD (Foreign Security Department), the foreign espionage branch of the RSHA, the giant security organization within the Nazi SS that included the GESTAPO (secret police), the SD (internal security), the Ausland-SD (foreign espionage), criminal investigations, and the Einsatzgruppen death squads in charge of the mass murder of entire population groups in the occupied countries, including Jews, Communists, the Intelligentsia, and others, which were considered a possible threat to the German occupation.
Simply put, the new commando unit established at Friedensthal, was going to belong to the military branch of the SS (the Waffen SS), and to provide its military-scale services to the espionage branch of the SS (the Ausland-SD) in tasks that require a military-scale sabotage or attack capacity, which is greater than the limited capacity of a single or a small team of spies.
So in early 1943 the SS was looking for the right man, among its officers, to lead that new type of special unit. They wanted a person with a combination of leadership, good judgement in sensitive situations, combat experience, technical skills, and fanatic Nazi loyalty.
Skorzeny's name was apparently suggested by no other than Ernst Kaltenbrunner, previously the head of the Austrian SS, who by 1943 was the new head of the RSHA, after his predecessor, Reinhard Heydrich, was assassinated by British-sponsored Czech patriots.
Kaltenbrunner knew Skorzeny from their pre-war years in Vienna, and he must have remembered how Skorzeny, the Nazi engineer, demonstrated unusually good judgement and leadership in saving the Austrian president from his trigger-happy fellow SS men that night in 1938, and since by 1943 Skorzeny was already a decorated Waffen-SS officer with full combat training and combat experience, a man who demonstrated both courage in combat and great dedication, and was a fanatically loyal Nazi, and a man who told every one who listened that Germany needs to establish unconventional warfare units, Kaltenbrunner knew that although the 35 years old Skorzeny was just a Lieutenant, he found the man he was looking for.
Skorzeny began training his men for their intended special missions, repeatedly telling them that in their special type of warfare behind enemy lines, not shooting, as much as possible, should be their most important guideline. He intended to impose following that guideline in future action by "running ahead of my men, and not firing my own gun".
The men were culled from the best of the best of the Reich's various military units. Each member was expected to have a basic knowledge of firearms, grenades, and artillery. They also had to know how to operate automobiles, motorcycles, watercraft, and locomotives. They had to be expert swimmers and be able to parachute from aircraft. Many were also trained in foreign languages, such as English, Italian, Russian, and Persian.
Skorzeny, for his part, studied the techniques found in captured British commando documents, and learned even more from captured British commandos who were willing to switch sides. He also attended a course on espionage taught by an Abwehr (army intelligence) officer.
Jagdverbände 502's first mission, "Operation Francois," took place in the summer of 1943. The group parachuted into Iran, where they made contact with the dissident mountain tribes. These insurgent forces were used to sabotage US and British supplies of materiel bound for the Soviet Union. However, within a few months, interest waned among the rebel tribes. Skorzeny, who remained behind to train more recruits, characterized Operation Francois as "a failure," due mainly to inadequate reinforcements and supplies needed for the mission.
Though Jagdverbände 502 had gotten off to a shaky start, greater things lay in store. While his commandos were implementing Operation Francois in Iran, Skorzeny was ordered to appear before the Führer himself.
Operations by Skorzeny
Operation François – Co-ordination of Partisan operations in Iran.
Operation François was an attempt made by the German Army's Abwehr to use the dissident Qashqai people in Iran to sabotage British and American supplies bound for the Soviet Union.
Operation François was led by Otto Skorzeny who sent 502nd SS Jäger Battalion to parachute into Iran, in their first mission during the summer of 1943. Skorzeny, who remained behind to train more recruits, characterized Operation François as "a failure" due mainly to inadequate reinforcements and supplies needed for the mission.
It is stated in Paul Ernst Fackenheim's biography, written by Michael Bar-Zohar, that during his captivity in Latrun, where the British also kept nazi-sympathizer General Fazlollah Zahedi, he saw "six or seven SS prisoners who parachuted into southern Iran, loaded with explosives and gold, and tried to bribe the Qashqai into rebelling against the British ... once they ran out of gold, the Qashqai turned them to the British"
Operation Oak (Unternehmen Eiche, September 1943) – The rescue of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
The Gran Sasso raid refers to Operation Eiche (German for 'Oak'), the rescue of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini by German paratroopers led by Major Otto-Harald Mors and Waffen-SS commandos in September 1943, during World War II. The airborne operation was personally ordered by Adolf Hitler, planned by Major Harald Mors and approved by General Kurt Student.
On 25 July 1943, a few weeks after the Allied invasion of Sicily and bombing of Rome, the Italian Grand Council of Fascism voted to depose Mussolini and replaced him with Marshal Pietro Badoglio. Mussolini was subsequently arrested on King Victor Emmanuel's orders.
After his arrest, Mussolini was transported around Italy by his captors. Intercepting a coded Italian radio message, Otto Skorzeny used his own reconnaissance to determine that Mussolini was being imprisoned at Campo Imperatore Hotel, a ski resort at Campo Imperatore, an alpine meadow at the Gran Sasso massif, high in the Apennine Mountains. On 12 September 1943, Skorzeny joined the team—led by Major Harald Mors—to rescue Mussolini in a high-risk glider mission.
The operation on the ground at Campo Imperatore was led by Lieutenant Count Otto von Berlepsch, planned by Major Harald Mors and under orders from General Kurt Student, all Fallschirmjäger (German Air Force Paratroopers) officers. According to Otto Skorzeny's Memoir, he commanded this mission and was on the ground while rescuing Mussolini.
The commandos crashed their nine DFS 230 gliders into the nearby mountains, then overwhelmed Mussolini's guards without a single shot being fired. The carabinieri guarding Mussolini were ordered to not put up any resistance by an Italian general, Fernando Soleti, that the Germans had brought along on the raid. Skorzeny attacked the radio operator and his equipment, and formally greeted Mussolini with "Duce, the Führer has sent me to set you free!" to which Mussolini replied "I knew that my friend would not forsake me!"
Mussolini was first flown from Campo Imperatore in a Luftwaffe Fieseler Fi 156C-3/Trop Storch STOL liaison aircraft, Werknummer (serial number) 1268, initially flown in by Captain Walter Gerlach, then taking off with Mussolini and Skorzeny (even though the weight of an extra passenger almost caused the tiny plane to crash) to the military airport of Pratica di Mare (near Rome) then embarked in an Heinkel HE111 on to Vienna, where Mussolini stayed overnight at the Hotel Imperial and was given a hero's welcome. The Storch involved in rescuing Mussolini bore the radio code letters, or Stammkennzeichen, of "SJ + LL" in motion picture coverage, for propaganda purposes, of the daring rescue.
The operation granted a rare late-war public relations opportunity to Hermann Göring. Benito Mussolini was made leader of the Italian Social Republic (a German puppet state consisting of the German-occupied portion of Italy).
Otto Skorzeny gained a large amount of success from this mission; he received a promotion to Sturmbannführer, the award of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
and fame that led to his "most dangerous man in Europe" image
Nazi propaganda hailed the operation for months, the Axis otherwise having little about which to boast in the fall of 1943. As it turned out, it was the last of Hitler's spectacular gambles to bear fruit.
Operation Long Jump – A proposed attempt to assassinate the "Big Three" (Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt) during the 1943 Tehran Conference.
Operation Long Jump" was the alleged codename given to a plot to assassinate the "Big Three" (Josef Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt) at the 1943 Tehran Conference. Hitler supposedly gave the command of the operation to Ernst Kaltenbrunner, chief of the RSHA, who in turn gave the mission to Skorzeny. Knowledge of the whole scheme was presented to the Western Allies by Stalin's NKVD at the Tehran conference. The Soviets said they had learned about its existence from counter espionage activities against German intelligence. Their agents had found out the Nazis knew the time and place of this meeting because they had cracked a US Naval code. However the NKVD said the assassination plot was foiled after they identified the German spies in Iran forcing Skorzeny to call off the mission due to inadequate intelligence.
However following Tehran, the story was treated with incredulity by the British and Americans who dismissed it as Soviet propaganda. Skorzeny supported this view by stating in his post-war memoirs that no such operation ever existed. He said the story about the plans being leaked to Soviet spy Nikolai Kuznetsov by an SS Sturmbannfuhrer named Hans Ulrich von Ortel as a complete Soviet invention; Hans Ulrich von Ortel never existed.
Skorzeny always maintained his name was only used to add credibility to the story because the NKVD knew his renowned record as an SS commando would make the existence of such an operation more plausible.
Gen. Dmitry Arkadiev, a functionary who headed the NKVD department of transportation took Mike Reilly, FDR’s security man on a tour of the Soviet Embassy and told him in passing that the NKVD had learned that Nazi “parachutists” had jumped in the area the previous day, but so far had not been apprehended. Their intentions could only be terrible: kidnapping and/or assassination of the world leaders, and possibly sabotage of key installations.
Although the exact date for the Teheran conference had not yet been fixed, the Nazis were aware of the prospect. On 22 November 1943, New York Times correspondent James Reston reported from London that a German radio broadcast had announced a Big Three meeting in Teheran at the end of the month. It is difficult to understand why the Nazis would disclose the secret meeting if they planned to assassinate its participants. They may have learned about the conference from FDR and Churchill’s intercontinental telephone calls, all of which were intercepted after a technical breakthrough by German intelligence in March 1942.
Soviet, British, and American security dragged a net through the city for Nazi agents, and a Nazi spy in custody, “Fritz Meier,” had admitted, after a bit of persuasion, that he expected to be contacted by the “paratroopers. This information appears faulty, because the British had rolled up Franz Mayer and his non-functional Teheran network in August.
The NKVD got hold of Reilly and elaborated on the Nazi plot. Thirty-eight paratroopers had landed, Arkadiev now told him, and Soviet Security had captured all but six. Reilly saw none of the prisoners, but all the same began to worry that even the best security might not stop a fanatical assassin from making an assault on one or all of the Big Three as they rode back and forth through the streets.
At midnight, Molotov sent an urgent summons to W. Averell Harriman, Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Archibald Clark Kerr, the British Ambassador to the USSR.When the two ambassadors arrived, he gave his version of the Nazi plot, saying that there might be “a demonstration” in which there would be “shooting” and innocent bystanders would be hurt. The bloodbath would cause an international scandal. He refused to give details.
Harriman never quite believed in the existence of a plot against the President. Back in Moscow after the conference, he asked Vyacheslav Molotov, Commissar for Foreign Affairs, whether the Nazis had cooked it up, or whether Molotov and he himself had conjured it. Molotov, who had no sense of humor, replied that, in point of fact, he had no details of an actual plot, yet knew that there were Nazi agents in Teheran.
Reilly was later told that three months after the conference the Russians caught the six missing paratroopers living with a Bedouin tribe in the mountains, and executed them. Such information could have originated only with the NKVD. He filed no report on the alleged plot with the Secret Service, and the report on the conference that the Secret Service did produce makes no mention of a plot. The British record likewise lacks any such reference. The Joint Intelligence Committee of the War Cabinet considered the matter afterward in London and concluded that the so-called Nazi plot against the Big Three was “complete baloney.”
In contrast to the West, the NKVD retained the story of the plot and, twenty years later during a publicity campaign, its successor, the KGB, began to promote it in the press. In its new guise, the purported plot against FDR acquired a wealth of details and a sterling cast of characters, most notably SS Captain Otto Skorzeny, one of the legendary figures of World War II. In the literature generated by the KGB, Skorzeny was the man designated by Hitler to lead the attack on the Big Three in Teheran and, in one stroke, turn the war around. But—the story went—the Nazis did not count on NKVD ace Nikolai Kuznetsov, who, posing as a Wehrmacht lieutenant in occupied Ukraine, befriended a hard-drinking and talkative SS officer named von Ortel, who blurted out revealing tidbits of the plan. Consequently, all three nations—the United States, the United Kingdom, and the USSR—owed the survival of their leaders to the vigilance of the Soviet Secret Police. As might be expected, Skorzeny’s memoirs mention no such plan and the various Soviet accounts differ among themselves in names, places, and other specifics.
In fact, a Georgian defector who claims to have heard the inside story from sources close to Stalin and Beria (both Georgians), debunks the idea of a Nazi plot. In order to impress Roosevelt and impose a feeling of indebtedness on him, writes Yuri Krotkov (a pseudonym), Stalin conceived a bogus assassination attempt and ordered Beria to set it up, with the provision that “assassins” should actually be arrested. Roosevelt, informed of his salvation by Soviet counterintelligence, asked to see the man who had busted the plot. He was presented with a colonel from Saratov named Kravchenko. When FDR mistakenly called Col. Kravchenko “General,” Stalin jovially promoted him in rank. Krotkov does not say what happened to the men who filled the role of the arrested.
Although the evidence remains insubstantial, it is not altogether impossible that the Nazis did plan an attack on the Allied leaders, perhaps even at the Teheran conference and even with only a week to prepare (following the radio broadcast of 21 November). It is completely impossible, however, that such a Nazi plan could have been the one that Stalin warned FDR about. If Stalin thought that Otto Skorzeny, who had whisked Mussolini off a mountain top as if he were a feather, were planning to assassinate him, or to try any action in Teheran, he would have postponed the conference and left. He would not have remained in the city even if the story that his own men were spreading were true, that a half-dozen assassins possibly capable of shelling the Soviet Embassy were in the vicinity. He was not a man to take such a risk.
Operation Knight's Leap (Unternehmen Rösselsprung, May 1944) – An attempt to capture Josip Broz Tito alive.
In the spring of 1944, Sonderverband z.b.V. Friedenthal was re-designated SS-Jäger-Bataillon 502 with Skorzeny staying on as commander. They were assigned to Operation Rösselsprung, known subsequently as the Raid on Drvar. Rösselsprung was a commando operation meant to capture the Yugoslav commander-in-chief, Marshal Josip Broz Tito, who was also recently recognized by the Allies as the Yugoslav prime minister. Marshal Tito led the Yugoslav Partisans resistance army from his headquarters near the Bosnian town of Drvar, in the center of a large non-occupied area held by the Partisans. Hitler knew that Tito was receiving Allied support and was aware that either British or American troops might land in Dalmatia along the Adriatic coastline with support from the Partisans. Killing or capturing Tito would not only hinder this, it would give a badly needed boost to the morale of Axis forces engaged in the Yugoslav Front in occupied Yugoslavia.
Skorzeny was involved in planning Rösselsprung and was intended to command it. However, he argued against implementation after he visited Zagreb and discovered that the operation had been compromised through the carelessness of German agents in the Independent State of Croatia (a German puppet state on occupied Yugoslav territory).
Rösselsprung was put into action nonetheless, but it was a complete disaster. The first wave of paratroopers, following heavy bombardment by the Luftwaffe, jumped between Tito's hideout in a cave and the town of Drvar; they landed on open ground and many were promptly shot by members of the Tito Escort Battalion, a unit numbering fewer than a hundred soldiers. The second wave of paratroopers missed their target and landed several miles out of town. Tito was gone long before paratroopers reached the cave; a trail at the back of the cave led to the railway tracks where Tito boarded a train that took him safely to Jajce. In the meantime, the Partisan 1st Brigade, from the 6th Lika Partisan Division, arrived after a twelve-mile (nineteen-kilometer) forced march and attacked the Waffen-SS paratroopers, inflicting heavy casualtied.
Operation Armoured Fist (Unternehmen Panzerfaust a.k.a. Unternehmen Eisenfaust, October 1944) – The kidnapping of Miklós Horthy, Jr., son of Hungarian Regent, Admiral Miklós Horthy, to force Admiral Horthy to resign as head of state in favor of the pro-Nazi leader of the Arrow Cross Party, Ferenc Szálasi.
Operation Panzerfaust, known as Unternehmen Eisenfaust in Germany, was a military operation to keep the Kingdom of Hungary at Germany's side in the war, conducted in October 1944 by the German military (Wehrmacht). When German dictator Adolf Hitler received word that Hungary's Regent, Admiral Miklós Horthy, was secretly negotiating his country's surrender to the advancing Red Army, he sent commando leader Waffen-SS Lieutenant-Colonel Otto Skorzeny to Hungary. Hitler feared that Hungary's surrender would expose his southern flank, where the Kingdom of Romania had just joined with the Soviets and cut off a million German troops still fighting the Soviet advance in the Balkan peninsula. The operation came on the heels of Operation Margarethe in March 1944, which was the forced, but peaceful, occupation of Hungary by German forces, which Hitler had hoped would secure Hungary's place in the Axis powers.
Operation Margarethe I was the occupation of Hungary by German forces in March 1944. The Hungarian government was an ally of Nazi Germany, but Prime Minister Miklós Kállay, with the knowledge and approval of Regent Miklós Horthy, had been discussing an armistice with the Allies. German dictator Adolf Hitler found out about these discussions and, feeling betrayed by the Hungarians, ordered German troops to implement Operation Margarethe to capture critical Hungarian facilities.
Hitler invited Horthy to the palace of Klessheim, outside of Salzburg, Austria on March 15. While they conducted their negotiations, German forces quietly moved into Hungary. The meeting was merely a ruse to keep Horthy out of the country and leave the army without orders. Negotiations between Horthy and Hitler lasted until the 18th, when Horthy boarded a train to return home.
When he arrived in Budapest, it was German soldiers who greeted him. Horthy was told that Hungary could only remain sovereign if he removed Kállay in favour of a government that would cooperate fully with the Germans. Otherwise, Hungary would be subject to undisguised occupation. Knowing the latter meant a gauleiter who would treat Hungary no differently than an occupied enemy country, Horthy appointed Döme Sztójay as Prime Minister to appease German concerns. The occupation was a complete surprise and resulted in it being quick and bloodless. The initial plan was to immobilise the Hungarian army, but with Soviet forces advancing from the north and east, and with British and American forces invading the Balkans, they decided to retain the forces, sending a portion to the defend the pass through the Carpathians.
Operation Margarethe II was the planned German invasion of Romania should the Romanian government decide to surrender to the Soviets. The Romanians did surrender in 1944, but Operation Margarethe II was never implemented. It is worth noting that Hitler had much better relations with Romanian leader Ion Antonescu than with Hungarian leader Miklos Horthy, which might have reduced the need or apparent need for a Nazi invasion of Romania.
Having anticipated Horthy's move, Skorzeny had been instructed to remove Horthy from power. Horthy's son Miklós Horthy, Jr. was meeting with Soviet representatives. Miklós Jr. was informed by the German Security Service through intermediaries that envoys of Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia wanted to meet with him. Miklós Jr. had failed to keep a prior meeting when he observed suspicious individuals near the proposed meeting place. A second meeting was set for early 15 October at the offices of Felix Bornemisza, the Director of the Hungarian Danube ports. He hoped that the Yugoslavian representatives might have important news, but upon entering the building, Skorzeny and his troops attacked and beat him into submission. They then kidnapped Miklós at gunpoint, trussed him up in a carpet, immediately drove him to the airport and flew him to Vienna. From there, he was transported to the concentration camp at Mauthausen.
Working through his trustworthy General Béla Miklós, who was in contact with Soviet forces in eastern Hungary, Horthy attempted to negotiate the end of the war, seeking to surrender to the Soviets while preserving the government's autonomy. Although Horthy was an intractable anti-Communist, his dealings with the Nazis led him to conclude the Soviets were the lesser evil. The Soviets willingly promised that Hungary would remain autonomous and sovereign.
Horthy governed from Castle Hill in central Budapest, an ancient and now well-guarded fortress. He blamed the German government for "forcing" Hungary into war, and during a meeting of the Crown Council declared that:
Today it is obvious to any sober-minded person that the German Reich has lost the war. All governments responsible for the destiny of their countries must draw the appropriate conclusions from this fact, for as a great German statesman, Bismarck, once said, "No nation ought to sacrifice itself on the altar of an alliance." … I decided to safeguard Hungary’s honour even against her former ally, although this ally, instead of supplying the promised military help, meant finally to rob the Hungarian nation of its greatest treasure, its freedom and independence. I informed a representative of the German Reich that we were about to conclude a military armistice with our former enemies and to cease all hostilities against them
At 2:00 p.m. on 15 October 1944, Horthy announced in a national radio broadcast that Hungary had signed an armistice with the Soviets. However, the Germans had been aware of Horthy's behind-the-scenes maneuvering and had already set in motion plans to replace his government with forces loyal to the German cause, effectively occupying Hungary. With Nazi help, the Arrow Cross Party seized the radio station shortly after Horthy signed off. A party member wrote a counter-proclamation and used the name of the Hungarian Army's Chief of the General Staff, General Vörös. The commanding officer and his assistant of the two remaining Hungarian army units in Budapest were arrested or disappeared, and their soldiers fell in line with the Arrow-Cross party.
Given that many Hungarian units were controlled by the German army, it is unclear whether orders, if issued, ever reached most of the line troops. There had also been considerable propaganda about the harsh, punitive treatment of prisoners by the Soviets.
Skorzeny then brazenly led a convoy of German troops and four Tiger II tanks to the Vienna Gates of Castle Hill. Horthy recognized that he had no means to fight the German armor and superior forces. He issued orders that "no resistance should be made." One unit did not get these orders, and fought the Germans for about 30 minutes. The Germans quickly and with minimal bloodshed captured Castle Hill. Only seven soldiers were killed and 26 men were wounded.
Horthy was taken into custody by Edmund Veesenmayer and his staff later on 15 October. Kept overnight in the Waffen SS offices, he returned to the Palace to collect his personal belongings. There he was confronted with a demand to sign a typewritten statement handed to him by Premier Géza Lakatos. The statement announced that Horthy was renouncing the armistice and abdicating in favour of Arrow Cross leader Ferenc Szálasi. Surprised that his loyal friend would encourage him to sign the document, Horthy was told by Lakatos that his son's life was at stake. When Horthy asked Veesenmayer if this was true, Veesenmayer confirmed the threat. The regent understood that this was an effort to put the stamp of his prestige on a Nazi-sponsored Arrow Cross coup, but signed anyway.
Horthy later explained his capitulation:
I neither resigned nor appointed Szálasi Premier, I merely exchanged my signature for my son’s life. A signature wrung from a man at machine-gun point can have little legality.
Despite Veesenmayer's solemn promise to obtain Horthy's son's release from the German concentration camp, Miklós Jr. remained a prisoner until the war's end on 8 May 1945. Horthy himself was transported to the Schloss Hirschberg near Weilheim, Germany, and guarded by 100 Waffen SS men at all times. On 1 May 1945, Lt. Gen. Alexander Patch, the commander of the US 36th Division, visited Horthy in his castle prison. Because Hungary had fought on to the end defending Germany, Horthy was considered a prisoner of war. Seven months later, on 17 December 1945, he was released from the Nuremberg penitentiary and was reunited with his family in a private home in Weilheim.
Operation Griffin (Unternehmen Greif, December 1944) – A false flag operation to spread disinformation during the Battle of the Bulge.
Operation Greif was a special false flag operation commanded by Waffen-SS commando Otto Skorzeny during the Battle of the Bulge. The operation was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler, and its purpose was to capture one or more of the bridges over the Meuse river before they could be destroyed. German soldiers, wearing captured British & US Army uniforms and using captured vehicles were to cause confusion in the rear of the Allied lines. A lack of vehicles, uniforms and equipment limited the operation and it never achieved its original aim of securing the Meuse bridges.
Skorzeny had become one of Hitler's favorites following the success of "Operation Panzerfaust" in which he had supervised the kidnapping of Miklós Horthy, Jr., the son of Hungary's Regent, Admiral Miklós Horthy to force Horthy's resignation. Following his return to Germany, Skorzeny was summoned to meet Hitler at his headquarters at Rastenburg (Ketrzyn) in East Prussia on 22 October 1944. After congratulating Skorzeny and announcing that he had been promoted to Obersturmbannführer, Hitler outlined the planned Ardennes Offensive and the role he was to play in it.
Skorzeny was to form a special brigade - Panzer Brigade 150 - whose purpose would be to capture one or more of the bridges over the Meuse river before they could be destroyed. Hitler informed him that he had decided this could be accomplished more quickly and with fewer losses if Skorzeny and his men wore US uniforms. Hitler also remarked that small units in enemy uniform could cause great confusion among the enemy by giving false orders, upsetting communications, and misdirecting troops.
I want you to command a group of American and British troops and get them across the Meuse and seize one of the bridges. Not, my dear Skorzeny, real Americans or British. I want you to create special units wearing American and British uniforms. They will travel in captured Allied tanks. Think of the confusion you could cause! I envisage a whole string of false orders which will upset communications and attack morale.
—Butler, Rupert (1979). The Black Angels. New York: St. Martin's Press
Skorzeny was well aware that under the Hague Convention of 1907 anyone under his command who was captured in US uniform would face execution and this possibility caused much discussion with Generaloberst Jodl and Field Marshal von Rundstedt.
The timing of the Ardennes Offensive meant that Skorzeny had only 5 or 6 weeks to recruit and train a brand new unit for what Hitler named Operation Greif ("Gryphon"). Within four days he sent his plans for Panzer Brigade 150 to Generaloberst Alfred Jodl. Despite asking for 3,300 men he was given an immediate go-ahead and promised full support. The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht issued an order on 25 October requesting suitable soldiers for the operation with "knowledge of the English language and also the American dialect" which was passed on to every headquarters on the Western Front, and this request soon became known to the Allies.
The new brigade needed US Army vehicles, weapons and uniforms; OB West was asked to find 15 tanks, 20 armoured cars, 20 self-propelled guns, 100 jeeps, 40 motorcycles, 120 trucks, and British and US Army uniforms all to be delivered to the brigade's training camp which had been set up at Grafenwöhr in eastern Bavaria. The equipment delivered fell short of the requirements, including only two Sherman tanks in poor condition, and Skorzeny had to use German substitutes, 5 tanks (Panzer V "Panther") and 6 armoured cars. Because of the low number of actual American equipment, German equipment was modified, or just painted green and given US stars, to resemble US vehicles. The 5 Panthers and 5 Sturmgeschütze were "modified" with thin metal plates. The Panthers clearly were meant to resemble the M10, and the result was not all that bad. What the Sturmgeschütze were meant to look like is unknown - but they were green with stars. 1 Sherman (out of 2 captured) was in operational condition the night before the attack, but it came down with problems, and did therefore not take part of the action.
Panther tank as a M-10 tank destroyer
The brigade was also flooded by Polish and Russian equipment sent by units who had no idea what the request was for. As far as English-speaking soldiers went, only 10 men who spoke perfect English and had some knowledge of American idiom were found, 30-40 men who spoke English well but had no knowledge of slang, 120-150 who spoke English moderately well, and 200 or so who had learned English at school.
Faced with these setbacks, Skorzeny scaled down Panzer Brigade 150 from three battalions to two and assembled the 150 best English speakers into a commando unit named Einheit Stielau. Skorzeny also recruited a company of SS-Jagdverbände "Mitte" and two companies from SS-Fallschirmjäger-Abteilung 600, and was given two Luftwaffe parachute battalions formerly of KG 200, tank crews from Panzer regiments, and gunners from artillery units. A total of 2,500 men were eventually assembled at Grafenwöhr, 800 less than had been hoped.
The final total of equipment assembled was also less than had been hoped; only enough US Army weapons had been found to equip the commando unit, and only 4 US Army scout cars, 30 jeeps, and 15 trucks were found, the difference being made up with German vehicles painted in US olive drab with Allied markings applied. Only a single Sherman tank was available, and the brigade's Panther tanks were disguised as M10 Wolverine tank destroyers by removing their cupolas and disguising their hulls and turrets with thin sheet metal. The problem of recognition by their own forces was crucial, and they were to identify themselves by various methods: displaying a small yellow triangle at the rear of their vehicles; tanks keeping their guns pointing in the nine o' clock position; troops wearing pink or blue scarves and removing their helmets; and flashes from a blue or red torch at night.
As the brigade prepared for action, rumours began to fly that they were to relieve the besieged towns of Dunkirk or Lorient, capture Antwerp, or to capture the Allied Supreme Command at SHAEF at Paris. It was not until 10 December that Skorzeny's own commanders were made aware of the brigade's true plans. Panzerbrigade 150 was to attempt to capture at least two of the bridges over the Meuse river at Amay, Huy, and Andenne before they could be destroyed, the troops to begin their operation when the Panzer advance reached the High Fens, between the Ardennes and the Eifel highlands. The three groups (Kampfgruppe X, Kampfgruppe Y, and Kampfgruppe Z) would then move towards the separate bridges.
When Unternehmen Greif started, the brigade was held up in the massive traffic jams which caused major problems to the entire offensive. After losing two days this way, the original goals of the brigade was more or less given up and it was to fight as a regular formation.
It was given the task of capturing Malmedy, but a deserter warned the US forces of the plans. The attack was met with heavy fire and the Germans were forced to retreat. The US artillery took a heavy toll on the unit even when it was withdrawn from the actual fighting, the wounded included Otto Skorzeny himself who was hit by shrapnel.
The Einheit Stielau commando unit had been assembled from the brigade's best English speakers, but few of them had much if any experience of undercover operations or sabotage. There was little time to train them properly, but they were given short courses in demolition and radio skills, studied the organization of the US Army and its badges of rank and drill, and some were even sent to POW camps at Küstrin and Limburg to refresh their language skills through contact with US POWs.
Dressed in US Army uniforms (the highest US Army rank used was that of Colonel), armed with US weapons and using jeeps, the commandos were to execute three missions:
- Demolition squads of 5 or 6 men were to destroy bridges, ammunition dumps, and fuel stores.
- Reconnaissance patrols of 3 or 4 men were to reconnoiter on both sides of the Meuse river and also pass on bogus orders to any US units they met, reverse road signs, remove minefield warnings, and cordon off roads with warnings of nonexistent mines.
- "Lead" commando units would work closely with the attacking units to disrupt the US chain of command by destroying field telephone wires and radio stations, and issuing false orders.
On 14 December Panzerbrigade 150 was assembled near Münsterreifel and on the afternoon of 16 December it moved out, advancing behind the three attacking Panzer divisions, the 1st SS Panzer Division, the 12th SS Panzer Division, and the 12th Volksgrenadier Division, with the aim of moving around them when they reached the High Fens. However, when the 1st SS Panzer Division failed to reach the start point within two days Skorzeny realized that Operation Greif's initial aims were now doomed.
As a consequence, on 17 December Skorzeny attended a staff conference at the 6th Panzer Army's HQ, and suggested that his brigade be used as a normal army unit. This was agreed, and he was ordered to assemble south of Malmedy and report to the 1st SS Panzer Division's HQ in Ligneuville.
On 21 December 1944 this brigade, under Skorzeny's command tried to take Malmedy. Several assaults of the Skorzeny brigade were eventually successfully repelled by the American defenders. This would constitute the only noticeable attempt from the Germans to take Malmedy during the battle of the Bulge.
Skorzeny described the activities of the Einheit Stielau in an interview with the US Army in August 1945 following his surrender. According to him, four units of reconnaissance commandos and two units of demolition commandos were sent out during the first few days of the attack, and three units went with the 1st SS Panzer Division, 12th SS Panzer Division, and 12th Volks Grenadier Division, with another three units accompanying Panzerbrigade 150's three groups. Skorzeny reported that one commando team entered Malmedy on 16 December, and another team managed to persuade a US Army unit to withdraw from Poteau the same day. Another team switched around road signs and sent an entire American regiment in the wrong direction. American troops began asking one another questions that they felt only other Americans would know the answers to in order to flush out the German infiltrators. This had results such as an American brigadier general being held at gunpoint for several hours after he said the Chicago Cubs were in the American league and a captain spending a week in detention after he was caught wearing German boots. General Omar Bradley was repeatedly stopped in his staff car by checkpoint guards who seemed to enjoy asking him such questions. In all, forty-four men were sent through US lines, and all but 8 returned, with the last men being sent through the lines on 19 December; after this, the element of surprise had been lost and they reverted to wearing German uniform.
It was not an uncommon practice at the time to send camouflaged reconnaissance units behind enemy lines, but because of the immense psychological impact of Operation Greif, every occurrence of this was attributed to Skorzeny's men. In addition, German infantry often salvaged any items of US Army clothing they found, thus it was not out of the question that regular German troops might be killed or captured wearing items of US uniform.
So great was the confusion caused by Operation Greif that the US Army saw spies and saboteurs everywhere. Perhaps the largest panic was created when a commando team was captured near Aywaille on 17 December. Comprising Unteroffizier Manfred Pernass, Oberfähnrich Günther Billing, and Gefreiter Wilhelm Schmidt, they were captured when they failed to give the correct password. It was Schmidt who gave credence to a rumour that Skorzeny intended to capture General Eisenhower and his staff. A document outlining Operation Greif's elements of deception (though not its objectives) had earlier been captured by the US 106th Infantry Division near Heckhuscheid, - the German word "Greif" translating to "seize!" in English. In reality, the word "Greif" was used probably in a non-communicative sense, simply meaning the heraldic beast griffin. Because Skorzeny was already well-known for rescuing Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and kidnapping the son of Hungarian regent Miklós Horthy, the Americans were more than willing to believe Eisenhower was his next target. Because of the perceived threat, Eisenhower was confined to his headquarters for several days, and thousands of American MP's were put to work trying to hunt down Skorzeny's men. Checkpoints were soon set up all over the Allied rear, greatly slowing the movement of soldiers and equipment. Military policemen drilled servicemen on things which every American was expected to know, such as the identity of Mickey Mouse's girlfriend, baseball scores, or the capital of Illinois. This latter question resulted in the brief detention of General Omar Bradley himself; although he gave the correct answer—Springfield—the GI who questioned him apparently believed that the capital was Chicago.
Eisenhower was reportedly unamused by having to spend Christmas 1944 isolated for security reasons. After several days of confinement, he left his office, angrily declaring he had to get out and that he didn't care if anyone tried to kill him.
44 Germans wearing US uniforms managed to slip through the US lines and return alive. 8 were killed. Another 18 of its men were captured and executed as spies.
Pernass, Billing, and Schmidt were given a military trial at Henri-Chapelle, sentenced to death, and executed by a firing squad on 23 December. Thirteen other men were tried and shot at either Henri-Chapelle or Huy.The brigade was finally withdrawn from the front lines on 28 Dec, being replaced by 18th Volksgrenadier Division.
Ironically, the overall mission was regarded by Skorzeny as a failure. Because a total breakthrough wasn't achieved on the first day of the battle, Skorzeny had to use most of his Panzer brigade as ordinary combat troops, in German uniform.
Skorzeny was tried as a war criminal at the Dachau Trials in 1947 for allegedly violating the laws of war during the Battle of the Bulge, he and officers of Panzerbrigade 150 being charged with improperly using American uniforms to infiltrate American lines. All the defendants were acquitted, the military tribunal drawing a distinction between using enemy uniforms during combat and for other purposes including deception; it could not be shown that Skorzeny had actually given any orders to fight in US uniform. A surprise defence witness was F. F. E. Yeo-Thomas, GC, MC & Bar, Croix de Guerre, a former Allied SOE agent who testified that he had himself worn German uniforms behind enemy lines.
There was an earlier military operation which used this name; an anti-partisan operation conducted by the German Army Wehrmacht Heer, begun on August 14, 1944, in the vicinity of Orsha and Vitebsk, USSR.
Werewolf SS – A planned Nazi underground resistance movement in Allied-occupied Europe.
Werwolf (German for "werewolf") was the name given to a Nazi plan, which began development in 1944, to create a commando force which would operate behind enemy lines as the Allies advanced through Germany itself. Werwolf remained entirely ineffectual as a combat force, however, and in practical terms, its value as propaganda far outweighed its actual achievements.
After it became clear, by March 1945, that the remaining German forces had no chance of stopping the Allied advance, Minister of Propaganda Josef Göbbels seized upon the idea of Werwolf, and began to foster the notion, primarily through Nazi radio broadcasts, that Werwolf was a clandestine guerrilla organization comprising irregular German partisans, similar to the many insurgency groups which the Germans had encountered in the nations they occupied during the war. Despite such propaganda, however, this was never the actual nature of Werwolf, which in reality was always intended to be a commando unit comprising uniformed troops. Another popular myth about Werwolf is that it was intended to continue fighting underground even after the surrender of the Nazi government and the German military. In fact, no effort was ever made by the Nazi leadership to develop an insurgency to continue fighting in the event of defeat, in large measure because Adolf Hitler, as well as other Nazi leaders, refused to believe that a German defeat was possible, and they regarded anyone who even discussed the possibility as defeatists and traitors. As a result, no contingency plans to deal with defeat were ever authorized. However, as a result of Goebbels' efforts, Werwolf had, and in many cases continues to have, a mythological reputation as having been an underground Nazi resistance movement, with some even claiming that Werwolf attacks continued for months, or even years, after the end of the war. Its perceived influence went far beyond its actual operations, especially after the dissolution of the Nazi regime.
Historian Perry Biddiscombe has also asserted that Werwolf represented a re-emergence of a genuinely radical, social-revolutionary current within National Socialism, something which had been present in the movement in its early days but which had been suppressed following the Nazi assumption of power in 1933.
The name was chosen after the title of Hermann Löns' novel, Der Wehrwolf (1910). Set in the Celle region, Lower Saxony, during the Thirty Years' War (1618–48), the novel concerns a peasant, Harm Wulf, who after his family is killed by marauding soldiers, organises his neighbours into a militia who pursue the soldiers mercilessly and execute any they capture, referring to themselves as Wehrwölfe. Löns said that the title was a dual reference to the fact that the peasants put up a fighting defence (sich wehren, see "Bundeswehr" - Federal Defense) and to the protagonist's surname of Wulf, but it also had obvious connotations with the word Werwölfe in that Wulf's men came to enjoy killing. While not himself a Nazi (he died in 1914) Löns' work was popular with the German far right, and the Nazis celebrated it. Indeed, Celle's local newspaper began serialising Der Wehrwolf in January 1945.
It may also be of relevance to the naming of the organisation that in 1942 OKW and OKH's field headquarters at Vinnitsa in Ukraine were christened "Werwolf" by Adolf Hitler, and Hitler on a number of occasions had used "Wolf" as a pseudonym for himself. The etymology of the name Adolf itself is Noble (adal; Mod. German Adel) Wolf, while Hitler's first World War II Eastern Front military headquarters were labeled Wolfsschanze, commonly rendered in English as "Wolf's Lair", though the literal translation would be "Wolf's Sconce".
In late summer/early autumn 1944, Heinrich Himmler initiated Unternehmen Werwolf (Operation Werwolf), ordering SS Obergruppenführer Hans-Adolf Prützmann to begin organising an elite troop of volunteer forces to operate secretly behind enemy lines. As originally conceived, these Werwolf units were intended to be legitimate uniformed military formations trained to engage in clandestine operations behind enemy lines in the same manner as Allied Special Forces such as Commandos. Prützmann was named Generalinspekteur für Spezialabwehr (General Inspector of Special Defence) and assigned the task of setting up the force's headquarters in Berlin and organising and instructing the force. Prutzmann had studied the guerrilla tactics used by Soviet partisans while stationed in the occupied territories of Ukraine and the idea was to teach these tactics to the members of Operation Werwolf.
Gauleiters were to suggest suitable recruits, who would then be trained at secret locations in the Rhineland and Berlin. The chief training centre in the West was at Hülchrath Castle near Erkelenz, which by early 1945 was training around 200 recruits mostly drawn from the Hitler Youth.
The tactics available to the organisation included sniping attacks, arson, sabotage, and assassination. Training was to include such topics as the production of home-made explosives, manufacturing detonators from common articles such as pencils and "a can of soup", and every member was to be trained in how to jump into a guard tower and strangle the sentry in one swift movement, using only a metre of string. Werwolf agents were supposed to have at their disposal a vast assortment of weapons, from fire-proof coats to silenced Walther pistols but in reality this was merely on paper; the Werwolf never actually had the necessary equipment, organisation, morale or coordination. Given the dire supply situation German forces were facing in 1945, the commanding officers of existing Wehrmacht and SS units were unwilling to turn over what little equipment they still had for the sake of an organization whose actual strategic value was doubtful.
Werwolf originally had about five thousand members recruited from the SS and the Hitler Youth. These recruits were specially trained in guerrilla tactics. Operation Werwolf went so far as to establish front companies to ensure continued fighting in those areas of Germany which were occupied (all of the "front companies" were discovered and shut down within eight months). However, as it became increasingly clear that the reputedly impregnable Alpine Redoubt, from which their operations were to be directed by the Nazi leadership in the event that the rest of Germany had been occupied, was yet another grandiose delusion, Werwolf was converted into a terrorist organisation and in the last few weeks of the war, Operation Werwolf was largely dismantled by Heinrich Himmler and Wilhelm Keitel.
Disorganised attempts were made to bury explosives, ammunition and weapons in different locations around the country (mainly in the pre-1939 German–Polish border region) to be used by the Werwolf in their terrorist acts after the defeat of Germany, but not only were the amounts of material to be "buried" prohibitively low, by that point the movement itself was so disorganised that few actual members or leaders knew where the materials were, how to use them, or what to do with them. A large portion of these "depots" were found by the Russians and virtually none of the materials were actually used by the Werwolf.
On March 23, 1945, Josef Göbbels gave a speech, known as the "Werwolf speech", in which he urged every German to fight to the death. The partial dismantling of the organised Werwolf, combined with the effects of the "Werwolf" speech, caused considerable confusion about which subsequent attacks were actually carried out by Werwolf members, as opposed to solo acts by fanatical Nazis or small groups of SS.
Assessment by historians
Historians Antony Beevor and Earl F. Ziemke have argued that Werwolf never amounted to a serious threat, and furthermore propose that the plan barely existed. This view is supported by the RAND Corporation, which surveyed the history of US occupations with an eye to advising on Iraq. According to a study by former Ambassador James Dobbins and a team of RAND researchers, there were no American combat casualties after the German surrender.
German historian Golo Mann, in his The History of Germany Since 1789 (1984) also states that "The [Germans'] readiness to work with the victors, to carry out their orders, to accept their advice and their help was genuine; of the resistance which the Allies had expected in the way of 'werwolf' units and nocturnal guerrilla activities, there was no sign."
Perry Biddiscombe has offered a somewhat different view. In his books Werwolf!: The History of the National Socialist Guerrilla Movement, 1944–1946 (1998) and The Last Nazis: SS Werwolf Guerrilla Resistance in Europe, 1944-1947 (2000), Biddiscombe asserts that after retreating to the Black Forest and the Harz mountains, the Werwolf continued resisting the occupation until at least 1947, possibly until 1949–50. However, he characterizes German post-surrender resistance as "minor", and calls the post-war Werwolfs "desperadoes" and "fanatics living in forest huts". He further cites U.S. Army intelligence reports that characterized Nazi partisans as "nomad bands" and judged them as less serious threats than attacks by foreign slave laborers and considered their sabotage and subversive activities to be insignificant. He also notes that: "The Americans and British concluded, even in the summer of 1945, that, as a nationwide network, the original Werwolf was irrevocably destroyed, and that it no longer posed a threat to the occupation."
Biddiscombe also says that Werwolf violence failed to mobilize a spirit of popular national resistance, that the group was poorly led, armed, and organized, and that it was doomed to failure given the war-weariness of the populace and the hesitancy of young Germans to sacrifice themselves on the funeral pyre of the former Nazi regime. He concludes that the only significant achievement of the Werwolves was to spark distrust of the German populace in the Allies as they occupied Germany, which caused them in some cases to act more repressively than they might have done otherwise, which in turn fostered resentments that helped to enable far right ideas to survive in Germany, at least in pockets, into the post-war era.
Alleged Werwolf actions
A number of instances of post-war violence have been attributed to Werwolf activity, but none have been proven.
It has been claimed that the destruction of the United States Military Government police headquarters in Bremen on June 5, 1945 by two explosions which resulted in 44 deaths was a Werwolf-related attack. There is, however, no proof that it was due to Werwolf actions rather than to unexploded bombs or delayed-action ordnance.
Dr. Franz Oppenhoff, the newly appointed mayor of Aachen, was murdered outside his home in March 1945 by an SS unit which was composed of Werwolf trainees from Hülchrath Castle. They were flown in at the order of Heinrich Himmler.
Major John Poston, Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery's liaison officer was ambushed and killed a few days before Germany's surrender by unidentified assailants; in reality Poston died in an ambush by regular troops.
Colonel-General Nikolai Berzarin, Soviet commandant of Berlin is often claimed to have been assassinated by Werwolfs, but actually died in a motorcycle accident on June 16, 1945.
The Werwolf propaganda station "Radio Werwolf" (which actually broadcast from Nauen near Berlin during April 1945), also claimed responsibility for the assassination of Major General Maurice Rose, commander of the US 3rd Armored Division on 30 March 1945, who was in reality killed in action by regular troops on 31 March.
On 31 July 1945 an ammunition dump in Ústí nad Labem (Aussig an der Elbe), a largely ethnic German city in northern Bohemia ("Sudetenland") exploded, killing 26 or 27 people and injuring dozens. The explosion resulted in the "Ústí massacre" of ethnic Germans and was blamed on the Werwolf organization.
According to Biddiscombe "the threat of Nazi partisan warfare had a generally unhealthy effect on broad issues of policy among the occupying powers. As well, it prompted the development of Draconian reprisal measures that resulted in the destruction of much German property and the deaths of thousands of civilians and soldiers".
In the Soviet occupation zone, thousands of youths were arrested as "Werwolfs". Evidently, arrests were arbitrary and in part based on denunciations. The arrested boys were either "shot at dawn" or interned in NKVD special camps. On 22 June 1945, Deputy Commissar of the NKVD Ivan Serov reported to the head of the NKVD Lavrentiy Beria the arrest of "more than 600" alleged Werwolf members, mostly aged 15 to 17 years. The report, though referring to incidents where Soviet units came under fire from the woods, asserts that most of the arrested had not been involved in any action against the Soviets, which Serov explained with interrogation results allegedly showing that the boys had been "waiting" for the right moment and in the meantime focussed on attracting new members. In October 1945, Beria reported to Josef Stalin the "liquidation" of 359 alleged Werwolf groups. Of those, 92 groups with 1.192 members were "liquidated" in Saxony alone.] On 5 August 1946, Soviet minister for internal affairs Sergei Nikiforovich Kruglov reported that in the Soviet occupation zone, 332 "terrorist diversion groups and underground organizations" had been disclosed and "liquidated". A total of about 10,000 youths were interned in NKVD special camps, half of whom did not return. Parents as well as the East German administration and political parties, installed by the Soviets, were denied any information on the whereabouts of the arrested youths. The Red Army's torching of Demmin, which resulted in the suicide of hundreds of people, was blamed on alleged preceding Werwolf activities by the East German regime.
Eisenhower believed he would be faced with extensive guerrilla warfare, based on the Alpine Redoubt. The fear of Werwolf activity believed to be mustering around Berchtesgaden in the Alps also led to the switch in U.S. operational targets in the middle of March 1945 away from the drive towards Berlin and instead shifted the thrust towards the south and on linking up with the Russians first. An intelligence report stated "We should...be prepared to undertake operations in Southern Germany in order to overcome rapidly any organised resistance by the German Armed Forces or by guerrilla movements which may have retreated to the inner zone and to this redoubt" On March 31 Eisenhower told Roosevelt, "I am hopeful of launching operations that should partially prevent a guerrilla control of any large area such as the southern mountain bastions".
Eisenhower had previously also requested that the occupation directive JCS 1067 not make him responsible for maintaining living conditions in Germany under the expected circumstances; "..probably guerrilla fighting and possibly even civil war in certain districts... If conditions in Germany turn out as described, it will be utterly impossible effectively to control or save the economic structure of the country .. and we feel we should not assume the responsibility for its support and control." The British were "mortified by such a suggestion", but the War Department took considerable account of Eisenhower's wishes.
In April 1945 Churchill announced that the Allies would incarcerate all captured German officers for as long as a guerrilla threat existed. Hundreds of thousands of German last-ditch troops were kept in the makeshift Rheinwiesenlager for months, "mainly to prevent Werwolf activity". In addition to these captives the civilian detainees held by the U.S. alone climbed from 1000 in late March to 30,000 in late June, and more than 100,000 by the end of 1945. Also in the camps for civilians were the conditions often poor.
Prior to the occupation SHAEF investigated the retaliation techniques the Germans had used in order to maintain control over occupied territories since they felt the Germans had had good success. Directives were loosely defined and implementation of retaliation was largely left to the preferences of the various armies, with the British seeming uncomfortable with those involving bloodshed. Rear-Admiral H.T. Baillie Grohman for example stated that killing hostages was "not in accordance with our usual methods". Thanks to feelings such as this, and relative light guerrilla activity in their area, relatively few reprisals took place in the UK zone of operations. In April 1945 General Eisenhower ordered that all partisans were to be shot. As a consequence, some war crimes (summary executions without trial and the like) followed. Contrary to Section IV of the Hague Convention of 1907, "The Laws and Customs of War on Land", the SHAEF "counter insurgency manual" included provisions for forced labour and hostage taking.
At Seedorf British forces randomly selected and burned 2 cottages on April 21.
At the town of Sogel the Canadian First Army evacuated the civilians from the city center whereupon it was systematically demolished.
In 1945, it is believed that Canadian forces set civilian houses and a church on fire in reprisal for the death of the unit's commanding officer in battle. Maj.-Gen. Christopher Vokes, commanding the 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division ordered the town to be destroyed. "We used the rubble to make traversable roads for our tanks," Vokes wrote later.
Unless the citizens of the city of Stuppach within 3 hours produced the German officer that the U.S. forces believed was hiding there they were informed that: all male inhabitants would be shot, women and children expelled to the surrounding wilderness and the city razed.
U.S. combat troops destroyed the town of Bruchsal in retaliation for SS activities.
French forces expelled more than 25,000 civilians from their homes. Some of them were then forced to clear minefields in Alsace.
The city of Lichtental was pillaged by the French.
Jarmin was demolished by Soviet troops.
At the town of Schivelbein all men were shot and all women and girls raped by Soviet troops.
The German resistance movement was successfully suppressed in 1945. However, collective punishment for acts of resistance, such as fines and curfews, was still being imposed as late as 1948.
Biddiscombe estimates the total death toll as a direct result of Werewolf actions and the resulting reprisals as 3,000–5,000.
From 1946 onward Allied intelligence officials noted resistance activities by an organisation which had appropriated the name of the anti-Nazi resistance group, the Edelweiss Piraten (Edelweiss Pirates). The group was reported to be composed mainly of former members and officers of Hitler Youth units, ex-soldiers and drifters, and was described by an intelligence report as "a sentimental, adventurous, and romantically anti-social [movement]". It was regarded as a more serious menace to order than the Werwolf by US officials.
A raid in March 1946 captured 80 former German officers who were members, and who possessed a list of 400 persons to be liquidated, including Wilhelm Hoegner, the prime minister of Bavaria. Further members of the group were seized with caches of ammunition and even anti-tank rockets. In late 1946 reports of activities gradually died away.
Second Iraq War
The history of Werwolf was compared to the Iraqi insurgency by the Bush Administration and other Iraq War supporters. In speeches given on August 25, 2003 to the Veterans of Foreign Wars by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld parallels were drawn between the problems faced by the coalition's occupation forces in Iraq to those encountered by occupation forces in post-World War II Germany, asserting that the Iraqi insurgency would ultimately prove to be as futile in realizing its objectives as had the Werwolves.
Former National Security Council staffer Daniel Benjamin published a riposte in Slate magazine on August 29, 2003, entitled "Condi’s Phony History: Sorry, Dr. Rice, postwar Germany was nothing like Iraq" in which he took Rice and Rumsfeld to task for mentioning the Werwolf, writing that the reality of postwar Germany bore no resemblance to the occupation of Iraq, and made reference to Antony Beevor's The Fall of Berlin 1945 and the US Army's official history, The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany 1944-1946, where the Werwolf were only mentioned twice in passing. This did not prevent his political opponents from disagreeing with him, using Biddiscombe's book as a source.[
Given the events that came to pass after the Bush Administration's comparison, the most striking difference is the fact that in Iraq, many more (over twenty times as many) coalition soldiers were killed in combat after victory had been declared by President Bush on 1 May 2003 than had been killed during the initial invasion. In Germany, not a single Allied soldier was ever proven to have been killed as a result of hostile action after the German surrender on 8 May 1945. Another is that Biddiscombe maintains that what little resistance to the occupation there was in Germany had evaporated within two to four years after the end of the war, while widespread violent opposition to the occupation of Iraq and its new government continued for more than eight years after the invasion.
The liberation of Mussolini
Skorzeny appeared before Adolf Hitler On July 26, 1943. Hitler had learned that his political and military ally and friend Benito Mussolini, the Fascist dictator of Italy, was ousted and arrested by his own countrymen.
The Italian people got tired of their failing megalomaniac dictator, who was so much better in words than in deeds. After four years of war, instead of the promised victories, Italy lost its large colonial territories in North Africa and East Africa, and now Sicily, the large island in southern Italy, was occupied by the advancing Allies, who were clearly going to follow soon with an invasion of the Italian mainland (which they did six weeks later, on Sept. 3, 1943).
Overthrowing Mussolini was quick and bloodless. In a late night session, the members of the Fascist leadership accused Mussolini of failures, and then voted against him, for the first and last time, and the next day the king summoned Mussolini to his villa, told him that all Italians now hated him and that he must go, and when Mussolini stepped out of the king's office, he was arrested by the Carabinieri military police force, and the king appointed Pietro Badoglio, a former politician and army Chief of Staff as the new temporary Prime Minister.
Hitler was terribly furious about these news; not just because his fellow dictator and friend was overthrown, but also because there was very little he could do about it. He could not retaliate by invading Italy, because Italy was still his ally in the war, and the new Italian government immediately assured him that they remain loyal allies, which they did, for a while. It was clear to both sides that the new Italian government was quietly looking for a way to switch sides in the war, to end its long alliance with Nazi Germany, and to most likely deliver the arrested Mussolini to The Allies as a gesture, but so far Italy kept fighting against the Allies, shoulder to shoulder with the German military, which was already deployed in large numbers all over Italy. All that Hitler could do, was to try to find where the Italians were hiding their former dictator before they delivered him to The Allies, and only then act quickly to rescue him, in order to put him back in power by force, this time as a German puppet backed by the Nazi military power in Italy.
So on July 26, 1943, the day after Mussolini's arrest, Otto Skorzeny and five other commanders of Germany's most elite military units, were urgently summoned to "Wolfsschanze" (Wolf's Lair), Hitler's isolated and heavily guarded command post in the forests of East Prussia. Once there, the six officers (Captain Skorzeny was of the lowest rank) met Adolf Hitler. Hitler did not tell them why they were summoned. After each of them presented himself, Hitler simply asked each of them two questions:
Are you familiar with Italy ? What do you think of Italy ?
To the first question, only Skorzeny answered 'Yes', referring to his honeymoon in Italy nine years earlier.
To the seconds question, while the other five officers gave politically correct answers about Italy being an Ally of Germany and so on, Skorzeny decided to gamble and answered just: "I am an Austrian, Führer". It was a short answer that said a lot. Skorzeny knew that Hitler, also originally Austrian, will understand that he was thinking of the traditional hostility between Austria and Italy, which increased when Austria was forced to hand a large territory to Italy after World War I.
The gamble paid off. Hitler dismissed the other officers, and after they left, he told Skorzeny what really happened in Italy (German news media just said that Mussolini resigned for poor health), and told Skorzeny that he entrusts him with a mission of the highest strategic importance, to rescue Mussolini before he will be delivered up to The Allies.
For convenience and secrecy, for the duration of the mission Skorzeny was placed under the command of General Kurt Student, the commander of the German Paratroopers Corps, who was also sent to Italy that day, with a large force of his elite Paratroopers for the same reason, but also to prepare to occupy Rome by force if necessary. To the Italians, Skorzeny, the SS officer, will pose as General Student's adjutant, wearing paratrooper uniform.
After meeting with General Student in "Wolfsschanze" that night, Skorzeny phoned his deputy, Karl Radl, and told him that they were given a mission that can not be discussed over the phone, and asked him to prepare, by dawn, a very long list of every kind of special equipment imaginable, from guns and explosives to black hair color and monk robes. Radl was also instructed to select forty of Friedenthal's best men, including all those who spoke Italian, and bring with him ten secret agents from the Ausland-SD headquarters, and ordered that all will be dressed as paratroopers. They all flew to the German military headquarters outside Rome.
In the seven weeks that followed, Skorzeny helped as much as he could in the German intelligence gathering group effort to find where Mussolini was held and then to gather tactical intelligence to be used for planning a rescue operation once the location was known. By the way, in addition to using every intelligence resource they had in Italy, the SS, under constant pressure by Hitler, also used astrologers and psychics in Berlin in an attempt to find Mussolini. During those seven weeks, a game of cat-and-mouse followed as the suspicious Italians moved Mussolini to a different location three times, to prevent a rescue attempt, and he was heavily guarded by the Carabinieri. Three times the Germans were able to find out where Mussolini was held, and three times he was moved before the Germans were ready to raid the location.
Almost two months of cat-and-mouse followed as the Italians moved Mussolini from place to place to frustrate any rescuers. There was a failed attempt to rescue Mussolini on 27 July 1943. The Ju 52 that the crew was aboard was shot down in the area of Pratica di Mare. Otto Skorzeny and all but one of his crew bailed out safely.
Mussolini was first held in a villa on La Maddalena, near Sardinia. Skorzeny was able to smuggle an Italian-speaking commando onto the island, and a few days later he confirmed Mussolini was in the villa. Skorzeny then flew over in a Heinkel He 111 to take aerial photos of the location. The bomber was shot down by Allied fighters and crash-landed at sea, but Skorzeny and the crew were rescued by an Italian destroyer. Mussolini was moved soon after. Mussolini was transferred to the tiny island Ponza, off Naples. When the Germans had that information, Mussolini was already transferred elsewhere.
Then they were hinted that Mussolini was held in an isolated villa in the tiny island La Maddalena, near the large island Sardinia, 150 miles West of the Italian mainland. Skorzeny was able to smuggle one of his Italian speaking commandos to that island, disguised as a sailor, and a few days later that man reported that he even saw Mussolini in the villa from a distance. Skorzeny then flew in a Heinkel 111 bomber to take aerial photos of the location. The bomber was shot down by allied fighters and crash landed at sea, but Skorzeny and the bomber's crew were rescued by an Italian destroyer, whose crew was unaware of the purpose of the pictures in Skorzeny's camera. Before the Germans raided La Maddalena island, they found out that Mussolini was already flown away from the island in a seaplane and his location was lost again.
Information on Mussolini's new location and its topographical features were finally secured by Herbert Kappler, the police attache in the German embassy in Rome, who intercepted a seemingly meaningless Italian police radio transmission referring to security preparations around Gran Sasso. The experienced and suspicious Kappler immediately guessed that Mussolini is held in the ski hotel at the top of the Gran Sasso mountain, that was only accessible by cable car from the valley below. Further intelligence hints convinced the Germans that Mussolini might now be imprisoned on the Gran Sasso.
The Germans had to really hurry now, since on September 3, 1943, The Allies invaded the Italian mainland, and on September 8, Italy surrendered to The Allies, and a day later The Allies landed further North at Salerno, near Naples. Italy was not yet an enemy of Germany, but no longer its ally, and time was short. Preparations were minimal, not just because of the new political situation but also because of heavy allied air bombardments on the German bases near Rome.
Skorzeny flew again in a Heinkel 111 bomber, this time over Gran Sasso, and took pictures of the location with a plain handheld camera. When he returned, a simple attack plan was quickly formulatedby General Student, Harald Mors (one of Student's paratrooper battalion commanders), and Skorzeny. The plan was simple, but not easy:
Twelve DFS 230 assault gliders, each carrying nine troops and a pilot, will be released from their tow aircraft over Gran Sasso at a rate of about one glider every minute. Each glider pilot will then have to struggle against the strong and unpredictable wind conditions above the 9500 ft summit, in an attempt to land on a tiny patch of straight soil next to the ski hotel at the summit, that was surrounded by steep and rocky slopes from all directions.
Once on the ground, the troops will storm the ski hotel, where it was assumed that Mussolini was held, in an attempt to get to Mussolini as fast as possible, before his surprised guards will have time to shoot him in the last moment. The Italian guards will have to be defeated and the mountain summit secured.
A secondary force, led by Major Mors, will simultaneously arrive by trucks to the lower cable car station at the bottom of the mountain and will secure it. Mussolini will then be flown off the Gran Sasso by a Stork light aircraft.
The glider assault force, a total of 108 troops, was comprised of 81 paratroopers in 9 gliders, and Skorzeny with 25 of his men, and a guest, in 3 gliders. Skorzeny's "guest" was General Fernando Soleti of the Italian Carabinieri, who was kidnapped by Skorzeny's men and forced to board Skorzeny's glider. The idea was that his presence in the raid could further confuse the surprised Carabinieri guarding the Gran Sasso summit.
There was no time to arrange maps for the glider and tow aircraft pilots who were flown in to Italy just before the raid. They were to simply follow the lead aircraft, piloted by Student's intelligence officer.
Despite serious difficulties before and after the raid itself, the operation, on September 12, 1943, was a complete success, and the only injuries were among the troops onboard the last glider in the row, which crashed while landing right in front of the already released Mussolini, and among the Italian guards at the lower cable car station who were shot by the Germans, but nobody was killed.
Skorzeny's glider was initially the 2nd in the row of 12 tow and glider pairs, but during the flight the lead tow aircraft, with the only pilot who knew how to navigate to Gran Sasso, had to abandon the lead, and Skorzeny's tow pilot suddenly found himself first in the row but without a map. Skorzeny then used his knife to cut a small window in the glider's bottom under him, which was enough for him to successfully navigate to Gran Sasso, based on his memory of the flight path from his aerial photo flight a day earlier, by passing navigation instructions to the glider pilot in front of him, who relayed them by cable to the tow aircraft's pilot.
Once on the ground, after a perfect landing just next to the side of the ski hotel, Skorzeny ran forward, pushing General Soleti ahead of him, looking for the first door he could find, when he saw Mussolini looking at him from a 2nd floor window. This was definitely helpful, since he now knew exactly where to go. Skorzeny shouted to Mussolini to get inside to avoid being hit by possible shots, and then charged into the hotel. The surprised Italian guards were further confused by General Soleti who shouted at them to avoid shooting, and less than a minute later Skorzeny broke into Mussolini's room and disarmed his two guards, as two others of his men came in from the window after climbing the wall. Once Mussolini was secured in his room, Skorzeny saluted Mussolini and said: "Duce, I was sent by the Führer to rescue you." "I knew my friend would never let me down," Mussolini replied and he embraced Skorzeny.
Within a few minutes, all the Italian guards in the ski hotel and upper cable car station were disarmed without a single shot being fired, and at the bottom of the mountain Major Mors' men took over the lower cable car station after a short fire fight, and by the time of the last glider landing (the one that crashed) Mussolini was already out of the hotel, waiting for the Stork light aircraft that will fly him to safety.
The Stork, a two seater light aircraft, was flown by Captain Heinrich Gerlach, General Student's personal pilot. After he successfully landed on the Gran Sasso summit, the big Skorzeny insisted to also board the tiny two seater aircraft, and placed himself in its small cargo bay behind the passenger's seat. Skorzeny later explained this action in saying that he was not willing to risk a situation in which after a successful rescue he will face Hitler only to report to him that Mussolini was rescued by him but then crashed on the slopes of the Gran Sasso mountain. He preferred to die in such a crash too instead.
Captain Gerlach, the pilot, had his own doubts about the chances of a successful takeoff, since in addition to having an incredibly short and rocky "runway" that ended in an abyss, that runway was also cut in the middle by a deep ditch that was not visible in the aerial photos that Skorzeny took a day earlier. Skorzeny's extra weight, and the lower lift in the thin air at 9500ft, were not helpful either.
With Mussolini and Skorzeny onboard, Gerlach told the paratroopers to hold the small aircraft in place while he increased the engine's power to the maximum, and then signalled them to let go. The small aircraft ran forward. When he reached the ditch, Gerlach pulled the stick to raise the aircraft a few inches in the air before it descended back to the ground after the ditch and gained a little more speed before it fell down to the abyss at the end of the runway. With nerves of steel, Gerlach let the small aircraft dive down just over the steep mountain slope, and then slowly pulled the stick to level in the valley below, keeping the aircraft at tree top level to avoid possible enemy fighters, and not sharing with his two passengers the information that the engine was damaged in the bumpy takeoff and was not fully functional
They landed in a German controlled air base near Rome, where Mussolini and Skorzeny immediately transferred to a German bomber that flew them to Vienna, and from there Mussolini was flown by another aircraft to meet Hitler in "Wolfsschanze" that same day.
There were well deserved honors for all the key players. Herbert Kappler, the German police attache who found Mussolini, was also both promoted and decorated. Captain Gerlach, the Stork Pilot, was awarded the Knights Cross for performing one of the most difficult takeoffs in the history of aviation. And several others among the pilots, paratroopers, intelligencepersonnel, and of course Karl Radl, Skorzeny's deputy, were either promoted or decorated for their role in the operation.
Flying out in a Storch airplane, Skorzeny escorted Mussolini to Rome and later to Berlin. The exploit earned Skorzeny fame, promotion to Sturmbannführer and the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.
Mussolini created a new Fascist regime in northern Italy, the Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana).
Skorzeny in 1944
Following their success in rescuing Mussolini, Skorzeny and his commandos returned to their base and continued training for future special missions. Skorzeny was now able to expand his unit, and also gradually received operational and training control over other German special units, including the Navy's sabotage divers and midget submarine units, and since May 1944 also of the Air Force's suicide ground attack unit, an equivalent of the Japanese Kamikaze, called the Leonidas squadron
The Leonidas Squadron was made of volunteer pilots who were supposed to fly a manned version of the V-1 cruise missile that will be carried to the target area by bombers of KG 200, the Luftwaffe's special missions air wing, which mainly provided special flight services to the Ausland-SD while flying both German and captured Allied aircraft, in the same manner that Skorzeny's unit provided special ground fighting services to the Ausland-SD.
The manned V-1 was successfully test flown and produced, but opposition in KG 200, both moral and practical, to the idea of suicide ground attacks by these pilots, and the general lack of fuel at that late stage of the war, resulted in zero supply of fuel for the suicide pilots training flights, so eventually Skorzeny embedded them in his commando unit (Skorzeny controlled the suicide pilots, but the bombers, the missiles, and the jet fuel belonged to KG 200, which was also equipped with other types of air-to-ground missiles, which were naturally preferred by its elite pilots over using suicide missiles flown by minimally trained pilots).
The 20 July 1944 plot against Hitler
On July 20, 1944, when a group of senior German army officers attempted to overthrow the Nazi regime in Berlin following their failed attempt to assassinate Hitler in the "Wolfsschanze", Skorzeny played an important role, but not a decisive one, in saving the Nazi regime.
On 20 July 1944, Skorzeny was in Berlin when an attempt on Hitler's life was made. Anti-Nazi German Army officers tried to seize control of Germany's main decision centers before Hitler recovered from his injuries.
When he was informed of the rebellion, Skorzeny hurried, as instructed, to the SD headquarters building in Berlin. He calmed the panic there, called a company of his men to help secure the building, and then went to the Armor Corps headquarters, which controlled the most powerful unit in Berlin, the tank training school, which had tanks. The school's tanks already rolled into Berlin's streets in response to orders given by the rebel officers, but were already cautiously ordered to avoid fighting and behave as in ordinary training, making them useless for the rebels. After supporting the Armor Corps duty officer's decision to obey only orders from his normal chain of command, Skorzeny went to General Student's home in Berlin, where the two officers called Göring for further instrcutions. Skorzeny then returned to the SD headquarters, and with a group of armed SD agents he went to the rebels' headquarters in the Reserve Army headquarters building, where the rebel leaders where already arrested and some already executed. Skorzeny took control there, stopped the executions, transferred the remaining arrested rebels to a GESTAPO prison, and then remained in the Reserve Army headquarters as acting commander for the next 36 hours until relieved.
Since then, Hitler trusted and appreciated Skorzeny even more.
Three months later, as a result of the participation of the Abwehr's top officers in the rebellion, it was dismantled, and its duties were transferred to the SS. The Brandenburg Regiment, the Abwehr's special unit of foreign language speakers specialized is fighting behind enemy lines disguised as enemy soldiers, was also dismantled, but most of its men were transferred to Skorzeny's expanding unit, and played a key role in Skorzeny's last special operation.
Hungary and Operation Panzerfaust
In October 1944, Hitler sent Skorzeny to Hungary after receiving word that Hungary's Regent, Admiral Miklós Horthy, was secretly negotiating with the Red Army. The surrender of Hungary would have cut off the million German troops still fighting in the Balkan peninsula. Skorzeny, in a daring "snatch" codenamed Operation Panzerfaust (known as Operation Eisenfaust in Germany), kidnapped Horthy's son Miklós Horthy, Jr. and forced his father to resign as head of state. A pro-Nazi government under dictator Ferenc Szálasi was then installed in Hungary. In April 1945, after German and Hungarian forces had already been driven out of Hungary, Szálasi and his Arrow Cross Party-based forces continued the fight in Austria and Slovakia. The success of the operation earned Skorzeny promotion to Obersturmbannführer.
"Wacht am Rhein" - codename for the extremely daring and ambitious German counter-attack that shattered the Belgian winter of 1944. Churchill would later call it the Battle of the Bulge".
Although driven back to the borders of their Fatherland by the victorious Allies, the German soldier was far from defeated. Badly mauled in the charnel house of the Eastern Front and having suffered severe reversals in Normandy and in the retreat through France, they remained a deadly fighting force.
Such was Hitler's faith in his vaunted Panzerkorps that he now rested his hopes on an all-or-nothing masterstroke that would sweep the Allies back to the beaches.
Two Panzer Armies, von Manteuffel's 5th and Sepp Dietrich's 6th SS Panzer Army, together with Brandenberger's 7th Army in the south, would thrust through the hostile winter terrain of the Ardennes and drive for the all important supply port of Antwerp.
Joachim Peiper, commander of the armoured spearhead of 1st SS Panzer Division, in conference with some of the officers of other units under his command. Aside frorm men and tanks of his own division, these included King Tigers of the 501st heavy tank battalion and paratroops of battalion, 9th Fallschirmjäger regiment.
Besides the volunteer units, a few regular units were taken from the Heer, such as parachute battalions, 7.Panzer-Grenadier-Kompagnie and parts of 11.Panzer-Regiment. There were 500 Waffen-SS, 800 Luftwaffe and 1,200 Heer soldiers in the volunteer formation.
Because no one besides Skorzeny knew about the operation, there occured several rumors as to the purpose of the formation. Many of them were very optimistic (which could indicate that the soldiers were positive as to the future), but none of them were entirely accurate. These rumors were not put to rest, as the Allied intelligence would then be confused of the true purpose.
The prevent friendly fire, the Germans were to wear blue or pink scarfs, flash red or blue torches or (as for vehicles) display a yellow triangle on the rear of the tank (or drive with the gun pointing towards 9 o'clock). Furthermore, the unit was to paint white signs on the roads they used. This would certainly indicate to the Allies that something was up. Not only would it look suspecious that an entire unit of soldiers would wear similar scarfs - the ordinary army troops would also have to be told, which no doubt would have leaked to the Allies.
The best English-speaking volunteers were selected to a special commando unit, know as Einheit Stielau. They were taught in various forms of warfare, such as demolition and radio technique. They were also given instructions on how the US army looked like from within, and a few were sent to POW camps to refresh their English. This unit was be sent in small units, and destroy fuel dumps, bridges ammunition, do reconnaissance missions seep inside the Allied territory, and give out fake orders and spread confusion.
On 1944-12-14, Panzer-Brigade 150 reached its assembly area, and two days later, it moved out. The unit was attacking behind the forward units of the 1.SS-Pz.Div., 12.SS-Pz.Div. and 12.Volks-Grenadier-Division - the 3 leading formations. The unit, along with the rest of the offensive, was entangled in the massive traffic jams that occurred. Before having even moved into action, the leader of the first Kampfgruppe was killed by a mine.
After the I.SS-Panzer-Korps didn't arrive at the starting point until 2 days after the operation, and the Allies were aware of the operation, Skorzeny gave up the goals. He agreed with the 6.Panzer-Armee to use the unit as a regular battlegroup, and was given the task of securing the road junction of Malmédy, thus making the advance of the 1.SS-Pz.Div. and 12.SS-Pz.Div move again. What Skorzeny didn't know when planning this attack was, that what was thought to be only one engineer regiment holding Malmédy, was now more than a division.
On 1944-12-20, Panzer-Brigade 150 prepared to attack Malmédy. Because of the low strength of the unit, Skorzeny was hoping to be able to make a surprise attack. Unfortunately for Skorzeny, one of his men had been captured, and had revealed the battle plan. When Skorzeny attacked the day after, his Panzergrenadiers were met by heavy artillery, and therefore had to withdraw. Some of the Panthers set off a trip wire, and gave away their position. Although the Panzergrenadiers almost reached the US positions, they had to withdraw as darkness fell. Some Panthers and Panzergrenadiers managed to reach one of the US positions. Here, they were stopped by Private Francis Currey, who ran to help a bazooka gunner with new roackets (who then blew up a Panther), took the bazooka to fire at some of the Panzergrenadiers, managed to stop 3 Panthers with AT rifles, and then held back some more Panzergrenadiers long enough to allow a tank destroyer crew to escape. (an action for which he was later given the Congressional Medal of Honour).
The German forces slowly fell back, as they lost their Panther support - the only major battle by Panzer-Brigade 150 was over. On 1944-12-28, Panzer-Brigade 150 was relieved by the 18.Volks-Grenadier-Division. The unit withdrew and dissolved, the total casualties being 15 %.
[The greatest military disaster the United States suffered in the European Theater of Operations in World War II occurred in the Ardennes Offensive, when most of the U.S. 106th Infantry Division was destroyed in the Schnee Eifel (Snow Mountains). This defeat was not inflicted by the vaulted Panzer troops, the elite paratroopers, the hardened SS men, or Skorzeny's commandos. It was administered by a mediocre and unheralded unit - the 18th Volksgrenadier Division.]
We in the Western world equate the end of World War II with the Ardennes offensive—the Battle of the Bulge. Just before Christmas, 1944, in a thick fog that protected his tanks from Allied aircraft, Hitler gambled by launching a sudden counterattack in eastern Belgium, in difficult country, and brought off a tactical coup. His troops overwhelmed the surprised defenders, and it looked as if he would cut them off and reach the Allies' big supply port at Antwerp. But an American general famously said "Nuts" when called upon to surrender, and the fog lifted. The last German offensive in the West speedily crumbled, and from then on, though there was tough fighting in some places, the British and the Americans were able in many others just to walk forward, accepting the surrender of hundreds of thousands of Germans who were grateful to be giving up to the Western powers and not to the Soviets. Anglo-American captivity was not comfortable, particularly in the first few weeks, but at least the prisoners (in the main) could survive. Soviet captivity was a different matter. Of the 90,000 men who surrendered at Stalingrad in January of 1943, only 6,000 made it back to Germany, more than ten years later. The Soviets were not in a forgiving mood.
The final Western land campaign against Nazi Germany may have been something of an anticlimax. But on the Eastern Front the war came to an end apocalyptically. To Central Europeans with a historical sense, it must have seemed as cataclysmic as the Mongol invasions, seven centuries before. Millions of Red Army soldiers, thousands of tanks and aircraft, had lined up on the River Vistula, which bisects Poland from north to south. On January 12, 1945, they struck, with great howls of artillery and multiple-rocket launchers—"Stalin Organs," the Germans called them. Already, the preceding summer, a whole German army group had been ground down by this massive weight, and the local commanders were desperate to be allowed to retreat, to show some flexibility in defense. Hitler, by now madly obstinate, told them hold their ground.
Operation Greif and Eisenhower
As part of the German Ardennes offensive in late 1944 ("The Battle of the Bulge") Skorzeny's English speaking troops were charged with infiltrating Allied lines dressed and equipped as American soldiers in order to produce confusion to support the German attack. For the campaign, Skorzeny was the commander of a composite unit; the 150th SS Panzer Brigade.
As planned by Skorzeny, Operation Greif involved about two dozen German soldiers, most of them in captured American Jeeps and dressed as American soldiers, who would penetrate American lines in the early hours of the Battle of the Bulge and cause disorder and confusion behind the Allied lines. A handful of his men were captured and spread a rumour that Skorzeny personally was leading a raid on Paris to kill or capture General Eisenhower, who was not amused by having to spend Christmas 1944 isolated for security reasons. Eisenhower retaliated by ordering an all-out manhunt for Skorzeny, with "Wanted" posters distributed throughout Allied-controlled territories featuring a detailed description and a photograph
Revealed: Farce of plot to kidnap Eisenhower
By Tony Paterson in Berlin
They were the decisive days of the Second World War and the Nazis faced defeat. Allied troops were on French soil and Hitler, desperate to prevent an invasion of Germany, hatched a final extraordinary plan: infiltrate the US army and take Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, dead or alive.
The German leader entrusted Operation Greif to the Austrian SS Obersturmbahnfùhrer Otto Skorzeny, who had rescued Mussolini from imprisonment by the Italian government in 1943, flying him off a mountaintop in a tiny aircraft.
Skorzeny assembled a "crack unit" which would pose as GIs to launch their attack on Eisenhower at Fontainebleu, the Allied headquarters near Paris.
Yet, as one of the mission's survivors has now revealed, Operation Greif rapidly descended into farce. Of the 600 men who were to masquerade as Americans, only 10 could speak fluent English. Scores were caught by the Americans, exposed as Germans, and shot.
According to Fritz Christ, then a 21-year-old Luftwaffe lance-corporal, many of his comrades were hopelessly ill-equipped.
"Those with no English were instructed to exclaim, 'Sorry', if they were approached by Americans, and then to open their trousers and hurry off feigning an attack of diarrhoea," he told The Sunday Telegraph last week.
Mr Christ was transformed into "Lieutenant Charles Smith" from Detroit. The troops were trained to salute, shoot and even smoke like GIs, but there were fatal gaps in their coaching.
Many turned up at US army supply depots and asked for "petrol" instead of "gas". They mistakenly rode four to a Jeep instead of two, as was standard US army practice.
"Without prior notice, we were turned into suicide commandos," said Mr Christ, who decided to speak out to mark the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
"At the last minute, when there was no going back, we were given cigarette lighters stuffed with cyanide capsules. It became clear that we were being sent to face terrible danger."
Mr Christ says that in October 1944 he was duped into taking part in Operation Greif. Two plainclothed SS men turned up at his Luftwaffe barracks near Hamburg, asking for fluent English or French speakers.
Mr Christ, who had been trained as an English translator, immediately volunteered. "I thought, 'Wonderful! I am going to interrogate American prisoners of war and be well away from the fighting'," he said.
The following eight weeks surpassed his wildest expectations. At an SS training camp, the men were equipped with fake US army documents, dressed in captured US uniforms and coached to fire their US army-issue machineguns from the hip, American-style.
"We had to watch American films which showed us how the GIs saluted, and even how they smoked cigarettes - never right down to the butt - and put them out. We were even given daily lessons in American slang," Mr Christ said.
"We were accompanied by a fanatical SS officer who told us that our mission was to take Eisenhower dead or alive. We had detailed maps of French back roads leading to the general's headquarters at Fontainebleu."
The operation was considered so dangerous, however, that Hitler forbade Skorzeny himself from taking part. Skorzeny surrendered to the Allies in May 1945 and escaped from a prison camp in 1948. He settled in Fascist Spain and died in Madrid in 1975.
Nazi high command documents suggested that Operation Greif involved 3,000 men equipped with 20 US Sherman tanks and 30 captured US reconnaissance vehicles.
Yet in reality the mission was equipped with only two captured Shermans and a number of Jeeps. But though the raiders failed to achieve their goal, they did cause havoc within the US army ranks for several weeks.
L/Cpl Christ survived only because he was attacked by his own side. His lorry, marked with white US army stars, was strafed by Luftwaffe fighter planes shortly after it set out from Belgium towards American army lines on December 16, 1944.
"I jumped off the lorry and hid in a ditch before the vehicle exploded in a ball of fire," Mr Christ said.
"Nobody had told the Luftwaffe what was going on."
Skorzeny saw little action after the Battle of the Bulge, the last offensive of the exhausted German army. In the last months of the war the Germans were rapidly losing ground to the advancing Allies in both West and East.
Skorzeny spent January and February 1945 commanding regular troops in the defence of the German provinces of East Prussia and Pomerania, as an acting major general. He held off the advancing Soviet army with a ragtag force at Schwedt on the Oder River, 50 miles east of Berlin, but eventually had to fall back. Skorzeny also received orders to blow up to destroy the Ludendorff Bridge on the Rhine at Remagen, but his frogmen failed due to the icy waters.
On 9 Apr 1945, for his actions in the East, primarily in the defence of Frankfurt, Hitler awarded him one of Germany's highest military honours, the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross. He was sent on an inspection tour along the rapidly deteriorating Eastern front. During that tour, Skorzeny found out that his home city, Vienna, was about to be captured by the Russians. He hurried to Vienna, but it was too late for him to prevent its surrender the next day, Shortly after he left it.
Knowing, like many other Nazi leaders, that the war was lost, Skorzeny spent most of his time preparing for the future. Until March of 1945 he helped train several recruits for the underground resistance group known as "Werewolf" who were to make occupation by the Allies difficult, if not impossible. Skorzeny soon discovered that the number of Werewolf cells had been greatly exaggerated, and would be rather ineffective as a fighting force. Instead, the Werewolves would be used as part of a Nazi "underground railroad," facilitating travel along escape routes called "ratlines" that allowed thousands of SS officers and other Nazis to flee Germany after the fall of the Third Reich.
Since August of 1944, Skorzeny had been employed by various high-ranking Nazis and wealthy German industrialists to transfer and hide large quantities of money, looted property, documents, and other assets. Some of these were buried in the mountains of Bavaria, while other stashes were shipped overseas.
Two days before Hitler committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin, Skorzeny was given his last mission, to go to Bavaria in southern Germany, and command the German forces there in a last battle to the bitter end, as part of what was called "The Alpine Fortress" but when he got there, there was nothing left to command. After the German capitulation he was hiding himself for a while in a cabin in the Dachstein Mountains.
Skorzeny felt he could potentially be of use to the Americans in the forthcoming Cold War. On May 16, 1945, Otto Skorzeny emerged from the Austrian woods near Salzburg and surrendered to a lieutenant of the US Thirtieth Infantry Regiment. His commando unit, which was separately sent to "The Alpine Fortress", surrendered in Linz, Hitler's home town in Austria.
Post World War II
Skorzeny was held as a prisoner of war for more than two years before being tried as a war criminal at the Dachau Trials in 1947 for allegedly violating the laws of war in the Battle of the Bulge. He and officers of the Panzer Brigade 150 were charged with improperly using American uniforms to infiltrate American lines. Skorzeny was brought before a US military court in Dachau on 18 August 1947. He and nine fellow officers of the 150th Panzer Brigade would face charges of improper use of military insignia, theft of US uniforms, and theft of Red Cross parcels from prisoners of war. The trial lasted over three weeks. The charge of stealing Red Cross parcels was dropped for lack of evidence. Skorzeny admitted to ordering his men to wear American uniforms, but his defence argued that as long as the enemy uniforms were discarded before combat started, such a tactic was a legitimate ruse de guerre. On the final day of the trial, 9 September, Wing Commander F. F. E. Yeo-Thomas, recipient of the George Cross and the Croix de guerre, and a former British Special Operations Executive agent, testified that he had worn German uniforms behind enemy lines. Realising that to convict Skorzeny could expose their own agent to the same charges, the tribunal acquitted the ten defendants, the military tribunal drawing a distinction between using enemy uniforms during combat and for other purposes including deception. They could not prove that Skorzeny had given any orders to actually fight in a US uniform.
Escape from prison and ODESSA
Despite his acquittal by the Americans, Skorzeny remained a prisoner, was detained in an internment camp at Darmstadt awaiting the decision of a denazification court, as other nations wished to try him for war crimes. During his internment, both before and after the Dachau trial, Skorzeny continued his clandestine activities. An informant for Army Counterintelligence discovered a vast underground network known as ODESSA, which helped Nazi prisoners escape and secure false identity papers. Otto Skorzeny was identified as a leader of this movement, though very little concrete evidence existed.
Meanwhile, while in prison, Skorzeny received offers of employment from the Soviets. He refused all of these, but said nothing of such overtures until early 1948, when he told his American captors, perhaps to prevent his extradition for another trial. In fact, the US had been blocking his extradition to Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia since his acquittal. Unfortunately, by midsummer of 1948 it looked like the Czechs would succeed, as they were now working through the United Nations. By that time, both the US and Skorzeny knew something had to be done to keep him out of Soviet hands. Fieldmarshall Montgomery had warned him there were plans to kill 'the most dangerous man in Europe".
On July 27, 1948, a car bearing American military license plates arrived at the Darmstadt internment camp where the infamous commando was being held. Three US Army police-one captain and two enlisted men-exited the vehicle and entered the detention center. "We are here to take prisoner Otto Skorzeny to Nuremburg for his scheduled hearing tomorrow," the captain announced. Within minutes, Skorzeny was handed over to the "police"- who were actually SS veterans - and vanished from the camp forever. fleeing first to France where an American colonel gave him refuge in his Parisian apartment.. When questioned years later about the escape, Skorzeny claimed that the license plates and uniforms were supplied by the American camp commander.
Skorzeny hid out at a farm in Bavaria which had been rented by Countess Ilse Lüthje, the niece of Hjalmar Schacht (Hitler's former finance minister), for around 18 months, during which time he was in contact with Reinhard Gehlen, and together with Hartmann Lauterbacher (former deputy head of the Hitler Youth) recruited for the Gehlen Organization.
Hartmann Lauterbacher (24 May 1909 in Reutte, Tyrol – 12 April 1988 in Seebruck, Bavaria) was a high area leader (Obergebietsführer) of the Hitler Youth, as well as Nazi Gauleiter of the Gau of South Hanover-Braunschweig and an SS Gruppenführer.
A veterinarian's son, he went to the Reformgymnasium in Kufstein and eventually learnt to be a druggist.
Already by 1923, the then 14-year-old Hartmann Lauterbacher had become a member of the Austria-based NSDAP's youth organization. It is even said that Lauterbacher founded the first ever NSDAP youth local in Austria, in Kufstein. In 1925, when he was 16 years old, Lauterbacher was the leader of the Deutsche Jugend ("German Youth"), which he transferred to the Hitler Youth in 1927.
For professional reasons, Lauterbacher had to move to Braunschweig, where he joined the Nazi Party in September 1927. Between 1929 and 1930, he attended the Braunschweig Druggists' Academy. From 1929 to 1932 he led the Hitler Youth of the Gau of South Hanover-Braunschweig, as of 1930 as his main job.
Between 1932 and 1933, Lauterbacher was appointed leader of the Westphalia-Lower Rhine area, and between 1933 and 1934 he was appointed high area leader of the Hitler Youth West.
On 22 May 1934, Baldur von Schirach appointed Lauterbacher his deputy and staff leader. In 1936, Lauterbacher functioned as a member of the Reichstag, as of April 1937 as a ministerial adviser.
Baldur Benedikt von Schirach (9 May 1907 – 8 August 1974) was a Nazi youth leader later convicted of crimes against humanity. He was the head of the Hitler-Jugend (HJ, the "Hitler Youth") and Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter ("Reich Governor") of Vienna.
Schirach was born in Berlin, the youngest of four children of theatre director Rittmeister Carl Baily Norris von Schirach (1873–1948) and his American wife Emma Middleton Lynah Tillou (1872–1944). Through his mother, Schirach descended from two signatories of the United States Declaration of Independence. English was in fact the first language which he learned at home and he was not able to speak German until the age of five. He had two sisters, Viktoria and Rosalind von Schirach, and a brother, Karl Benedict von Schirach, who committed suicide in 1919 at the age of 19.
On 31 March 1932 von Schirach married 19-year-old Henriette Hoffmann, the daughter of Heinrich Hoffmann, Adolf Hitler's personal photographer and close friend. Von Schirach's family was vehemently opposed to the marriage to Henriette, but Hitler insisted. Von Schirach, says Gregor Strasser, was "a young effeminate aristocrat" upon whom Hitler bestowed Henriette and the HJ position. Through this relationship, von Schirach became part of Hitler's inner circle. The young couple were appreciated guests at Hitler's "Berghof". Henriette von Schirach gave birth to four children: Angelika Benedikta von Schirach (born 1933), Klaus von Schirach (born 1935), Robert von Schirach (1938) and Richard von Schirach (born 1942). The lawyer and bestselling German crime writer Ferdinand von Schirach is his grandson.
He was a published author, contributing to literature journals, and an influential patron of the arts.
Schirach joined a Wehrjugendgruppe (military cadet group) at the age of 10 and became a member of the NSDAP in 1925. He was soon transferred to Munich and in 1929 became leader of the Nationalsozialistischen Deutschen Studentenbund (NSDStB, National Socialist German Students' League). In 1931 he was a Reichsjugendführer (youth leader) in the NSDAP and in 1933 he was made head of the Hitler Youth (Hitler-Jugend) and given an SA rank of Gruppenführer. He was made a state secretary in 1936.
In 1940 he organized the evacuation of 5 million children from cities threatened by Allied bombing. Later that year, he joined the army and volunteered for service in France, where he was awarded the Iron Cross before being recalled. Schirach lost control of the Hitler Youth to Artur Axmann, and was appointed Governor ("Gauleiter" or "Reichsstatthalter") of the Reichsgau Vienna, a post in which he remained until the end of the war. He was both an anti-Semite and anti-Christian. Over the next few years Schirach was responsible for sending Jews from Vienna to German death camps. During his tenure 65,000 Jews were deported from Vienna to Poland, and in a speech on 15 September 1942 he mentioned their deportation as a "contribution to European culture." Later during the war von Schirach pleaded for a moderate treatment of the eastern European peoples and criticized the conditions in which Jews were being deported. He fell into disfavour in 1943, but remained at his post.
Schirach was notoriously anxious about air raids. He had the cellars of the Hofburg Palace in the Vienna city centre refurbished and adapted as a bomb shelter, and the lower level of the extensive subterranean Vienna air defence coordination centre in the forests to the west of Vienna held personal facilities for him as well. The Viennese promptly dubbed this C&C centre Schirach-Bunker.
Schirach surrendered in 1945 and was one of the officials put on trial at Nuremberg. At the trial Schirach was one of only two men to denounce Hitler (the other was Albert Speer). He said that he did not know about the extermination camps. He also provided evidence that he had protested to Martin Bormann about the inhumane treatment of the Jews. Also, it was revealed by Schirach at Nuremberg that the roots of his antisemitism could be found in the readings of Henry Ford's The International Jew. He was found guilty, on 1 October 1946, of crimes against humanity for his deportation of the Viennese Jews. He was sentenced and served 20 years as a prisoner in Spandau Prison.
On 20 July 1949 his wife Henriette von Schirach (3 February 1913 – 27 January 1992) divorced him while he was in prison.
Lothar Machtan's book The Hidden Hitler asserts that von Schirach was bisexual. Walter C. Langer's wartime psychiatric report on Nazis leaders, later published as The Mind of Adolf Hitler, portrays Baldur von Schirach as a homosexual.[
He was released on 30 September 1966, and retired quietly to southern Germany. He published his memoirs, Ich glaubte an Hitler ("I believed in Hitler") and died on 8 August 1974 in Kröv.
While von Schirach was away performing a short stint in the military, Lauterbacher took over the Hitler Youth's commissary leadership. When he likewise found himself having to spend a few weeks at military service, in the shape of an SS formation, he suffered an accident and was wounded badly enough to make deployment anywhere other than on the homefront quite impossible.
However, since a Hitler Youth leader could not show any sign of physical flaw or marring, Lauterbacher had to hand his position over to Arthur Axmann, who now became Baldur von Schirach's deputy.
Artur Axmann (18 February 1913 – 24 October 1996) was the German Nazi leader of the Hitler Youth (Reichsjugendführer) from 1940 to the war's end in 1945. He was the last living Nazi with a rank equivalent to Reichsführer.
Axmann was born in Hagen on 18 February 1913. In 1928, he founded the first Hitler Youth group in Westphalia. He became very active in the local Nazi Party. Thereafter, he studied law at school.
In 1932, he was called to be a Reich Leader (Reichsleiter) of the Nazi Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP) to carry out a reorganisation of Nazi youth cells. In 1933, Axmann became Chief of the Social Office of the Reich Youth Leadership. He directed the Hitler Youth in state vocational training and succeeded in raising the status of Hitler Youth agricultural work.
He was on active service on the Western Front until May 1940. In August of the same year Axmann succeeded Baldur von Schirach as Reich Youth Leader (Reichsjugendführer) of the Nazi Party. In 1941, he was severely wounded on the Eastern Front, losing an arm.
During the last weeks of the war, Axmann commanded units of the Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend), which had been incorporated into the Home Guard (Volkssturm). His units consisted mostly of children and adolescents. They primarily fought in the Battle of Seelow Heights (Seelower Höhen), which was a part of the larger Battle of Berlin (Endkampf um Berlin). Many of the young people fighting for Germany under Axmann died after receiving neither military training nor equipment.
On 4 January 1944, Axmann was awarded the German Order, the highest decoration that the Nazi Party could bestow on an individual, for his services to the Reich. He and one other recipient, K. Hierl, were the only holders of the award to survive the war and its consequences. All other recipients were either awarded it posthumously, or were killed during the war or its aftermath.
During 1945, Axmann was pressured to let young women be conscripted into combat roles for the last defence of Germany. Although Axmann had permitted young boys to fight in the final days, he refused to allow girls to fight. He stated, "Women bring life into the world, they do not take it."
During Hitler's last days, Axmann was among those present in the Führerbunker. On 30 April 1945, just a few hours before committing suicide, Hitler signed the order to allow a breakout. On 1 May, Axmann left the Führerbunker with SS doctor Ludwig Stumpfegger and Martin Bormann as part of a group attempting to break out of the Soviet encirclement. Their group managed to cross the River Spree at the Weidendammer Bridge.
Leaving the rest of their group, Bormann, Stumpfegger and Axmann walked along railway tracks to Lehrter railway station. Bormann and Stumpfegger followed the railway tracks towards Stettiner station. Axmann decided to go alone in the opposite direction of his two companions. When he encountered a Red Army patrol, Axmann doubled back and later insisted he had seen the bodies of Bormann and Stumpfegger near the railway switching yard (Stettiner Bahnhof) with moonlight clearly illuminating their faces. He did not check the bodies, so he did not know how they died.
He avoided capture by Soviet troops and disappeared. Axmann, presumed dead, lived under the alias of "Erich Siewert" for several months. Axmann was arrested in December 1945 when a Nazi underground movement which he had been organising was uncovered by a U.S. Army counterintelligence operation.
In May 1949, a Nuremberg de-Nazification court sentenced Axmann to a prison sentence of three years and three months as a 'major offender'.
On 19 August 1958, a West Berlin de-Nazification court fined the former Hitler Youth leader 35,000 marks (approximately £3,000, or $8,300 USD), about half the value of his property in Berlin. The court found him guilty of indoctrinating German youth with National Socialism until the end of the Third Reich, but concluded he had been a Nazi from inner conviction rather than base motives. During his trial, Axmann told the court he heard the shot by which Hitler committed suicide. He also stated he had attempted to escape from central Berlin along with Martin Bormann, who he said had died during the attempt.
After his release from prison, Axmann worked as a sales representative in Gelsenkirchen and Berlin. He eventually became a prosperous businessman.
Axmann died in Berlin in 1996.
In August 1940, Lauterbacher was appointed acting Gauleiter of South Hanover-Braunschweig, and on 8 December 1940, as Science and Education Minister Bernhard Rust's successor, he was appointed full-fledged Gauleiter. At the same time he received an appointment as Honorary Leader of the Academy for Youth Leadership in Braunschweig
In January 1941, Lauterbacher was appointed to the Prussian State Council, and took over as High President (Oberpräsident) of the Province of Hanover on 1 April 1941 as SA Chief of Staff Viktor Lutze's successor. At about the same time came his promotion to SS Gruppenführer. Lauterbacher's last promotion came in November 1942, when he was appointed Reich Defence Commissar.
On 10 April 1945, shortly before the Allied forces marched into Germany, and only 20 days before Adolf Hitler killed himself, Lauterbacher took his family to safety in the Harz, but not without having announced over wired radio the requisite exhortations to hold out against the onslaught. Two days earlier, on 8 April, he had loaded his car up with cigarettes so that he could flee south from the Harz posing as a cigarette sales agent. Nonetheless, only a day after leaving his family in the Harz, on 11 April, after making it as far as Carinthia, Hartmann Lauterbacher was seized and taken prisoner by the British.
Early in July 1946, the High British Military Court in Hanover acquitted Lauterbacher of the charge of having ordered early in April 1945 the murder of German and Allied detainees at the prison in Hamelin.
In August 1947, new proceedings against Lauterbacher began at the Dachau International Military Tribunal. At issue this time was an order allegedly given by Lauterbacher in September 1944 for the shooting of twelve American airman who had been shot down over Goslar. In October 1947, this trial, too, ended in acquittal.
Lauterbacher, who since the end of the war had been interned in the Sandbostel camp near Bremervörde, managed on 25 February 1948 to flee detention owing to circumstances that are still unclear.
He went underground, until he was arrested in Rome in April 1950. Here he was dealing with people smugglers who took people from former fascist states with warrants or charges outstanding against them to South America or the Middle East.
Sent to the La Frachette camp near Rome by the Italians, who had declared him an "undesirable foreigner", Lauterbacher still managed to flee a few months later, in December 1950, to Argentina, following the same route Adolf Eichmann took the same year. In Buenos Aires he helped develop ratlines for other Nazis seeking to flee from Europe.
From there he went to Egypt with the assistance of the CIA and West German intelligence to train anti-Israel guerrillas.
He was reported by the police in Munich on 4 September 1956. As more intensive investigations got underway, Lauterbacher once more went underground, this time, though, without leaving any trail.
In the early 1980s it came to light that between 1977 and 1979, Lauterbacher had been working as an adviser in the Omani Ministry of Youth. The last few years of his life he spent very reclusively in Germany. Only his death certificate establishes that he died in Seebruck.
Hartmann Lauterbacher, Baldur von Schirach's deputy, was said to be the organizational talent and the active element of the Reich Youth Leadership. As Gauleiter and High President in Hanover, he bore a great deal of the responsibility for stripping Jews of their rights and deporting them.
German justice, which had already begun proceedings through the Hanover prosecutor's office in 1947, later followed by investigative proceedings in Munich and Hanover, contented itself, however, to discontinue the investigation owing to lapse of time.
The suspicion keeps arising that Hartmann Lauterbacher was active in the Allied secret service, and the Gehlen Organization.
The Prize Lies of a Nazi Tycoon", Michael Pinto-Duschinsky Standpoint Magazine. April 2010. Retrieved May 5, 2010
Gehlen Organization or Gehlen Org was an intelligence agency established in June 1946 by U.S. occupation authorities in the United States Zone of Germany, and consisted of former members of the 12th Department of the Army General Staff (Foreign Armies East, or FHO). It carries the name of Reinhard Gehlen.
Gehlen had all along been under the tutelage of US Army G-2 (intelligence), but he wished to establish and succeeded in establishing an association with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in 1947. In alliance with the CIA, the military orientation of the organization turned increasingly toward political, economic and technical espionage against the Eastern bloc and the moniker "Pullach" became synonymous with secret service intrigues.
The Org was for many years the only eyes and ears of the CIA on the ground in the Soviet Bloc nations during the Cold War. The CIA kept close tabs on the Gehlen group: the Org supplied the manpower while the CIA supplied the material needs for clandestine operations, including funding, cars and airplanes.
Every German POW returning from Soviet captivity to West Germany between 1947 and 1955 was interviewed by Org agents. Those returnees who were forced to work in Soviet industries and construction and were willing to participate, represented an incomparable source of information, a post-war, up-to-date picture of the Soviet empire as it evolved.
The Org had close contacts with East European émigré organizations. Unheralded tasks, such as observations of the operation of Soviet rail systems, airfields and ports were as important as was infiltration in the Baltic and the Ukraine, using former Kriegsmarine E-boats from bases in Turkey. Another mission by the Gehlen Organization was "Operation Rusty" that carried out counter-espionage activities directed against dissident German organizations in Europe.
The Org "Operation Bohemia" was a major counter-espionage success. By penetrating a Czechoslovak run operation, the Org uncovered another network – a spy ring run by the Yugoslav secret service in several cities in western Europe. The Gehlen Organization was also successful in discovering a secret Soviet assassination unit functioning under the umbrella of SMERSH. An Org informant in Prague reported that the Red Army had been issued an advanced, multi-usage detonator of Czech design but was manufactured in a defense plant in Kharkov. The CIA showed interest. Several weeks later Org’s couriers presented the detonator, with complete technical data to the CIA liaison staff at Pullach. Just after, the Czech engineer and his family were smuggled across the frontier into West Germany and on to the United States. By identifying people who suffered under the new communist regimes in eastern Europe, the Org recruited many agents who "wished nothing more than to drive the Bolsheviks from Europe."
The Gehlen Organization was severely compromised by East German communist moles within the organization itself, and communists and their sympathizers within the CIA and the British MI6, particularly Harold "Kim" Philby. The WIN mission to Poland was a failure due to the compromising of the mission by counter-spies; as it turned out, the so-called Fifth Command of WiN organization within Poland had been created by the Soviet intelligence services.
The Gehlen Org employed hundreds of ex-Nazis. Gehlen initially rejected hiring ex-SS personnel, but later as justification for their recruiting he insinuated that the East German State Security Service had been largely run by ex-SS personnel, i.e., it takes one to catch the other.
Once the Org emerged in minuscule steps from the shadows, Gehlen and his group were attacked relentlessly from both sides, the West and the East. The British in particular had a problem with Gehlen and segments of the English press made sure it became known. Beginning with an article on 17 March 1952, Sefton Delmer, senior correspondent for London’s Daily Express, dragged Gehlen into the news. On 10 August 1954, Delmer would set the tone by announcing that "Gehlen and his Nazis are coming." Delmer implied in his story that a continuation of nothing less than Hitler’s aims was at hand through this "monstrous underground power in Germany." In more recent days, after reviewing selected declassified CIA documents on the Gehlen Org, a Guardian article vents, that "... for all the moral compromises involved [in hiring former Nazis], it was a complete failure in intelligence terms. The Nazis were terrible spies." The communist East as well castigated Gehlen’s group as fanatical and virulent agents of revenge and of American imperialism.
There was also Alois Brunner in Syria, alleged to be an Org operative, who was responsible for the Drancy internment camp near Paris, for the death of 140,000 Jews, and is believed to be still alive as of 2007; the CIA turned a blind eye, and indeed actively participated in some cases, because of the exigencies of the Cold War.
(born 8 April 1912) was a German Schutzstaffel (SS) officer. Brunner was Adolf Eichmann's assistant, and Eichmann referred to Brunner as his "best man". As commander of the Drancy internment camp outside Paris from June 1943 to August 1944, Brunner is held responsible for sending some 140,000 European Jews to the gas chambers. Nearly 24,000 of them were deported from the Drancy camp. He was condemned to death in absentia in France in 1954 for crimes against humanity. In 1961 and in 1980, Brunner lost, respectively, an eye and the fingers of his left hand, as a result of letter bombs sent to him by the Israeli Mossad.
In 2003, The Guardian described him as "the world's highest-ranking Nazi fugitive believed still alive". Brunner was last reported to be living in Syria, whose government had long rebuffed international efforts to locate or apprehend him. The government of Syria under Hafez el-Assad was close to extraditing Alois Brunner to East Germany, before this plan was halted by the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.
Born in Nádkút, Vas, Austria-Hungary (now Rohrbrunn, Burgenland, Austria). Brunner is the son of Josef Brunner and Ann Kruise. Brunner was a trouble-shooter for the Schutzstaffel (SS) and held the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) when he organized deportations to Nazi concentration camps from Vichy France and Slovakia. He was commander of a train of Jews deported from Vienna to Riga in February 1942. En route, Brunner shot and killed the well-known financier Siegmund Bosel, who, although ill, had been hauled out of a Vienna hospital and placed on the train. According to historian Gertrude Schneider, who as a young girl was deported to Riga on the same train, but survived the Holocaust:
Alois Brunner chained Bosel, still in his pajamas, to the platform of the first car — our car — and berated him for having been a profiteer. The old man repeatedly asked for mercy; he was very ill, and it was bitterly cold. Finally Brunner wearied of the game and shot him. Afterward, he walked into the car and asked whether anyone had heard anything. After being assured that no one had, he seemed satisfied and left.
~Schneider, Gertrude, Journey into Terror: Story of the Riga Ghetto, p. 25, Westport, Connecticut, USA, Praeger, 2001; ISBN 0-275
He was personally sent by Adolf Eichmann in 1944 to Slovakia to oversee the deportation of Jews. From early 1944 until January 1945, over one million Jews were transported to Auschwitz. Before being named commander of Drancy internment camp near Paris, Brunner deported 43,000 Jews from Vienna and 46,000 from Salonika. In the last days of the Third Reich he managed to deport another 13,500 from Slovakia.
In an interview with the German magazine Bunte, in 1985, Brunner describes how he escaped capture by the Allies immediately after the Second World War. The identity of Brunner was apparently mixed up with that of another SS member, Anton Brunner, who was executed for war crimes, instead of Alois, who, like Josef Mengele, lacked the SS blood type tattoo, which prevented him from being detected in an Allied prison camp. Anton Brunner, who also worked in Vienna deporting Jews, was confused after the war with Alois Brunner, even by historians such as Gerald Reitlinger.
Claiming that he "received official documents under a false name from American authorities", Brunner professed he found work as a driver for the United States Army in the period after the war. It has been alleged that Brunner found a working relationship after World War II with the Gehlen Organization.
He then fled Germany only in 1954, on a fake Red Cross passport, first to Rome, then Egypt, where he worked as a weapons dealer, and then to Syria, where he took the pseudonym of Dr Georg Fischer. In Syria, he was allegedly hired as a "government advisor" — with some suggesting he was advising the Syrian dictatorship on torture and repression techniques, some dating from his time as an SS torturer. Syria had long refused entry to French investigators as well as to nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld who spent nearly 15 years bringing the case to court in France. Simon Wiesenthal tried unsuccessfully to trace Brunner's whereabouts. However, communist East Germany led by Erich Honecker negotiated with Syria in the late 1980s to have Alois Brunner extradited and arrested in Berlin. The government of Syria under Hafez el-Assad was close to extradite Brunner to East Germany, but the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 severed contacts between the two regimes and halted the extradition plan.
In his 1980s interview by the German magazine Bunte, Brunner declared that his sole regret was not having murdered more Jews. In a 1987 telephone interview to the Chicago Sun Times, he stated: "The Jews deserved to die. They were garbage, I have no regrets. If I had the chance I would do it again..."] He was reported to be living in Damascus under the alias of Dr Georg Fischer. Although there were unconfirmed reports that Brunner may have died in 1996, he was reportedly sighted in 2001.
In 2011, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that the German intelligence service Bundesnachrichtendienst had destroyed its file on Brunner in the 1990s, and that remarks in remaining files contain conflicting statements as to whether Brunner had worked for the BND at some point.
Israel's intelligence service, the Mossad, had tried to assassinate Alois Brunner, but failed. In 1961, the Mossad sent a bomb package to Brunner. Two Damascus postal workers were killed, but Brunner was only injured. Brunner lost an eye and fingers on his left hand from letter bombs sent to him in 1961 and in 1980 by the Mossad. In December 1999, rumours surfaced saying that he had died in 1996 and had been buried in a cemetery in Damascus. However, German journalists visiting Syria said Brunner was living at the Meridian Hotel in Damascus. According to the British newspaper The Guardian, Brunner was last seen alive by reliable witnesses in 1992, and by journalists in 1996.
Germany and other countries have unsuccessfully requested his extradition. He was twice sentenced to death in absentia in the 1950s; one of those convictions was in France in 1954. In August 1987 an Interpol "red notice" was issued for him. In 1995, German State prosecutors in Cologne and Frankfurt posted a €333,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
On 2 March 2001, he was found guilty in absentia by a French court for crimes against humanity, including the arrest and deportation of 345 orphans from the Paris region (which had not been judged in the earlier trials) and was sentenced to life imprisonment. According to Serge Klarsfeld, the trial was largely symbolic — an effort to honour the memories of victims. Klarsfeld's own father, arrested in 1943, was reportedly one of Brunner's victims.
In 2004, for an episode titled "Hunting Nazis", the television series Unsolved History used facial recognition software to compare Alois Brunner's official SS photograph with a recent photo of "Georg Fischer", and came up with a match of 8.1 points out of 10, which they claimed was, despite the elapse of over 50 years in aging, equivalent to a match with 95% certainty. Brazilian police are said to be investigating whether a suspect living in the country under an assumed name is actually Alois Brunner. Dep.-Cmdr. Asher Ben-Artzi, the head of Israel's Interpol and Foreign Liaison Section, passed on a Brazilian request for Brunner's fingerprints to Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, but Zuroff could not find any.
In July 2007, the Austrian Justice Ministry declared that they would pay €50,000 for information leading to his arrest and extradition to Austria.
In March 2009, the Simon Wiesenthal Center admitted that the possibility of Brunner still being alive was "slim". Despite this reality, he resurfaced in media reports in 2011 as being one of the most wanted men globally who many insist could still be alive.
According to Robert Wolfe, historian at the US National Archives, "US Army intelligence accepted Reinhard Gehlen's offer to furnish alleged expertise on the Red Army – and was bilked by the many mass murderers he hired."
In 1948, the Gehlen Organization had an annual budget of US$1,500,000 (inflation adjusted US$14.5 million present day).
Höhne, Heinz; Zolling, Hermann (1972). The General Was a Spy: The Truth about General Gehlen and his spy ring. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan. ISBN 0698104307.
Otto and Evita
In 1951 Skorzeny established a base of operations in Madrid, Spain, under the fascist regime of Francisco Franco. Here Skorzeny started a successful engineering firm, but also engaged in less scrupulous ventures, such as the international arms trade. He also continued to oversee the activities of ODESSA and other Nazi organizations.
In 1949, Skorzeny was known to be in Argentina, where many of his fellow Nazis had fled to the safety of the fascist Peron government. Skorzeny went to Argentina because he was concerned about the Bormann treasure-a vast amount of wealth accumulated by Hitler's right-hand man, Martin Bormann, who for years had been embezzling money from a secret Nazi fund in the Reichsbank in Berlin. This secret fund was derived from the currency, gold, jewels, and other assets taken from the victims of the death camps. Skorzeny had helped Bormann transfer part of this fortune before the war ended.
Martin Bormann had entrusted Juan Peron as caretaker of the Nazi fortune before the end of the war. In 1945, Peron married the social-climbing temptress Evita Duarte, and before long she had arranged to have the entire amount of the fortune deposited in her name in several Buenos Aires banks. The Bormann treasure at the end of 1945 was estimated at over $800 million in bank deposits, 2500 kilograms of gold, 90 kilograms of platinum, and 4600 carats of diamonds and other precious stones. When Bormann failed to appear after the war ended, the Perons acted as if the fortune were theirs alone.
Juan Peron had admired Skorzeny ever since the Mussolini rescue, and welcomed the big Austrian personally upon his arrival in Argentina. Wishing to develop a good relationship with the Argentine president, Skorzeny gave no hint that he even knew the treasure existed. Argentina was a place of great unrest at the time, and Peron readily accepted Skorzeny's offer to help maintain order in the country. One result of Skorzeny's "help" was that the Argentine police became quite versed in Nazi torture and interrogation methods.
Evita's trust had to be won in a more clever fashion. In July, 1949, Skorzeny received word that two navy officers were planning to murder the first lady. The big commando led a police raid on the men's apartment, where he found guns, ammo, and details of the hit. Skorzeny rushed to the Evita's office and warned her of the plot. She did not take the plot seriously, but did invite Skorzeny to accompany her on a visit to one of her charities. On the way, Skorzeny ordered the driver to stop. He jumped out of the limousine and ran into a nearby building. Skorzeny emerged moments later, holding the two would-be assassins at gunpoint. In truth, the two men had been captured and placed in the building earlier by former SS members Skorzeny had dispatched after the apartment raid. He never told Evita that the rescue was staged, however, for he had now gained her trust.
Evita and Skorzeny became lovers, and by early 1950 he had reclaimed roughly one-forth of the Bormann treasure, which he funneled back to ODESSA and other Nazi groups. When Evita died from cancer in 1952, the remainder of the Bormann treasure was inherited by Juan Peron. Skorzeny finally recovered the remainder of the fortune in 1955, when Peron's government fell. Skorzeny helped Peron escape Argentina and arranged for him to live in exile in Spain. Skorzeny received the remainder of the Bormann treasure in return.
Skorzeny was photographed at a café on the Champs Elysées in Paris on 13 February 1950. The photo appeared in the French press the next day, causing him to retreat to Salzburg, where he met up with German veterans and also filed for divorce so that he could marry Ilse Lüthje. Shortly afterwards, with the help of a Nansen passport issued by the Spanish government, he moved to Madrid, where he set up a small engineering business which helped serve as a front for his operations with the ODESSA network as he had become the Spanish coordinator.
On April 1950 the publication of Skorzeny's memoirs by French newspaper Le Figaro caused 1500 communists to riot outside the journal's headquarters.
Skorzeny had also been spending time in Egypt. In 1952, the country had been taken over by General Mohammed Naguib. Skorzeny was sent to Egypt the following year by former General Reinhard Gehlen, who was now working for the CIA, to act as Naguib's military advisor. Skorzeny recruited a staff made up of former SS officers to train the Egyptian army. Among these officers were SS General Wilhelm Fahrmbacher, Panzer General Oskar Munzel, Leopold Gleim, head of the Gestapo Department for Jewish Affairs in Poland, and Joachim Daemling, former chief of the Gestapo in Düsseldorf.
Wilhelm Fahrmbacher (19 September 1888 – 27 April 1970) was a highly decorated General der Artillerie in the Wehrmacht during World War II who commanded several corps. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Wilhelm Fahrmbacher was captured by American troops in 1945, he was handed over to French forces and held until 1950.
Oskar Munzel (13 March 1899 – 1 January 1992) was a highly decorated Generalmajor in the Wehrmacht during World War II and a General der Kampftruppen in the Bundeswehr who commanded several divisions. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Oskar Munzel was captured by Allied troops in 1945 and was released in 1947. For 4 years he served as a military advisor in Egypt, and then he joined the Bundeswehr in 1956 and retired in 1962.
Leopold Gleim was a Colonel and SS Standartenführer in Warsaw during the Second World War. He was for a time head of the Gestapo Department for Jewish Affairs in Poland.
Joachim Daemling, Düsseldorf Chief of the Gestapo, became a Consultant for the Egyptian penitentiary system and was an active member of Radio Cairo.
Many other Nazis joined Skorzeny in Egypt, attracted to the Naguib/Nasser government's tolerance for fascism and their shared hatred for the newly created state of Israel. The Nazis further fueled Arab antisemitism with translated copies of Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
In addition to training the army, Skorzeny also trained Arab volunteers in commando tactics for possible use against British troops stationed in the Suez Canal zone. Several Palestinian refugees also received commando training, and Skorzeny planned their raids into Israel via the Gaza Strip in 1953-1954. One of these Palestinians was Yasser Arafat. He would eventually serve as an adviser to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Skorzeny later provided intelligence to Mossad, Israel's external intelligence service, on ex-Nazi scientists working for the Egyptian government. Skorzeny agreed to cooperate with Israel on condition that Simon Wiesenthal erase his name from the list of wanted Nazi war criminals and act to have an arrest warrant against him cancelled. Though Wiesenthal rejected this request, Skorzeny decided in the end to cooperate with Mossad anyway.
Skorzeny and the Nazi Hunters
"We Fought - We Lost"
Unlike many of his fellow Nazis, Skorzeny never denounced Hitler or National Socialism, and remained unapologetic for his actions during the war. For nearly thirty years, he devoted much time to thwarting Nazi hunters, though Skorzeny was rarely a target himself.
In 1964, famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal located Franz Paul Stangl, former commander of the Treblinka death camp, in Brazil. However, the Brazilian police refuse to arrest him and Austrian authorities refused to extradite him. For three years, Skorzeny bribed police and Austrian officials until an anti-Nazi governor was elected in Stangl's state, and Wiesenthal was finally able to arrange the war criminal's arrest and extradition.
Skorzeny also used long trial delays as a tactic to prevent his comrades from facing justice. Delays of ten years were not uncommon, due to bribes doled out to judges and prosecutors. He was also very good at hiding his fellow Nazis. When Adolf Eichman was captured by Israeli agents in Buenos Aires in 1960, Skorzeny sent word to other Nazis in the city to seek safer locations immediately. One of these was Josef Mengele, Auschwitz's "Angel of Death," who was responsible for sending tens of thousands to their deaths in the gas chambers, and thanks to Skorzeny and ODESSA, never paid for his crimes.
Protecting his fellow Nazis also involved killing any who attempted to squeal. In 1965 Hubert Curkers, the "Monster of Riga" who helped massacre 32,000 Latvian Jews in 1941, offered to reveal Mengele's location to Jewish agents for $150,000 and a guarantee of his own safety. A few days later Curkers' body was found in Montevideo, Uruguay with his skull crushed.
Using the cover names of Robert Steinbacher and Otto Steinbauer, and supported by either Nazi funds (or according to some sources Austrian Intelligence), he set up a secret organization named Die Spinne which helped as many as 600 former SS men escape from Germany to Spain, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia, and other countries. As the years went by, Skorzeny, Gehlen, and their network of collaborators gained enormous influence in Europe and Latin America. Skorzeny traveled between Franquist Spain and Argentina, where he acted as an advisor to President Juan Perón and bodyguard of Eva Perón, while fostering an ambition for the "Fourth Reich" centered in Latin America.
Die Spinne, translated as The Spider, is believed by some to be a secret organization established and led in part by Otto Skorzeny, Hitler's commando chief, as well as Nazi intelligence officer Reinhard Gehlen which helped as many as 600 former SS men escape from Germany to Spain, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia, and other countries.
Die Spinne was established by Skorzeny using the cover names of Robert Steinbacher and Otto Steinbauer, and supported by either Nazi funds (or according to some sources Austrian Intelligence). As the years went by, Skorzeny, Gehlen, and their network of collaborators gained enormous influence in Europe and Latin America. Skorzeny traveled between Franquist Spain and Argentina, where he acted as an advisor to President Juan Perón and bodyguard of Eva Perón, while fostering an ambition for the "Fourth Reich" centered in Latin America.
According to Infield, the idea for the Die Spinne network had actually begun in 1944 as Hitler's chief intelligence officer Reinhard Gehlen foresaw a possible downfall of the Third Reich due to Nazi military failures in Russia. T.H. Tetens, expert on German geopolitics and member of the US War Crimes Commission in 1946-1947, referred to a group overlapping with die Spinne as the Führungsring "a kind of political Mafia, with headquarters in Madrid... serving various purposes". The Madrid office built up what was referred to as a sort of Fascist International, per Tetens. Within Germany, the leadership circle, according to Tetens, also included Dr. Hans Globke, who had written the official commentary on the Nuremberg Laws. Globke held the important position of Director of the German Chancellery from 1953 until 1963, serving as adviser for Konrad Adenauer.
During the period from 1945 to 1950, Die Spinne leader Skorzeny facilitated the escape of Nazi war criminals from war-criminal prisons to Memmingen, Bavaria, through Austria and Switzerland into Italy. The skillful and well-planned escapes were unnoticed by many US military personnel, although certain US military authorities supposedly knew and took no action.
The Central European headquarters of Die Spinne as of 1948 was in Gmunden, Austria.
A coordinating office for international Die Spinne operations in Madrid, Spain, by Otto Skorzeny, under the control of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, whose victory in the Spanish Civil War was guaranteed by economic and military support from Hitler and Mussolini. When a Die Spinne Nazi delegation visited Madrid in 1959, Franco stated, "Please regard Spain as your second Fatherland".
Skorzeny used the resources of Die Spinne to allow Nazi Concentration Camp "Doctor" Josef Mengele, conductor of innumerable torturous 'medical experiments' detainees to escape to Argentina in 1949.
Die Spinne leader Skorzeny requested the assistance of ultra-wealthy German industrialist Alfried Krupp, whose company controlled 138 private Concentration Camps under the Third Reich, and this was granted in 1951. Skorzeny became Krupp's representative in industrial business ventures in Argentina, a country harbored a strong pro-Nazi political element throughout World War II and afterward, regardless of a nominal declaration of loyalty to the Allies as World War II ended.
It was in Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay that Die Spinne became most influential in the Western Hemisphere by the early 1980s, with the help of Die Spinne leaders in Spain, with ties involving Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner.
War Crimes investigator Simon Wiesenthal claimed that Josef Mengele had stayed at the notorious Colonia Dignidad Nazi colony in Chile in 1979, and ultimately was harbored in Paraguay until his death.
As of the early 1980s, Die Spinne's Mengele was reported by Infield to have been advising Stroessner's ethnic German Paraguayan police on how to reduce native Paraguayan Indians in the Chaco Region to slave labor.
A wealthy and powerful post-World-War-II underground Nazi political contingent held sway in Argentina as of the late 1960s, which included many ethnic German Nazi immigrants and their descendants.
• Infield, Glenn: The Secrets of the SS, Stein and Day, New York, 1981. ISBN 0-8128-2790-2.
• Tetens, T.H.: The New Germany and the Old Nazis, Random House/Marzani+Munsel, 1961. LCN 61-7240.
• Wechsberg, Joseph: The Murderers Among Us, McGraw Hill, New York, 1967. LCN 67-13204.
Skorzeny also acted as an advisor to the leadership of the Spanish neo-Nazi group CEDADE, which had been established in 1966, and which counted him as one of its founding fathers.
CEDADE (from the initials of Círculo Español de Amigos de Europa or 'Spanish Circle of Friends of Europe') was a Spanish neo-Nazi group that concerned itself with co-ordinating international activity and publishing.
The group began life in 1966 ostensibly as a society for the appreciation of Richard Wagner but before long it had taken on a neo-Nazi dimension, influenced by the likes of Otto Skorzeny who was a founder member. Counting Léon Degrelle amongst its leading members, the Circle became a study group and publishing house for materials relating to Nazism and Holocaust Revisionism, with a remit towards closer co-operation across Europe. Initially led by Ángel Ricote, the group looked towards Italian fascism for inspiration, but under Pedro Aparicio it moved towards a Nazi position.
Establishing a branch in Madrid in 1973, the group had 2,500 Spanish members by 1985, with smaller groups also active elsewhere. Amongst those associated with the group was Klaus Georg Barbie, the son of Klaus Barbie, who was revealed by El País to have worked closely with CEDADE whilst living in Barcelona between 1965 and 1978.MInternationally CEDADE also maintained close links to the likes of Mark Fredriksen, Bela Ewald Althans, Povl Riis-Knudsen, Salvador Borrego, Wilfred von Oven and Richard Edmonds. Secretary Jordi Mota also established links between CEDADE and Klaus Barbie, with whom Mota was on friendly terms.
Taking a European outlook, it set up groups in France, as well as in Latin America and registered as a political party in 1979 under the name of Partido Europeo Nacional Revolucionario (European National Revolutionary Party), although this initiative was not pursued. As a publishing house, however, CEDADE continued to grow and was soon publishing for a number of movements in Austria and Germany. Using the name Ediciones Wotan for this initiative, it published works by the likes of Degrelle and Francis Parker Yockey and collaborated closely with the Liberty Lobby in the United States.
Financial difficulties forced a major scaling down in activities around 1989-90 however, although the group did host an international centenary celebration of Hitler's birthday in 1989. The problems inherent in the movement did not go away however and they were officially dissolved in October 1993. Members drifted away into various movements, with only Project IES representing a serious attempt at refoundation. This group has since changed its name to National Democracy.
Spain and Ireland
Like thousands of other former Nazis, Skorzeny was declared entnazifiziert (denazified) in absentia in 1952 by a West German government arbitration board, which now meant he could travel from Spain into other Western countries, on a special Nansen passport for stateless persons with which he visited Ireland in 1957 and 1958. In late 1958 he qualified for an Austrian passport and in 1959 he purchased Martinstown House, a 165-acre (0.67 km2) farm in County Kildare. However Skorzeny was refused a residency visa by the Irish government and had to limit his stays to six weeks at a time, during which he was monitored by G2 (Republic of Ireland). He rarely visited after 1963 and sold Martinstown House in 1971.
Skorzeny also had property in Mallorca.
In the 1960s Skorzeny set up the Paladin Group, which he envisioned as "an international directorship of strategic assault personnel [that would] straddle the watershed between paramilitary operations carried out by troops in uniforms and the political warfare which is conducted by civilian agents". Based near Alicante, Spain, the Paladin Group specialized in arming and training guerrillas, and their clients included the South African Bureau of State Security and Muammar al-Gaddafi. They also carried out work for the Greek military junta of 1967–1974 and some of their operatives were recruited by the Spanish Interior Ministry to wage clandestine war against Basque separatists. The Soviet news agency TASS alleged that Paladin was involved in training US Green Berets for Vietnam missions during the 1960s, but this is considered unlikely.
The Paladin Group was a far-right organization founded in 1970 in Spain by former SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny. It conceived itself as the military arm of the anti-Communist struggle during the Cold War. Ostensibly a legitimate security consultancy, the group's real purpose was to recruit and operate mercenaries for right-wing regimes worldwide.
The Nouvel Observateur magazine, of 23 September 1974, qualifies the group as a "strange temporary work agency of mercenaries" (étrange agence d’interim-barbouzes); in The Great Heroin Coup (1976), Henrik Krüger calls it a "fascist group" or "neo-fascist group", while Stuart Christie speaks of a "security consultancy group" in Granny Made me an Anarchist. Lobster Magazine describes it as a "small international squad of commandos".
The Paladin Group was created in 1970 in Albufera, near Alicante, in the South of Spain by former SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny and former US Colonel James Sanders. A former special operations officer, Skorzeny had become a member of the ODESSA network after the war, helping to smuggle Nazi war criminals out of Allied Europe to Spain, South America and other friendly destinations to avoid prosecution for war crimes. Skorzeny himself resided after the war in Spain, protected by Franco.
Skorzeny envisioned the Paladin Group as "an international directorship of strategic assault personnel [that would] straddle the watershed between paramilitary operations carried out by troops in uniforms and the political warfare which is conducted by civilian agents".
In addition to recruiting many former SS members, the Group also recruited from the ranks of various right-wing and nationalist organizations, including the French Nationalist OAS, the SAC, and the ‘Légion étrangère’. The hands-on manager of the Group was Dr. Gerhard Hartmut von Schubert, formerly of Josef Göbbels' Propaganda Ministry, who had trained security personnel in Argentina and Egypt after the war. Under his guidance, Paladin provided support to the PFLP - EO led by Wadie Haddad. The Group's other clients included the South African Bureau of State Security and Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi. They also worked for the Greek military junta of 1967–1974 and the Spanish Dirección General de Seguridad, who recruited some Paladin operatives to wage clandestine war against Basque separatists. The Group is also reputed to have provided personnel for José López Rega's notorious Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance death squad.
The Paladin Group was also allegedly allied with a number of other right-wing governments, including Salazar’s Portugal, and some of the Italian neo-fascists involved in the strategy of tension attacks of the 1970s and 80s. The Paladin Group also held offices in Zurich, Switzerland.
The Soviet news agency TASS alleged that Paladin was involved in training US Green Berets for Vietnam missions during the 1960s, but this is considered unlikely, since Skorzeny's methods were considered somewhat antiquated, and he resented the USA for its role in destroying Nazi Germany.
Von Schubert became the head of the Paladin Group after Otto Skorzeny’s death in 1975.
Otto Skorzeny died the same year as Franco, whose death on November 20, 1975 opened up the way for a transition to democracy. Neo-fascist groups formerly hosted by Franco ceased to be welcome in the new regime and fled to South America, in particular Augusto Pinochet’s Chile and Argentina, where the return of Perón after a 20 year exile in Spain had seen the June 20, 1973 Ezeiza massacre.
Death and Legacy
In 1970, a cancerous tumor was discovered on Skorzeny's spine. Two tumors were removed in Hamburg, but the surgery left him paralyzed from the waist down. Vowing to walk again, Skorzeny spent long hours with a physical therapist, and within six months was back on his feet.
The years following therapy were hard for Skorzeny, as the cancer was ravaging his body. Some days he felt well, other days the cancer reminded him that his final days were fast approaching. Still he continued his work with ODESSA, though he was not as active as before.
An uncurarable lung disease brought Otto Skorzeny to Heidelberg.
There, Hans-Ulrich Rudel and Waldemar Schütz were his last comrades, visiting him before his return to Spain eight days before his death. He told them on this occasion about his visit in the Führerhauptquartier in the autumn of 1944, when the Führer was ill and received him at his bed. The Führer told him that day that Germany had not built the atom bomb, because he did not want to take the responsibility for mankind being destroyed by such a "Teufelswerk":
Do you know Mr Skorzeny, that the energy which will be freed through the splitting of the atom's nucleus and the additional radioactivity from such a bomb might destroy our planet? .... The effects would be dreadful. Even if one could control the radioactivity and could use atom splitting as a weapon the results would be dreadful. When Dr. Todt visited me I read that the energy set free by such a bomb could destroy the whole of Arizona or make as big a crater as the meteor had caused in Siberia. That means that all life within such an area would be destroyed, not only humans but all life. Animals and plants would not be able to live within a radius of 40 km for hundreds of years due to radiation. That would mean an Apocalypse. No land, no group of civilized people could bear the responsibility for such a slaughter. In battle after battle human beings would destroy themselves if such a bomb were used. Only in remote places like Amazonia and the jungles of Sumatra would people have a chance of surviving such a bomb.
According to Rainier Karlsch (Hitler's Bomb, March 2005) and The History Channel, just before his suicide in April 1945, Adolf Hitler donated two dirty bombs, functional atomic bombs, to Japan. The two bombs were loaded on a German submarine en route to Japan but the submarine (U-234) was intercepted by a US destroyer which found uranium oxide on it A giant Japanese submarine was waiting for the two bombs, one of which was scheduled to be detonated over San Francisco on August 17, 1945, only 11 days after 'Little Boy' was dropped over Hiroshima.
1) The Hitler myth about not using nerve gas due to his gassing in WW1 is false. Orders WERE given in late March 1945 to deploy Tabun. Tons of artillery shells filled with it were loaded onto a barge for transport to the troops on the eastern front but Speer gave contradictory orders not to obey criminal orders by Hitler... so the barge sat until it was captured.
2) Hitler ordered the killing of the German public, especially by flooding the underground rail system where the injured and dying were being treated. In the end he condemned the German people as the weaker of the two in the struggle against Communism. He said the German nation should perish.
3) Hitler also said in March 1945 in his last appearances to the people that Wunderwaffen would save the Reich at the last minute. What weapons? Unless he was talking about the SS Fire Damp Superbomb or perhaps a German atomic bomb after all (there is evidence for a mini-nuke detonation in Thuringia and an on-going debate on historical revision due to release of secret documents that show German designs for an atomic bomb back as far as 1942)
4) When it looked like Germany was too slow to build the atomic bomb, Hitler made sure Japan (who had their own project at Konan, occupied Korea) received uranium and other nuclear equipment technology from I.G. Farben so that they could produce a weapon and use it against the US
5) The SS had a totally separate plasma energy bomb project from E-IV which was tasked with developing alternative energies of ANY type for war production. These included the beam weapons as well as plasma physics. The AEG Kugelwaffen used either ion-plasma or mercury-plasma engines with help from the SS.
Otto Skorzeny finally succumbed to the cancer on 5 July 1975 in Madrid. He was 67. He was given a Catholic funeral on 7 August 1975 in Madrid, but was afterwards cremated, and his ashes were later brought to Vienna to be interred in the Skorzeny family plot at Döblinger Friedhof. Over 500 Nazi diehards from all over the world attended his memorial service.
Though dead for nearly thirty years, Skorzeny's legacy remains with us today. His pioneering terrorist tactics live on in the likes of Yasser Arafat and Osama Bin-Laden. His unapologetic fascism and antisemitism live on in politicians like Jorg Haider and Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Whatever the truth, Skorzeny’s skill or not as a commando is overshadowed by the fact that he failed as a human being, helping provide escape via an underground railroad to some of the most evil people the world has ever known.
Iron Cross (First and Second Classes)
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross
Otto Skorzeny Timeline
12 Jun 1908 Otto Skorzeny was born.
3 Sep 1939 Otto Skorzeny was sent home from Trost Barracks, Vienna, Austria despite the outbreak of war due to the lack of instructors to train new recruits.
1 May 1940 Otto Skorzeny was promoted to the rank of Unterscharführer.
1 Sep 1940 Otto Skorzeny was promoted to the rank of Oberscharführer and was transferred to the 2nd SS Division "Das Reich".
18 Dec 1940 Otto Skorzeny departed the Netherlands for northern France as a member of 2nd SS Division "Das Reich".
30 Jan 1941 Otto Skorzeny was promoted to the rank of Untersturmführer; he would not receive the notification for this promotion until March 1941, however.
26 Aug 1941 Otto Skorzeny was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class medal for recovering a damaged vehicle under enemy fire at the bridgehead in Yelnya, Russia.
28 Apr 1943 Otto Skorzeny was promoted to the rank of Hauptsturmführer and was given command of the commandos of the Oranienburg Special Training Unit.
26 Jul 1943 Adolf Hitler called for Otto Skorzeny to discuss the rescue of Benito Mussolini, but Skorzeny missed the initial call as he was drinking with a friend at Hotel Eden on the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin, Germany.
28 Jul 1943 Otto Skorzeny arrived in Rome, Italy and visited Albert Kesselring at the Tusculum II villa outside of the city.
18 Aug 1943 Otto Skorzeny conducted an aerial reconnaissance mission over La Maddalena, Italy. His He 111 aircraft was shot down by British fighters. Skorzeny survived the crash, but suffered three broken ribs.
20 Aug 1943 Otto Skorzeny returned to mainland Italy after being shot down by British fighters two days prior.
15 Sep 1943 Otto Skorzeny flew from Munich, Germany to East Prussia, Germany; on the same flight were Ambassador Dörnberg and Ernst Kaltenbrunner.
16 Sep 1943 Otto Skorzeny was awarded the Gold Flying Badge by Hermann Göring at Wolf's Lair, East Prussia, Germany. Upon receiving the award, he requested the Knight's Cross to be awarded to his men Captain Gerlach and Lieutenant Meyer.
26 Sep 1943 Otto Skorzeny presented three Knight's Cross medals at the Harvest Thanksgiving festival at the Berlin Sportpalast in Germany. In the early afternoon, he had lunch with Josef Göbbels and his family.
2 Dec 1943 Otto Skorzeny, who had been stationed in Paris, France due to the threat of Marshal Pétain leaving for North Africa, was ordered to leave the city as that threat was proven to be false.
25 Dec 1943 Otto Skorzeny and his family vacationed at Zurs on the Arlberg, Austria.
18 Oct 1944 Otto Skorzeny escorted Hungarian leader Miklós Horthy to Schloss Hirschberg in Franken, Germany via a special train.
20 Oct 1944 Otto Skorzeny arrived in Berlin, Germany.
21 Oct 1944 Otto Skorzeny arrived at Wolfsschanze in East Prussia, Germany.
22 Oct 1944 In an one-on-one conversation between Adolf Hitler and Otto Skorzeny, Skorzeny narrated the kidnapping of Miklós Horthy, Jr. and the attack on Castle Hill in Budapest, Hungary on 15 Oct 1944. Later in the same conversation, Hitler revealed to Skorzeny the plans for the Ardennes Offensive and asked him to plan a commando operation behind enemy lines in captured uniforms. When questioned the legal concerns of wearing enemy uniforms, Hitler told him that German intelligence informed him that the Americans had done the same in the Aachen, Germany area. Hitler ordered Skorzeny to complete the planning by 2 Dec 1944.
14 Dec 1944 Otto Skorzeny took command of German Armored Brigade 150.
31 Dec 1944 Otto Skorzeny arrived at Wolfsschanze in East Prussia, Germany. He received care for his wounded left eye from Hitler's personal doctor Stumpfecker. Later in the day, he reported to Hitler regarding his commando mission during the Ardennes Offensive. As he departed, Wilhelm Keitel invited him to remain to join the rest of the German leaders for the New Year's celebration, but Skorzeny declined, opting to re-join his men in Cologne, Germany instead.
1 Jan 1945 Otto Skorzeny departed Cologne, Germany to return to the field headquarters of German Armored Brigade 150.
30 Jan 1945 Otto Skorzeny was ordered to join the Army Group Vistula on the Eastern Front.
28 Feb 1945 Otto Skorzeny was ordered to depart from Army Group Vistula and to return to Berlin, Germany.
31 Mar 1945 Otto Skorzeny was ordered to go to the "Alpine Fortress".
10 Apr 1945 Otto Skorzeny visited Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner's headquarters in Silesia in occupied Poland.
15 May 1945 Otto Skorzeny requested the local American officers a staff car, in which he would travel to the Americans field headquarters to surrender. As a prisoner, he was taken to Salzburg, Austria in an armored car with a heavy escort.
21 Jun 1945 Otto Skorzeny was interrogated by three Allied Generals regarding his role in the Ardennes Offensive in Wiesbaden, Germany.
22 Jun 1945 Otto Skorzeny was transferred from a makeshift prison cell to the city jail of Wiesbaden, Germany.
30 Jul 1945 Otto Skorzeny was transferred from Wiesbaden, Germany to the former Luftwaffe camp at Oberursel.
10 Sep 1945 Otto Skorzeny was transferred from Wiesbaden, Germany to Nuremberg, Germany; he traveled by aircraft with other top former German leaders.
21 Nov 1945 Otto Skorzeny was transferred to the witness wing at Nuremberg, Germany.
25 Jul 1948 Otto Skorzeny revealed to fellow prisoners that he was planning on escaping.
28 Jul 1948 Otto Skorzeny escaped from captivity.
5 Jul 1975 Otto Skorzeny passed away.